LANSING – State Representatives Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) and Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) expressed their outrage and dismay at the passage of House Bill 4369, which paves the way for more schools to be taken over and run by for-profit charter corporations. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.
“This bill strips local control by allowing for-profit groups to come in and run our schools,” said Yanez. “Parents and community members deserve an accountable and transparent school board, yet this bill doesn’t give us that. This bill won’t help right schools or help students do better in their studies.”
“Our communities value their public schools and they don’t want their neighborhood schools given to for-profit corporations to run,” said Roberts. “The problems many schools face are the result of funding cuts approved by majority Republicans over the past three years. This bill doesn’t address that situation and so won’t improve student performance in our schools.”
Legislative Republicans began this takeover model with the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), which has run 15 schools in Detroit with disastrous results. Now that State Superintendent Michael Flanagan has ended the state’s exclusive contract with the EAA, any number of entities can emerge under the State School Reform/Redesign District, operating as many as 50 schools. It’s unclear whether these entities will have a board that is accountable to the public or subject to the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
HB 4369 prioritizes schools with students in grades K-8, putting the focus on where for-profit charter schools can make the most money. The bill is unclear on how a school is supposed to leave the reform district if performance improves, meaning a school could be faced with an indefinite takeover. Schools already in the reform district have seen subject proficiency decrease since their takeover.
“This bill is a failure because it doesn’t outline a mechanism for schools to exit the reform district once a school has improved,” said Yanez. “We can’t just give our schools to a for-profit group to run forever with no way of ever giving them back to the community. House Democrats have two bills that offer real solutions and involve educators, parents and community members working together to fix our schools. That’s the plan that deserves to be approved today.”
Two Democratic-sponsored bills, HBs 5268 and 5269, came out of the House Democrats’ School Reform Task Force last year. This legislation would create an audit program for schools before they fail and determine the true cost of education so that money can be spent wisely. After sitting in the House Education Committee for more than a month without action, both bills were discharged to the floor, but the full House has yet to consider them.
“This failed plan is not built on evidence or data that shows it will work. In fact, the current EAA is failing students,” said Roberts. “Michigan students deserve better and this legislation doesn’t get at the core issues of why schools are in the bottom 5%. That’s shameful, and that’s why I voted no.”