By GEORGE DARANY
As a proud graduate of Dearborn Public Schools, I am well aware of how committed our teachers, administrators, support staff and parents are to ensuring that our kids receive the very best education available. It is so important that our students are prepared for the demands of the 21st century economy and the quality of our children’s education should not be compromised at the expense of corporate profits. We need to focus on supporting our public schools and restoring the drastic cuts that have been unnecessarily made to our classrooms.
Unfortunately, the leadership in Lansing has been pushing through a plan in the Legislature that would corporatize our state’s education system by removing local control and attempting to establish a back-door voucher program. This proposal would put our public funds and control of our schools in the hands of appointees chosen by the governor. House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358 expand the recently enacted Education Achievement Authority and allow for our schools to be taken over.
The legislation also permits the EAA to contract with for-profit companies to manage the schools, effectively siphoning taxpayer dollars into corporate profits. This legislation would also allow school buildings operated and maintained with taxpayer dollars to be sold off or leased to for-profit schools, which undermines local control of community schools and robs our democratically elected school boards of their ability to have a voice in how the schools in our communities are run.
It is no secret that throughout the past two years, the leadership in Lansing has made a mess of the state’s public school system. They have already taken almost $1 billion or approximately $470 in per-pupil funding. They have gutted our classrooms and made it incredibly difficult for schools across our state to provide basic supplies such as paper and textbooks.
Instead of acknowledging these problems and working to fix what has been broken, this proposal continues to take resources away from our schools. These new bills are opposed by the State Board of Education and there are concerns about the potential loss of federal funds. Earlier this year we saw the expansion of for-profit charter and cyber schools and the new proposal is similar to a voucher system plan that was already rejected by Michigan voters in 2000.
We have a constitutional obligation to our students and the future of this state to protect our public education system and these bills do not provide the transparency or accountability that we need in order to ensure that our children have access to the best education possible. We absolutely cannot turn our schools into an experiment, especially without any guarantee of success. It is time that we focus on true education reform, not corporate profits.
Moving these bills during a three-week, lame-duck session without proper debate and thought, is shortsighted. As a member of the House Education Committee, I have appreciated all the feedback I have received from across the community. Many of you have shared similar concerns regarding this legislation and I look forward to continuing to work with you to stop these attacks on our children’s education.
State Representative George T. Darany represents the 15th House District. To contact him, call (855) 775-1515 or email him at [email protected]. To sign up for his e-newsletter, visit his website, house.mi.gov/gdarany.