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Newswire: June 12, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 24

CORBETT’S CRUSADE? Many are asking the big question- how is it that a candidate who ran and won on making school reform his first priority hasn’t been successful in achieving real reform since he’s taken office? Meanwhile, the Governor has weighed in on the debate on online schooling, criticizing the notion that online schools should be well-enough funded to provide choices that hundreds of parents use and demand. For almost 18 straight months the Corbett team has permitted the Republican House to ignore SB 1, a pathbreaking school choice bill that passed last year. Then, an effort to improve the state’s charter law to incorporate higher education in authorizing has been stalled by the status quo supporting school districts. The Governor is now taking aim at cyber charters as if cutting their funds will close the state budget gap. As Governor Corbett himself said at a school choice forum during the campaign, good education is the key to economic solvency. The Pennsylvania House adjourns June 30 but there is still time to do a real reform package, if the will is there.

“TEAR DOWN THIS WALL.” Today is the anniversary of the famous Reagan challenge to Gorbachev at the Bradenberg Gate, calling on the Russian leader to destroy the Berlin Wall that separated a country and kept half in abysmal conditions. How fitting that a similar wall holds back kids in the U.S. from social justice parity and, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, stands as tall and solid as it was when many who were elected and promised to fight the status quo two years ago.

SWIFT BOAT OF REFORM. With far too many schools drowning academically, especially in Detroit, no wonder parent trigger is winding its way through the Michigan Legislature in order to make

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Lawsuit Over Tenure Reform

“Teachers union files lawsuit over Michigan Teacher Tenure Act”
by Lori Higgins
Detroit Free Press
March 8, 2012

A local teachers union is challenging aspects of Michigan’s Teacher Tenure Act, saying in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that a controversial amendment made to the law last summer is unconstitutional.

The amendment barred school districts from using seniority as the determining factor when making layoff decisions — tossing aside traditional “last in, first out” procedures.

The amendment was part of sweeping changes to Michigan’s tenure act. Michael Lee, a Southfield attorney representing the Southfield Education Association, said he believes it is the first time the changes have been challenged in federal court.

The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, stems from a dispute in the Southfield Public Schools that began when the district laid off teachers last summer. Lee said the district did not follow its own procedures for recalling teachers — procedures that were put in place following passage of the tenure changes.

That part of the dispute is addressed in a lawsuit the union filed in circuit court last month. The federal lawsuit addresses the broader issue of whether the amendment itself is lawful.

Lee said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized tenure as a property right in cases that go back as far as 1978.

“Once you pass legislation that says ignore tenure and people are laid off as a result, you have taken away that property right, and you have done that without due process,” Lee said.

Ari Adler, spokesman for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said the amendment was part of needed changes in tenure laws for teachers. Legislation to enact the changes originated in the House.

“The focus was to do what we could to protect good teachers and ensure a high quality of education for the students,” Adler said. “We were

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Michigan applies for No Child Left Behind Waiver in 2nd Round

State educators say they’ve formally asked the U.S. Education Department to waive the rule that calls for having 100 percent of students deemed “proficient.”

Schools would have to accept new reforms in exchange for the waiver, and state Superintendent Mike Flanagan said that includes a new report card to hold schools accountable for student performance – including the achievement gaps between various student groups. Read More…

The Grand Rapids Press: Lawmakers hope to lure successful charter school companies to Michigan

By Dave Murray
The Grand Rapids Press

September 30, 2011

LANSING – Companies managing charter schools would no longer pay property taxes as part of reforms aimed at luring successful out-of-state operators to Michigan.

The package is headed to the state Senate, with a vote expected in the next two weeks. It includes lifting a cap on university-approved charter schools and allowing all public schools to hire companies to provide teachers.

Supporters say the bills are intended to spark more competition for struggling schools, but critics charge competition alone won’t help them do better.

“They’ve taken a free-market approach to education and providing parents with more and more choices and seeing if anything sticks,” said Donald Wotruba, deputy director for the Michigan Association of School Boards.

“But when you have a struggling business, you either shut it down or use resources to fix it. They’re doing neither to the low-performing schools.”

The reforms passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday on a party line vote.

Committee Chairman Phil Pavlov said it’s fair to waive property taxes for charter schools because they can’t collect taxes for new buildings or improvements, as districts do, He said tax payments for charters mean taking money from the classroom.

“I look at this as a tax abatement,” said Pavlov, R-St. Chair Township. “Governments offer tax abatements to industries all the time, so why not for education?”

The savings to schools or their landlords would be considerable. Property taxes for National Heritage Academy’s Knapp Charter Academy in Grand Rapids Township were $90,800 in 2010. The company manages 44 schools in Michigan.

Pavlov also said allowing charter schools and traditional districts to contract with outsiders to provide teachers is intended to allow districts flexibility and cost saving, not break unions, as critics contend.

Districts pay an amount equal to 24 percent of each

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How low can you go?

Congratulations go out to Detroit Public Schools who seem to have finagled a bailout from a friendly state legislature. Surely the Michigan House of Representatives has much to admire about their largest school district – dismal achievement scores, distressing drop out rates and mismanaged budgets on a scale even a Wall Street bank executive could admire.

So, in the face of all that accomplishment, and with nothing else seeming to occupy their legislative agenda, what could responsible elected officials do other than reward DPS?

1) Allow for more choice and educational opportunity for Detroit children and their parents.

2) Tighten financial accountability to ensure money is going where it should.

3) Throw more money and resources at the problem in hopes that it will go away. 

House Democrats have seen fit to lower the standards of what defines a “first class school district” from 100,000 students to 60,000 students, allowing for continued funding and other perks.

One perk the teachers’ union has fought for is blocking charter school growth in the city. With a current enrollment of just over 94,000 kids, Detroit is poised to lose its “first class” standing under current law. Without a legislative re-definition, the restriction on community colleges authorizing new charter schools would be lifted.

The House may consider the new definition of a “first class school district” today, and with a party line vote expected, congratulations to DPS and the teachers’ union on your victory. If you lower expectations enough, perhaps one day you will be seen as successful.

Keep up the good work.

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