Saturday, March 31, 2012

How the budget is shaping up in both houses so far

Steven Norton of Michigan Parents for Schools wrote on the MPS Facebook page:
"I'm late in working up an analysis of the budget proposals, but things are getting interesting. Both the House and Senate are working on parallel tracks, which will have to be reconciled at some point. The House appears to have softened the "best practices" requirements and replaced the "performance" bonuses with technology grants. They also increase the MPSERS offset. (Need to see where the money is coming from.)

In a more naked political appeal, the Senate committee stripped out the MPSERS offset money and used it, along with some cash taken from other areas, to increase the foundation allowance. Net effect for districts is roughly the same, but an increase in per-pupil funding sounds better. Ironic, given that they're not up for election until 2014.

In any case, the actual increase in K-12 funding is negligible compared to last year. We need to keep the full picture in mind."

No action on SB 619 before April

There was no action on SB 619 (cyber school legislation) before the legislators left for their spring break.  Please keep the pressure on your legislator to oppose this bill.  Even in its reduced form (allowing no more than 3% of Michigan students to enroll in cyber schools) it is a bill that opens the door for substandard, privatized education, paid for with public school dollars.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friends of Kent County Schools/Grassroots Alert

Legislative Alert: 72 Hour Countdown 
In 72 hours the legislature will adjourn for spring recess.  What happens in those 72 hours will impact public schools forever.  Senate Bill 619, a bill that would dramatically expand the number of unproven cyber schools, is still on the floor of the House of Representatives.  

We've received word that the House WILL vote on Senate Bill 619 in the next 72 hours.   We need your help to keep this vote from taking place.

Please call your member of the Michigan House now and urge him/her to vote against this dangerous piece of legislation.  Even if you have already contacted them - please reach out one more time.  Click here for additional information about Senate Bill 619 and to be directed to talking points and contact information for your representative.

PTA Legislative Update on Kindergarten Start Date Legislation+

Active Legislation Senate Bill 315 and House Bill 4513 —
Kindergarten Start Date 

The Michigan Legislature has introduced legislation that would change the eligibility age for starting kindergarten.  Currently a child in Michigan must be 5 years old by December 1st in order to begin kindergarten in the fall of that year.
Senate Bill 315 would move the eligibility date from December 1st to November 1st beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, requiring a child to be 5 by November 1st to start kindergarten.    Subsequently, in the 2013-2014 school year, a child would have to be 5 by October 1st; and, in the 2014-2015 school year, a child would have to be 5 by September 1st.  Senate Bill 316 addresses the appropriations side of the bill, adjusting the state funding to school districts to align with the new start date.
House Bill 4513 would move the eligibility date from December 1st to September 1st, requiring a child to be 5 years old by September 1st in order to start kindergarten that school year.  This bill permits the parent or guardian of a child who will turn 5 between September 2nd and December 1st to request a waiver to allow the child to enroll in school prior to his or her birthday.
  While Michigan PTA supports ensuring that every child is ready to learn when starting kindergarten, there are consequences to this legislation that we would like addressed.  There will be a reduction in revenue to school districts for one to three years, depending on the final legislation, and school districts would face challenges aligning staff to the smaller class sizes.  What has not been discussed is how will the state use the savings that will result in fewer kindergarteners?
Michigan PTA advocates for inclusion of the following provisions to the proposed legislation:
  • Phase-in over three years, as proposed in Senate Bill 315.  However, we would like to see the phase-in process begin in the 2013-2014 school year. 
  • Waiver request opportunity, with individual school districts determining the requirements for a waiver.
  • Apply the savings from implementation of this legislation to readiness programs for children impacted by the change in kindergarten start date.
Michigan PTA expects the legislature to consider the impact to our students when making changes to our public schools.  Michigan PTA supports improved educational outcomes for our students.  Having children prepared to learn when they start kindergarten enables students to meet rigorous educational standards.
For additional information, and to follow Michigan PTA activity on this and other legislation, visit .

Michigan Parent Teacher Association 
1390 Eisenhower Place, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48108
Phone: 734-975-9500 - Fax: 734-677-2407
Web site:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Talking points for letters, emails, phone calls to Legislators regarding SB 619 (cyber school legislation)

It is urgent that you contact our state representative on this issue immediately. 
Lisa Lyons is the current representative for East Grand Rapids.  Next session, EGR will be represented by Peter MacGregor, assuming he gets reelected, so please consider contacting both of them.  Below are some talking points that you may wish to include in your letter or call.
Senate bill 619 would remove nearly all limits on the size of entirely online "cyber" charter schools in Michigan. Fully online K-12 charter schools have only been in operation here for a year and a half, and the jury is still out on their performance. The experience of other states, which have had online charters for longer, is not promising.
On top of that, these schools currently receive the same per-pupil funding as other, physical, public schools, even though their expenses are much lower. The major operators of these schools are private, for-profit, companies whose first priority is to their investors.  In fact, SB 619 is based on a model bill drafted by the lobbyist for K12, Inc., one of the major for-profit cyber school operators in the country and a current operator in Michigan.
Why should we turn our children into a business opportunity?
Current Michigan law calls for a progress report on the two experimental cyber schools at the end of this year. The report will analyze their performance and detail their true expenses. This approach is sensible and fiscally prudent. Why toss it all aside?
Proponents of the bill say that the bill has been modified by the House Education Committee to keep some limits on the number of online charter schools and how many students they can enroll. That is disingenuous.  The limit would eventually go up to 30 schools (from the current 2), and each one would be "limited" to about 33,000 students!
This is not a limit; it’s a $7 BILLION giveaway of taxpayer money to for-profit cyber “schools.”
Cyber school proponents argue that many families want access to these schools. Perhaps, but it can't be because of their track record, because they don't have one in Michigan and the stories from other states are hair-raising. How, precisely, do you do online kindergarten? How do you ensure kids are making progress? Since these cyber charters require "learning coaches" at home for students, who do most of the actual teaching, why does the online company pocket the entire state funding?
Sure, online learning is here to stay, and "blended" programs offered by our established local public schools can meet the needs of many students who would have difficulty taking traditional classes. Why pull resources away from our proven, and community-governed, local public schools just to pad the bottom line of the latest fad growth stock?

Testimony presented to the House Education Committee

This is the testimony that was presented to the House Education Committee by the Kent County Intermediate School District employee who is charged with doing the pupil accounting for the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Letter to Rep. Lyons and Rep. Peter MacGregor regarding HB 619

Lisa Posthumus Lyons <>;

Dear Representative Lyons--

Under the current legislation, parents have access to cyber schools.  I agree with the Michigan Department of Education and the Michigan Board of Education among many other education groups which oppose the bill.  I feel strongly that this bill moves Michigan cyber schools away from the mission to educate at-risk and drop out students and will drain money from the School Aid Fund which will cause further cuts to traditional public as well as publicly funded charter schools.  Please vote no.


Consider sending the letter to Representative Peter MacGregor.  He represents District 73 currently.  We will be in that district following the next election. 

PTA Michigan Legislative Alert to Tell Legislators to Vote No on HB 619

Active Legislation Senate Bill 619 (H-3) — Expand Cyber Schools
Senate Bill 619 (H-3), as reported out of the House Education Committee, seeks to expand enrollment in online learning for Michigan’s children without regard for past success or sustainability. We oppose its passage and urge legislators to look at ways of ensuring online learning for all Michigan students that has a track record of success and a real chance at making all students career ready and college capable.
STATUS:· Has been passed out of the House Education Committee and awaits a full vote by the House. Senate has already approved.

Call or Visit Your State·Representative Today!
Contact Your Legislators

Here is the Michigan House Fiscal Agency Analysis of 619.  Get the pros and cons.  Look at which groups support and oppose the bill.  It is long, but it is worth it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Racist History of Charter Schools

This is an important history of charter schools.  Lucy

Tina's editorial

Tina Murua posted this editorial on the Facebook page of Michigan Parents for Schools.

Check out her words about the Town Hall Meeting and her concerns about education in Michigan at the link below.  I hope that chooses to print it.  Lucy

Friday, March 16, 2012

flipping the classroom

Sal Khan is the founder of Khan Academy, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free education to everybody.  He has a very interesting philosophy on the role of the teacher and on how students will learn in the future.

Education Week

Q&A: Khan Academy Creator Talks About K-12 Innovation
March 07, 2012  by Lesli A. Maxwell
In an interview with Education Week, Sal Khan addresses the

do charters skim profit, or spend smarter?

Interesting article about what publicly run virtual schools are doing to measure effectiveness

Education Week

E-Schools Put Specific Measures for Success in Place
March 15, 2012  by Michelle R. Davis
The devil is in the details when evaluating the educational effectiveness of virtual education.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Education Town Hall Article on Michigan Radio

Here is the Michigan Radio article on our Education Town Hall.  MLIVE was invited, but nobody showed.  Too bad.  Lucy

Class sizes and Future Success

As we cut budgets in Michigan and wonder why we can't get out of our economic doldrums, maybe we should look at some research on class sizes.  Lucy

Paul Krugman Op-Ed in NYT Outlining the Assault on all levels of Education

This may be a partisan editorial, but it is an opinion worth reading.  Please take a moment and see if you agree with it or not.  Lucy

Parent Triggers are false Parent Choice

Parent Triggers are foisted upon parents saying this is part of our "choice" when this is really part of corporate sponsored legislation forcing us into this situation.  This is where we are heading with this template legislation.  Lucy

We should consider what has happened in other states with cyber schools

We should consider what has happened in other states.  Lucy

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rep. Lyons Tapped to be House Education Chair

Our current Representative Lyons has been tapped for House Education Chair.  We need to keep up our conversation with her going forward.  Lucy