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?