Michigan considers enhanced school choice

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s newest education reform package could be released this week and is expected to include Snyder’s plan to turn all of Michigan’s public schools into schools of choice, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Under this proposal, a system of choice would mean exactly that: Though schools could give preference to those living in their attendance zones, Michigan would otherwise recognize no artificial district boundaries. Schools would have to open their doors to any students if they had the space.

As the Free Press notes, the proposal is likely to bring together strange bedfellows in opposition. The Detroit school district is warning that Snyder’s plan would exacerbate the current exodus of students trying to get out of the troubled urban system. Meanwhile, officials in affluent school districts, such as Grosse Pointe and Bloomfield Hills, are fighting as aggressively.

As the plan wends its way through the Michigan Legislature, newspapers will likely uncover more disturbing comments than even this observation from Bloomfield Hills superintendent Rob Glass, who told reporters late last spring that his residents pay “extra taxes to provide extra levels of education to their local community. To make that same option available to others who have not made that sacrifice or that choice to invest doesn’t seem fair.”

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit


Please explain what is disturbing about Superintendent Glass’s assertion.

JJ, the superintendent’s comment is so tone deaf to the circumstances of low-income families that it insults the poor parent who cannot make the same “choice to invest.” Notably, it’s taken a Republican governor to do what the Democratic Party could not: devise a system of public education that doesn’t care whether you’re rich enough to buy a home near the best school. It’s the position of this blog that those who are economically disadvantaged should have the same educational opportunities as those with wealth.

Thanks. I understand better where you are coming from. But if the wealthy want to throw more of their money at educating their children, shouldn’t they be able to do that? I don’t understand what’s wrong with that. In Glass’s district, people already contribute far more than their fair share to the public school system. Help me understand . . .

JJ, this plan doesn’t force residents of Bloomfield Hills to pay less to educate their children, and it doesn’t force schools to accept students when there’s no room for them. It simply says that a school in one district can’t turn away a student from another as long as there are open seats.

Joan Stelzer

I understand that. But I also understand Glass’s point, which is that the district will receive less from the state for each student outside of the district than they receive for in-district students. The pool of funds then dilute — for the whole as well as the average student, because of people who do not reside in the district.

Bloomfield Hills citizens already finance other districts’ school systems . . . because some other districts aren’t contributing enough to support their own. BH residents accept this if they continue to live there. How could Bloomfield Hills parents then think it’s “no problem” to have a new blow (beyond the annual allocation cuts) dealt to them now which directly affects their own public school students — with a dilution of funds? Would you say “sure, cut the pool of funds for my child MORE than for children in other districts?”

Your commentaries on this topic contain language that shows your lack of comprehension. Not everyone who lives in these “tony” commumities has “wealth.” Many are middle class or even lower middle class families that made the prudent decision to move to a city with excellent schools. You seem to imply that everyone who opposes this usurpation of local authority has racist or classist motives for doing so, but that is simply not true. It’s about favoring local control over pie-in-the-sky big government utopianism sought at the expense of responsible citizens.

Troubling news from Lansing. The following is excerpted from an email sent to constituents by Michigan State Rep, Tim Bledsoe:

“[O]ver my strong objections, the House leadership insisted on including Schools of Choice among the list of so-called ‘best practices’ for school districts to follow in exchange for an additional $75 in per pupil funding.

During debate on House Bill 5372 on Thursday, I offered a simple amendment to remove Schools of Choice from this list of ‘best practices.’ This amendment was rejected….

… While there is some flexibility in the current requirements, I fear it is only a matter of time before local districts will be forced to march lock-step to the whims of Lansing politicians. In my speech on the floor of the House to urge the passage of this bill, I asked my colleagues ‘what happened to the principle of local control?’

Their silence should be deeply troubling for all Michigan residents.”


The most recent correspondence from Michigan State Rep Tim Bledsoe::

“One of the most disappointing, and surprising, elements to the education budget was the so-called “best practice” language that emerged. Let me first mention that some of these “best practices” are “best” only in the minds of free market extremists who disdain public education.

In an odd turn of events, the negotiated budget was worse than EITHER the House version or the Senate version, suggesting influence of Governor Rick Snyder. The House budget contained language requiring districts to perform six of eight “best practices.” The Senate eliminated the “best practice” language from its budget altogether. Hence, a budget that tightened criteria to seven of eight came as both a surprise and a disappointment.

In order to qualify for an additional $52 in per-pupil funding, districts must adopt at least seven of the following requirements:

Become a Schools of Choice district
Offer comprehensive physical and health education
Create an online citizens’ dashboard
Hold their own health insurance policy
Measure — or develop a plan to measure — student growth
Provide online learning opportunities
Allow dual-enrollment in post-secondary coursework
While Harper Woods and Detroit Public Schools will be able to qualify for this funding under their current policies, Grosse Pointe Public Schools will likely, and properly, decline to become a Schools of Choice district. I understand that the specific requirements for providing physical education are problematic for the district as well, meaning that unlike last year using different criteria, GPPS will likely fail to qualify for “best practice” funding from the state of Michigan in the coming budget year.

Ironic, isn’t it, that one of the premier school districts in the state cannot meet the state’s “best practice” criteria.”

Cathan Wright

What is the Governor doing to protect citzens like myself who have used the “School of C hoice” option and lost my job at the public school that I was working at because I chose to allow my children to attend another school? What is the Governor doing about the fact that the school Superintendant along with a member of the MEA (Michigan Education Association) changed our contract after the ratification vote to eliminate my senority to keep me from working in the school? The MEA has failed to uphold its responsibilites to me as a member even though all their responsibilites are outlined in their own handbook and published online. The MEA has to be stopped from taking monies from people who are forced to belong to it’s system and then robbing them a second time by not upholding it’s own policies and proceedures. The MEA along with the Public Schools who are NOT for “School of Choice” should NOT be allowed to treat people, and especially the children the way my family has been treated because we opted to use our “School of Choice” right.

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