High Stakes Testing Protests are Escalating. The Schools Matter blog has an interesting article with lots of links, including a national petition. Those of you who are interested in opting out of testing for the MEAP, NWEA, and other tests (and I have heard from several of you!) should not only read this article, but be sure to explore the links as well.
There is a fierce political battle going on in Wisconsin. Tomorrow is the day for Wisconsites to choose between the current governor, Scott Walker--who has been recalled over his anti-public worker and union-busting tactics and more--and Tom Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor. You may recall that I wrote about the Wisconsin protests when I was there over a year ago--read my blog post here. Read about the current election here courtesy of the Progressive/Isthmus partnership (two Wisconsin publications), and please--tell your Wisconsin friends to get out and vote against Walker.
The Schools Matter blog is also reporting on the reporting around the privatization scheme for Philadelphia schools. You might want to read this article and visit some of the links. I know, you're wondering--well who cares what is happening in Philadelphia. . . or New Orleans. . . or New York? Well you should, because it is all part of a national movement to take a public good--PUBLIC schools--and try and squeeze money out of them for private companies to make money.
What's more, this scenario is coming soon to a school district near you--to wit, Muskegon Heights.
Muskegon Heights is a small, urban school district that is surrounded by other cities. By all "hard" measures (graduation rates, test scores, enrollment numbers) it has been a (very) poorly-performing district for a long, long time. Most recently, its school board requested--requested!--an emergency manager. And the emergency manager, Don Weatherspoon, came in and found: failing schools; very poor prior financial management for years and years; a boatload of debt; and enrollment that has been dropping for years. You might remember that Emergency Managers have powers that the rest of us mortals (local school boards) don't have, and he said, in essence, "We're going to close this district down and re-open it under charter school management." As far as I can tell, this is not a choice that a local school district could make if they wanted to.
He also told the school district parents that he can guarantee that there will be school in the fall, but he can't guarantee there will be any extras, like band or sports. Would you want to send your child there? You can read the Michigan Education Association press release here. Not surprisingly, the MEA is incensed. Teachers lose their jobs. Union contracts are ended. Will the company that comes in as a charter school operator be a for-profit? That remains to be seen but since the majority of charter schools are run by for-profit companies, my guess would be that it will be a for-profit. As if all of that was not outrageous enough, here is the kicker (as a taxpayer)--taken from the MEA press release:
Under the plan, the district would no longer be in the practice of educating children. However, the district would keep its projected $14.48 million debt, and the new charter company will start out debt-free and receive state aid payments.In other words--Muskegon Heights will now have a school board that they didn't elect and cannot remove. Yet the taxpayers will still be on the hook for the debt. I believe there is no bankruptcy for school districts (if there were, that might have solved this problem a while ago), and I'm not sure how the debt gets paid off or what it means. I do know this though--Muskegon Heights fits every definition of a failing district. Nonetheless, this is not a good solution for public education.
As EM, Weatherspoon has the authority to act as the charter authorizer and appoint the board for the new charter system. He will also decide what building and materials could be offered to the charter company. He says the rest will be “put on the market and gotten rid of.”