Thursday, November 17, 2011

From Michigan Parents for Schools: Act Today on Charter Schools Cap

From Michigan Parents for Schools:
We need your help! Speak out against dropping the charter cap today!
Charter school bill to move soon [updated]
Take Action!

Contact House Education Committee members today!

Dear Friends,

Our community-governed public schools need your help.

As most of you know, Michigan Parents for Schools has been following a package of bills that would remove nearly all limits on charter schools, "cyber" charters and other forms of publicly-financed charter education. The first and probably most important bill in the package, Senate Bill 618, has already passed the Senate and is likely to be voted on in the House Education Committee shortly after the Thanksgiving break.

[Update: Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc), who has been chair of the House Education Committee, lost a recall election on November 8. As a result, his seat is temporarily vacant, and the new interim chair of the education committee is Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills), widely considered one of the most conservative members of the House. It's not clear how quickly the committee will conclude its work on SB 618.]
For our analysis of the bill, please read this article and the attached document; for our Senate testimony on the bill, please read this article.
We have testified before the committees in both the Senate and the House in opposition to the bill, and we have already asked you to contact your state Senator about this legislation. We'd like to ask you to contact your Representative today, asking them to urge their colleagues on the Education Committee to set the bill aside or at least agree to critical amendments that would ensure this legislation would not end up devastating our public schools.

Why do we oppose this bill?

The bill removes all numerical and geographical limits on charter schools, but does little to ensure that new charters actually deliver a better education. Research in Michigan and nation-wide shows that only a small percentage of charters do better than similar public school districts.

The bill makes no effort to mitigate the financial damage and stress more charter schools would inflict on our community-governed schools, caused by our rigid system of per-pupil funding.

Instead of focusing on improving education for all children, the bill focuses on allowing a select few families to "escape" - and makes it easier for unaccountable, private for-profit companies to make a tidy profit on the backs of our children in the process.

What do we support?

We support a renewed effort to make sure that all children have excellent educational choices, beginning with giving our public schools the resources and funding they need to serve their student populations well.

We support efforts to foster innovation inside our community-governed public schools as well as outside.

We support rules that will ensure that all schools funded by the people of Michigan are focused on providing a quality education rather than generating a profit. We demand measures to guarantee that public money is being used for a public purpose.

We expect some lawmakers on the House committee to offer amendments to the bill which would accomplish at least some of these things. Most critical, in our view, is an end to public funding for charter "management companies" that are private, for-profit firms which are not at all accountable to the public. These firms need not open their books, or even report the profits they make on operating charter schools (which have been reported to be around $1,000 per student in some cases).

Please join us in insisting that our lawmakers focus on creating excellent educational opportunities for all students rather than business opportunities for private entities to profit on the backs of our children.

Use the link above in this message to contact your Representative today!

Steven Norton
Executive Director, Michigan Parents for Schools

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