Thursday, March 7, 2013

Give the State Board of Education A Piece of Your Mind

Jack Panitch, former Angell PTO President and Tappan parent, sent me a note that he had sent out to some other people, along with some attachments. I'm putting the attachments first--they are background reading if you want them.

I think Jack's key point is--turnout is important. Invite your friends. And this is not just an Ann Arbor event. These are members of the STATE Board of Education--so invite your friends from other school districts as well.

In any case, these are the attachments Jack sent.

State Board of Education Comments on Finance Proposals

Michigan Parents for Schools: What Do We Want From Our Schools?

Professor Arsen Letter to Governor Snyder

Ruddell Rebuttal on "Resisting School Reform"

Traverse City Record Eagle: Report on a Forum

And here is Jack Panitch's note, which he originally wrote to PTO leaders. I think he is very kind to the so-called "reformers" who are trying to destroy public education. I'm not so interested in "balanced" discussions but, in some ways, that is an important reason to be there--to learn what the "other side" has to say.

March 11, 2013, 6:00 p.m.  Little Theater at Pioneer High
Two weeks ago, I wrote to ask you to urge your members to fill Pioneer High School’s Little Theater on the evening of March 11th, for the State Board of Education’s forum on the future of K-12 education and funding reform in Michigan.  This is an opportunity to show Lansing that large numbers of informed voters are watching their actions and that we care about our kids’ futures.  It is also an opportunity to fall flat on our face if attendance is thin.
Here’s a little more about the format and content.  A balanced panel will discuss the most important current topics targeted for legislation in the near term.  A neutral moderator will lead a discussion of the issues among four key panelists.  The panel is constituted to present a balanced view: State Board of Education President John Austin and MSU Professor David Arsen will represent the viewpoint of education professionals.  State Board of Education member Eileen Weiser and Attorney Peter Ruddell will represent the viewpoint of Governor Snyder and the Republican Party.  Following the panel discussion, the floor will be opened up to questions from the audience. . . 
John Austin
But first, let’s set the scene.  Here’s what has happened to public education in Michigan over the past several years and what will continue to happen if nothing changes: whether their intentions are noble or otherwise, the radical reformers in the legislature and working with the Governor, individuals who are listening to lobbyists and special interest groups and not really listening to what parents want for their childrens’ future, are attempting to supplant actual experts in the field of public education to apply unregulated, free market forces that may work for the delivery of energy or other public utilities but have no arguable application to the way we need our children to be raised in a democratic society.  The result will be the diminished capacity of our public schools and the diminishment of our community: parents of means, including those who can obtain the financing to do so will quickly move their children into private schools containing all of the enrichment programs they expect their children to be exposed to, and the children of parents without means will be left in a diminished educational environment with wholly inadequate funding.   The proposals are radical and extremely harmful both to public education and to our democracy.  Their promoters would argue that the established education community is vested in maintaining the “status quo” and that a conservative approach no longer serves the interests of Michigan’s students.  Legitimate leaders in the field of public education see it differently.
The materials you should review to determine for yourselves whether you agree with this characterization and to form questions in advance are included with this email.  They consist of a letter panelist David Arsen recently wrote to Governor Snyder about a proposal the Governor requested to replace the current system for funding public education, as well as an article panelist Peter Ruddell, one of the proposal’s drafters, penned in rebuttal to Professor Arsen’s letter.  Also included is the State Board of Education’s analysis of the same proposal.  To amplify the discussion beyond the panel, I must refer you to a study conducted by the Center for Michigan: this study is an attempt to determine what it is that Michigan parents actually want, and you can find it here (I don’t include it, because the file size is much too large): I am also throwing in a piece drafted by Steve Norton, Executive Director of Michigan Parents for Schools, Tappan PTO officer and Treasurer of the Ann Arbor PTO Council.  Finally, there is a short article from the Traverse City Record-Eagle reporting on a recent State Board of Education forum. (Emphases added.)

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