Sunday, March 15, 2015

AAPS Trustees Lightfoot and Stead Step Into State Policy Debates--Thank You!

I didn't know that AAPS Trustee Simone Lightfoot has been sitting on a subcommittee of the "Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren," but she has been--and now she has resigned. Her letter is below, where she articulates why she had to resign.

Meanwhile, AAPS Trustee Stead deserves overdue (from February) recognition for pushing the school board to oppose the Education Achievement Authority and to support local control of public schools--and her memo to the school board is below as well. The entire school board approved the resolution.

Thank you to both of them!

From Simone Lightfoot: 

Today, I submitted my official letter of resignation from the COALITION FOR THE FUTURE OF DETROIT SCHOOL CHILDREN policy subcommittee. The statement needed to made. The Skillman Foundation and United Way along with our Governor and the corporate community are fully committed to destroying public education in Michigan....unacceptable!(See below my official letter of resignation) 
The sole member of a fully empowered, locally elected school board (Ann Arbor Board of Education) has resigned from the Coalition For The Future of Detroit School Children policy sub-committee to: evaluate the current-education related political and policy landscape and developing strategy and policy recommendations for the Coalition as it relates to the goal of transforming education in Detroit - in protest, criticizing the atmosphere of predetermined solutions, prioritized profit centered education, and an unwavering commitment to maintaining the EAA and other practices not evidence, achievement, or solution based. 
Dear Coalition For The Future Of Detroit School Children Policy Sub-Committee Members:
After much deliberation and multiple attempts to consider all pathways and outcomes, it is with great disappointment that I submit my official letter of resignation from the Coalition For The Future Of Detroit School Children policy subcommittee effective immediately.
I did not enter into this role lightly nor am I easily discouraged. I recognized from the outset that the eleven consecutively scheduled, Monday morning meetings would not be without sacrifice, conflict or compromise.
With that, I welcomed the opportunity to join other respected colleagues from across Southeast Michigan to lend my public policy, public education, civil rights and social justice expertise to our stated purpose of “evaluating the current education-related political and policy landscape while developing strategy and policy recommendations toward the goal of transforming education in Detroit”.
However, with just four meetings remaining, questions continue to plague the sub-committee as to our actual charge. This reality is incompatible with advancing thoughtful, sustainable best practices through collective review, consideration and feedback. Further concerns are exacerbated by the fact that no policies have been allowed to emerge from the fragmented, evolving and nuanced process in the manner promised. And which required we look at methodological and evidentiary-based solutions that focus on the unique challenges facing DPS and public education in our state.
To date, our only collective and deliberative action as a body has been to review proposal responses from several lobbying firms seeking to contract with the Coalition. In that process, each participating member had three options to exercise for their final choices, however the selected firm was presented to the body as the finalist without the benefit of witnessing or fully understanding the process by which that decision was made.
Moreover, our sub-committee has been continuously dissuaded from specific, expert, and thoughtful best practice solutions and persuaded toward broad, overarching and non-specific recommendations subject to broad interpretation. When questioned about this approach, we were directed to believe that the issues raised were somehow beyond our scope. In reviewing the charge of “developing strategy and policy recommendations toward the goal of transforming education in Detroit”, it is hard to imagine much of what we wanted to consider to be beyond that scope.
As time passed and multiple media accounts reported out important and relevant information not brought before our full body, more questions were raised. Each time the subcommittees concerns were brushed aside as unwarranted.
And rather than convening this outstanding group of vastly experienced education and policy leaders to cooperate and help shape solutions in a systematic way, those leading the conversation consistently re-directed it toward support for EAA, charter schools and for profit models of education.
At this point, it is without question clear that the direction and narrative dominating our work is to uphold the EAA (although another apparent failure to join the ranks of the other failing charter schools and for profit education experiments fostered on our students in the State of Michigan). I have become less and less satisfied with the apparent predetermined direction, solutions and commitment against public education of this effort and it appears we are no longer tasked with improving public education for Detroit – or anywhere else in Michigan.
Our work should leave Detroit Public Schools stronger and more empowered than before, with greater student learning outcomes and fiscal solvency. This sadly appears will not be the case.
I have a great deal of appreciation for my colleagues and their enormous time and travel commitment. Many of us volunteered for this work because we want a strong, vibrant and high achieving public school system across this state.
Unfortunately, those that lead this effort have prioritized preserving the EAA, for profit education ventures and charter schools over educational expertise, common sense dialogue and student centered, data driven decisions. In doing so they have also squander the educational legitimacy that at one time had been Michigan’s most potent offense, defense, economic and social driver. All while dismantling the largest and most effective institutional structures our nation has known, the public school system.
In keeping with this trajectory, we are straining beyond the limits of both the Detroit Public School and the Michigan education system in order to advance destructive educational outcomes that ensure instability to families, municipalities and school districts.
While it has been a privilege to witness first hand the inner workings of this policy sub-committee, it has become impossible for me to escape the conclusion, that the fervent political and profit centered policy pursuits of the Skillman Foundation, the United Way Foundation, the Governor and others on behalf of the EAA, charter schools and unproven educational experiments are not compatible with the interests I represent. The systematic manipulation of the subcommittee’s expertise intelligence is unacceptable.
I realize the emotion and tone of my letter and ask that you receive it in a manner that conveys my passionate concern and intimate awareness of the outcomes disparately impacting public education, education policy and urban school districts.
It is my contention that both my colleagues and I have extended more credibility than the current structure and destined outcomes deserve. And so, for the reasons outlined, I have determined my continued service on the Coalition For The Future Of Detroit School Children policy subcommittee is not the best use of my experience, public education expertise and time.
Simone Lightfoot
Ann Arbor Board of Education
Christine Stead's memo to the school board: 

TO: AAPS Board of Education Trustees FROM: Christine SteadDATE: February 8, 2015SUBJECT: Resolution to Preserve Local Governance of Public Education
WHEREAS the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) maintains a governance body that is designated primarily by the Governor; and
WHEREAS the current school districts that comprise the EAA are the 15 original schools that were part of the Detroit Public Schools, and;
WHEREAS the right to a free and public education, governed by locally elected officials, remains the foundation of public education in the United States, and;
WHEREAS the elected Board of Education for the Detroit Public Schools continues to be excluded from the governance of the EAA, and
WHEREAS a recent academic review performed by the Educational Policy Center of Michigan State University was unable to document any improvement in student outcomes under the EAA1 and;
WHEREAS this same study shows that the EAA continues to exceed cost expectations, while realizing a negative economic return on investment, and;
WHEREAS the citizens of the current EAA school districts have a right to representation in the governance of their schools, which is currently being denied them;
The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education
• Stands by the right of the people of Detroit to elect School Board Members for the Detroit Public Schools and upholds their right to be fully empowered to govern their schools and represent their community; and
• Opposes the continued erosion of local governance across the State of Michigan; and
• Opposes any efforts to expand the EAA until the model can be realigned with local governance in a way that enhances public trust and until the model has demonstrated positive educational and economic results; and
• Opposes any further efforts to remove the oversight of education away from education-focused governing bodies, including the Governor’s recent suggestion to move the school reform office (where the EAA resides) out of the Department of Education and into the Department of Technology, Management and Budget; and
• Directs the Executive Assistant of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education to transmit copies of this resolution to:
Governor Rick SnyderSenate Majority LeaderSpeaker of the HouseSenate Democratic leaderMinority Leader of the HouseChair, House Education CommitteeChair, Senate Education CommitteeChair, House Appropriations CommitteeChair, Senate Appropriations CommitteeSenator Rebekah Warren, 18th DistrictRepresentative Jeff Irwin, 53rd DistrictRepresentative David Rutledge, 54th DistrictRepresentative Adam ZemkeRepresentative Gretchen DriskellJohn Austin, President, State Board of Education and all members of the State Board of EducationDon Wortuba, Executive Director, Michigan Association of School BoardsLocal print, voice, and internet media.
[1] “Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority and the Future of Public Education in Detroit: The Challenge of Aligning Policy Design and Policy Goals”, Working Paper #3; Mary Mason and David Arsen, The Education Policy Center, Michigan State University, December 2014.

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