State House Democrats lay out plan to aid struggling schools

Michigan Public Radio Network

Democrats in the state House want to know how much it costs to educate a public school student in Michigan.

On Monday, they unveiled their plan to help turn around struggling schools. Among other things, it would require education officials to study the true cost of providing a Michigan public school education.

State Rep. Brandon Dillon said it’s clear current state funding levels fall short.

“Too many of our schools are struggling, but they are not failing,” said Dillon. “The failure has been at the state level with policymakers who continue the disinvestment in our schools, leading them to the situation they are in now.”

The plan would also require state officials to work with local communities on plans to address specific challenges facing each school.

Rep. Theresa Abed said, even beyond state dollars, struggling schools aren’t getting the support they need to improve.

“We just can’t tell our schools that they need to change and improve, and then leave them to figure it out or face a takeover or shutdown,” Abed said Monday. “Improving our struggling schools means that we all work together.”

Also in the proposal are measures Democrats say would “level the playing field” between traditional public schools and so-called “schools of choice.”

There’s a requirement that charters and virtual schools have boards that comply with the Open Meetings Act. No group would be able to authorize new charters if any of their existing ones fall in the bottom 5% of schools statewide. And virtual schools would have to disclose the amount of taxpayer dollars actually spent on classroom instruction.

In part, the Democrats’ plan is a reaction to the creation of a state-run district designed to turn around schools with persistently low test scores. The Education Achievement Authority currently oversees 15 public schools in Detroit. Lawmakers are considering expanding it statewide.

Also, the state recently closed Buena Vista and Inkster schools due to crippling budget deficits.

Governor Rick Snyder and legislative Republicans contend they’ve increased funding for public schools in recent years.

Copyright 2013, MPRN