Op/Ed: The Sky Has Fallen on Free Public Educational System in Michigan for Decades, yet nearly no one cared

Photo Credit-Mackinaw Center for Public Policy
The plan to corporate outsource for profit free pubic
education in Michigan has been in the works for nearly
two decades, yet race, class and political parties
interests have worked in conjunction effectively
dividing the electorate. 
The title of this blog should be rightly named “When the threat comes to your community”. Really, truly on this we’re not kidding. At first, it was just Detroit Public Schools. The Michigan Public School District with all of those “under performing”, “under-achieving”, “lack of parenting” African-American children that needed immediate assistance from the “saviors with white lab coats” in Lansing, Michigan to “fix” education.

Remember…. No really, remember well. Back in former Michigan Governor John Engler‘s (R) administration the experimental “takeover” of a public school system supported by local tax payers begun. Let’s refresh our memories, shall we and take a trip back to 1999.

“Following the passage last week, by the Michigan House of Representatives, of a final version of the “school reform bill” aimed at taking over the Detroit Public School system, Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer moved quickly to remove the incumbent school board. In what one newspaper columnist described metaphorically as the “night-of-the-long-knives,” the mayor demanded the resignation of the entire outgoing board last Friday, within hours of Governor John Engler’s signing of the reform legislation. By the following Wednesday, members of the defunct board had vacated their offices and turned in their keys to the mayor. 

While the new hand-picked board has not yet adopted any policies, its composition confirms that Archer, Engler and the state legislature are moving to tailor the public school system to the needs of big business. 

The seven-member board includes William Beckham, the president of the business-oriented New Detroit and an adviser to former US President Jimmy Carter; Frank Fountain, vice-president of DaimlerChrysler; Pam Aguirre, CEO of Mexican Industries of Michigan, one of the largest minority-owned auto parts manufacturers; Detroit Deputy Mayor Freeman Hendrix; Dr. Glenda Price, president of Marygrove College; and Marvis Coffield, director of a non-profit social service agency called Operation Get Down who also owns a small business. 

The seventh member of the board is Arthur Ellis, the state superintendent of education and an ally of Republican Governor Engler. Ellis previously served as a head of the state Department of Commerce and president of Central Michigan University, a university which has established a series of semi-private charter schools throughout the state. Ellis’s presence gives the governor veto power over the choice of a new chief executive for the school system, since the legislation provides that the CEO’s selection must be unanimous.”

Memories beginning to refresh now, just a bit we hope. Detroit Public Schools since 1999, the decade prior to this one of 2012, has been under one form or the other of Lansing, Michigan version of “Men (and Women) too, riding in White Lab Coats” to save the District from itself. Has this experiment worked? Well frankly not really if one were to take an sociological point of view of the “achievement results”.

“Detroit children leave school prepared to enter the workforce or attend college. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has called the DPS drop-out rate “devastating” and told the Detroit Free Press in November 2010 that DPS is “arguably the worst urban school district in the country now.” 

 DPS was also arguably the worst urban school district in the country in 2002-2003 when a widely publicized Gates Foundation-funded study found the DPS graduation rate was the lowest in the country. From 2002 to 2009, the number of DPS students fell by 43.7 percent while the number of charter students (inside and outside the city) increased by 82.3 percent.  Charter school graduation rates vary widely, as can be seen for the class of 2009 in Appendix A.  

For the class of 2003, the DPS graduation rate ranged from 21.7 to 44.5 percent depending on the methodology used; for the class of 2004, the DPS graduation rate ranged from 24.9 percent to just over 60 percent. Michigan State University’s Education Policy Center found 32 percent of the DPS class of 2006 graduated in 4 years using a new, federally-mandated cohort methodology. During the same year, DPS reported a 66.8 percent graduation rate under the old methodology, Retention Rate Calculation. 

In 2007, the state of Michigan began using this cohort four-year graduation rate which incorporates three kinds of students likely to be left out in other methods: students who transfer between public schools anywhere in Michigan, students who leave school (permanently and temporarily), and students who graduate later than their original classmates. Using this cohort methodology, DPS found slow but steady progress from 2007, when 58 percent of 9th graders graduated with their class, to 2010, when 62 percent of 9th graders graduated with their class.”

Wow, this is Earth shattering news! Wrong! 

Michiganders have known for years that Detroit Public Schools need a combination of funding, true educational resources, targeted learning plans for at-risk students and support for children who parents either refuse or lack the wherewithal to be involved within the K-12 educational process. Instead of solving the problems with detailed, involved and in many cases complex solutions; the “sugar-coat marketing scheme” of its’ “them folks versus our perfect little community, school district, kids, parents….you name it” has worked quite effectively.

Little did the “perfect little communities” know that Detroit Public Schools, its’ students, parents and resources has been the testing ground for a now two decade long “experiment” moving to the privatization of Public Education in Michigan. Now since tears of betrayal are forming in communities like Bloomfield Hills and more, these state residents as sounding warning bells sighting for an “call to arms” ready to fight “the takeover”. Yet, we wonder where were these Michigan residents the last fourteen or so years? Fair question, right?

“Last night I attended a meeting at which Dave Randels, the Asst. Director of Govt. Relations & Pupil Services for Oakland County Schools (that’s quite a title!) gave a presentation in which he broke down these bills and what they mean. In short, it would be devastating to the entire Michigan public school system. It’s effectively a wholesale corporate takeover of the schools, with the new “statewide district” bypassing all local control, local school boards, and even the state board of education and the legislature itself, reporting directly to the Governor.”

Yes, it would and the ultimate plan of this “decade plus long experiment” is rightly called the Michigan Public School Finance Act of 2013 –read on for details-.

Notice the date, 2013 as in NEXT YEAR. In the last General Election on Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Michigan’s Republican Controlled State House and Senate via a process rightly called redistricting or “gerrymandering” if you will, ensured that although state voters added more Democratic seats in our state’s House of Representatives, overturning the Chamber legislative body itself would not occur.

Flashback to 2010. Many state voters “stayed home” due to anger at President Barack Obama’s economy at the time, rise of “The Tea Party” nations –as in more than one-, unemployment running rampant and a litany full of other excuses. Michigan voters staying home assisted in flipping the state House, Senate, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Governor’s offices in Republican hands.

Then, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) ran against challenger Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) on his “ten point plan“, calling Bernero “the angry Mayor“. The next stage of this experiment worked perfectly: divide voters by race and class lines….get into office and do what WE desire. Kind of like what occurred when nearly no one with titles of elected state Republicans and/or Democratic officials, stepped into assist the “takeover” of Detroit Public Schools system in 1999.

Amazingly in Gov. Snyder’s “ten point plan” he told Michigan voters –who voted for him in 2010 that is– exactly what he was going to do with Public Education in this state. Reading between the lines –not hard to do with reading comprehension skills taught in K-12 Primary school based learning– Snyder boldly informed Michigan residents he was hell bend on privatizing education in this state.

Too bad the folks in the”those folks versus our perfect little community, school district, kids, parents….you name it” areas didn’t listen to Snyder’s warning.


Question- Is Michigan’s system for funding K-12 and higher education reliable? Do you think the way Michigan funds education needs to be changed:

Answer from Rick Snyder-“The problem with Michigan’s K-12 and higher education system isn’t a lack of funds; it’s that the funds aren’t being used well. Michigan is among the top-spending states when it comes to education, yet our test scores consistently rank at the bottom of the pack. There’s a clear disconnect between spending and results – just throwing more money at the problem won’t solve anything. We need to reform our education system to make sure that programs are working and that we are getting results.

And change he did, full speed ahead after being sworn into office. On March 16, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed into LAW Public Act #4 of 2011. Readers can partake in Independent Underground News many articles about impacts of P.A. #4 here.

Its’ important to remember P.A. #4 –now repealed state law– moved Snyder, Republican State House and Senate leaders along with associated “interest groups”, faster than the speed of light to the ultimate plan for “complete takeover” of public education in Michigan.

To drain Michigan School Districts of operational revenue necessary for educating its’ youth, Gov. Rick Snyder signed in his first fiscal budget, an unprecedented removal of nearly $1 BILLION –with a big “B” – dollar money shift of state public school rainy day funding, giving  tax breaks to the state C & S based corporations.

“The education budget has been a hot-topic since massive cuts to state based per-pupil funding was slashed to just $300 per student by recent law. These actions were passed by the GOP controlled state House and Senate, and then quickly signed by Gov. Snyder, despite a projected $900 million dollar surplus in the School Aid Fund (Rainy Day Fund), on June 21st.  

Many legislators, school employees and community members believed education would be spared cuts in 2012 budget, with the noted surplus, but it was not. Instead, the Republican-led legislature and Gov. Snyder voted to add college and university funding to the School Aid Fund, which wasn’t the original intend of the fund. In addition, they voted and passed cuts in the amount of $470 dollar per-pupil out of K-12 funding.  

Up to 30 individuals attended the press conference to show their support for K-12 funding. Some of the participants were brought to tears during the Representatives’ statements to the media. 

“We’re here for one simple reason, we’re hear to stand up for our schools now that the K-12 budget has been signed,” said Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) at a neighborhood school in downtown Grand Rapids. “These are cuts that are going to impact classroom sizes, quality of our text books, cause layoffs and in general they’re going to diminish the quality of our children’s education.” 

The reality is, these cuts were made only so the governor could finance an 82 percent tax cut for corporations,” said Dillon. “We understand that the governor wants to attract top-notch employers to Michigan but we fundamentally don’t believe that the only way to do that is to cut taxes and to leave our schools holding the bag, trying to figure out how they’re going to balance their budget.”

The fix was against Free Public Education in Michigan, and state voters were blind as Stevie Wonder to where this “experiment” would end. 

Specifically, it would stop right at the back door of the administration building of their school district. Then came the Educational Achievement Authority or EAA into Detroit Public Schools. Its’ truly sad and now downright insulting in light of soon to be purposed “Michigan Public School Finance Act of 2013” written by Oxford Foundation Co-Hort, right-wing Republican associated friend and business partner, Attorney Richard McLellan comes to light; along with 2012’s state pending lame-duck legislation House Bills 6004, 5923, 6023, Senate Bill 1358, and 2011’s S.B. 620.

Yet, Michigan Senate Bill 620 is NOT NEW. Look at the date of this legislation, as it states date of creation of SEPTEMBER 7, 2011, or last year. In case our readers had a case of “inquiring minds want to know” Michigan House and Senate Legislation follow in close number sequences. In other words, Michigan S.B. 620 was introduced first, way first before S.B. 1358 in an elected state Chamber session.

Michigan Senate Bill 620 was precursory legislation drafting “the experiment plan” for Detroit Public Schools Educational Achievement Authority. ROJS Radio LIVE hosts Monica RW and Autumn S. warned on our August 12, 2012 podcast that Governor Rick Snyder’s EAA’s plans were NOT going to stop within the Detroit Public School District. In fact, where panic is spreading like wildfire in “lesser minority, supposedly well-funded and educated” suburbia schools districts across Michigan; frankly its’ probably is a bit too damn late to stop the “finalized outcome”.

“The Secretary of State’s rights to ask a citizenship questions to voters was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder (R) in Johnson’s lobbied for legislation within the “Safe and Fair Elective Initiative” packages, covered extensively since October 11, 2011 on ROJS News. Still, was Johnson’s office to blame for Detroit voters being “frisked” at the polls or Detroit Public School district personnel for that manner? The answer is no. 

ROJS News was contacted by one of our readers regarding these reported situations. On Friday, August 10th we spoke to Steve Wasko, Communication Director of Detroit Public Schools (DPS) about the “frisking” episodes with two voters. We desired clarification on if DPS notified security personnel or contractors working of Tuesday, August 7th Michigan Primary. 

“The issues that were raised earlier this week with regards to some problems with voters attempting to access the polling site at Henry Ford High School, with regards to that, this school is not a Detroit Public School. It is not a member of the Detroit Public School System. It use to be. It now has transferred to a new district, run by the State of Michigan, called the Educational Achievement Authority,” said Steve Wasko Chief Communications Officer at DPS.  

“And they would have complete responsibility for that site, including uses of the polling location. My understanding is that issue was resolved after it was raised that morning by staff at of the Educational Achievement Authority. Again, I want to be clear that has no relationship what so ever with Detroit Public Schools,” Wasko confirmed. 

Once authenticated by Mr. Wasko that Henry Ford High School was no longer part of the DPS system, therefore would not hold responsibly of ensuring Michigan Educational Authority security staff or contractors were in trained poll accessibility procedures, we contacted Michigan’s Educational Authority Lansing office. Our calls as of Friday, August 10th, were not returned.
                                                                        ****
In this case, neither the Detroit Public School Systems or directly Michigan Secretary of State department was where blame should have been leveled. Instead, focus and questions should have been directed to Michigan’s Educational Authority; who starting September 5th unless Detroit’s 11-School Board members injunction to stop this is successful, will operate 15 schools formerly a part of Detroit Public Schools system.”

What’s the EAA and why did a “takeover” of 15 Detroit Public Schools failed to have “them folks versus our perfect little community, school district, kids, parents….you name it” Michigan residents up in arms at that point? Not sure but, this is what the EAA did to DPS.

“Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts announced an plan to dramatically redesign public education in Michigan’s lowest performing schools by including them into a new system that drives vastly more resources directly into their classrooms and offers greater autonomy to help ensure dramatic student achievement increases. 

The Education Achievement System is a new statewide school system that will operate the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan not achieving satisfactory results on a redesign plan or that are under an emergency manager. 

It is designed to provide a new, stable, financially responsible set of public schools that create the conditions, supports, tools and resources under which teachers can help students make significant academic gains. It will first apply to under-performing schools in Detroit in the 2012-2013 school year and then be expanded to cover the entire state.

The 15 “underperforming schools” taken over in this first “experimental timeline” to privatize public education in Michigan, were the following:

“Since the March 13 announcement of the first assignment of Detroit schools, the EAA of Michigan has executed on a number of efforts to engage parents, students and community leaders. 

These efforts have included Parent/Student Informational Meetings at all 15 of the initial member schools; informational sessions tied to the new “Learning Platform” as well as the creation of a multitude of materials to keep parents and students informed about the EAA of Michigan. The EAA of Michigan has also entered into various strategic alliances with various organizations since the mid-March announcement. 

The nine elementary/middle schools that are a part of the EAA include:
1. Brenda Scott Elementary/Middle 
2. Burns Elementary/Middle
3. Law Academy
4. Mary M. Bethune Elementary/Middle
5. Murphy Elementary/Middle
6. Nolan Elementary/Middle
7. Phoenix Elementary/Middle
8. Stewart Elementary/Middle
9. Trix Elementary/Middle 
The six high schools are:
1. Central Collegiate Academy
2. Denby High School
3. Ford High School
4. Mumford High School
5. Pershing High School
6. Southeastern High School”
Since initial “takeover” occurred within “the failing minority school district with parents that don’t care” supposedly of Detroit Public Schools; nearly no one to cared write, report, cover, detail, scream bloody murder, explain or discuss what happened. 

Yet, there were some exceptions:

“Elder Helen Moore, leader of the Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition, worked with a national network of public education advocates to bring the meeting together.  Moore said the network had met with the guests in Washington, D.C. and plans to return there this month. 

During the committee session, researchers, educators, Detroit Board of Education members, parents, and community advocates offered passionate, often blistering descriptions of the state of education in Detroit. 

“Not too long ago, a national group got in touch with us from Chicago after they heard about the student walk-outs at Frederick Douglass Academy and Western and Southwestern High Schools protesting the closures of their schools,” Moore said. 

“Twenty different states have joined in,” she continued. “Our assessment after a number of meetings has been that districts with Black and Brown children are being treated the same way nationally. They are being discriminated against.  Here in Detroit, our children’s resources are being stolen by charter schools, the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), and site-based management. 

Dr. John Telford, newly appointed as interim superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools by the school board, chimed in. 

It is appalling, egregious, illegal and unconstitutional that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, the state legislature, and the state Supreme Court have colluded to take away our schools, to take away our city.” 

Dr. Thomas Pedroni, Associate Professor of Curriculum Studies at Wayne State University, presented a history of the assault on public education in Detroit… 

“Mr. Cunningham, I have news for the coalition that is destroying our schools,” Pedroni told the federal officials. “You, Excellent Schools Detroit, Michigan Future Schools, EAA, you are the status quo. You defend what has been shown to not work; you defend what fails our kids. You see, the cities in America are talking to each other now. It may be Excellent Schools Detroit here but it’s the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago. 

We’re talking to each other through our coalition. . . and we’re telling you we don’t want your failed blueprint.  .  .  .we are not going to let you do to our schools what you did to them in Chicago and Philadelphia and New Orleans and elsewhere.”

We could go on and on within this long-written factual article but, the end result is the following.

Plans to corporately privatize public education in Michigan has taken nearly two decades. In this time, both Republicans and Democrats has played this game in Michigan, when political parties felt they could reward portions of a “friends, partners and family cash benefit plan” at the expense of Children in our great state, seeking K-12 primary education.

School Districts lacking robust minorities within their “head counts” failed to care, fight or stand up when this “takeover experiment” was in Detroit, Muskegon, Benton Harbor or Inkster Public Schools Districts, just to name a few.

Famous last words of “The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost”. Since your suburban school district(s) are targeted to shift tax dollars out of public education, directly into open hands of the “highest corporate bidder”, will you care NOW?

Valuable Resources to Follow on the Effort to Private Education in Michigan….Bookmark This!!






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