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State Board Adopts Statements on Education Reform Legislation

Contact: Martin Ackley, Director of Public and Governmental Affairs 517-241-4395
Agency: Education

November 21, 2012

LANSING - The State Board of Education this week adopted formal statements, and recommended changes, to bills being considered in the state Legislature.

The statements were intended to provide the State Board's input and guidance on bills that would embed into state law the Education Achievement Authority (Senate Bill 1358 and House Bill 6004), as well as a broad expansion of new forms of schools (House Bill 5923).

In its statement on House Bill 5923, the State Board shared its significant concerns "about the pace of development of compounding education reform legislation. Over the past three years, several education reform bills have been implemented. It's important to give these options time to work and evaluate the outcomes before implementing additional legislation."

State Board of Education President John C. Austin said, "This is a huge policy change in how we create schools and language needs to be considered much more thoughtfully and in the context of how we fund all schools throughout the state."

He said that the legislation, as written, does not focus on where there is need for quality new schools created and that was an omission last year when the state legislature expanded the caps on charter schools.

"We need to let the system stabilize and decompress," said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. "All of the reforms can demoralize the 100,000 people working in our classrooms, and this statement seems to say that."

The statement on the codification of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), a system of schools designed to turnaround the lowest-achieving five percent of schools, provided recommendations to amend the bill, even though two Board members (Kathleen Straus and Marianne Yared McGuire) voted against the statement because they oppose the EAA.

The Board's statement on SB 1358 and HB 6004 included concerns that Superintendent Flanagan has shared - that there should not be an automatic transfer of schools into the EAA if they are in the lowest-achieving five percent for three consecutive years, regardless of academic progress; that the appointment of the State Redesign Officer should remain with the State Superintendent; that the EAA should not be exempted from any school laws; and that vacant school buildings would not be automatically available for sale or lease.

"These (concerns) are the intent of our recommendations and align the EAA leadership, not as a separate entity that only the Governor controls, but as something that needs to be under the leadership of the State Board and that the State Superintendent retains some authority and flexibility," Austin said.

"I believe there is merit in codifying the EAA and provide a mechanism for our most struggling schools in Michigan that persistently are unable to help their students achieve," Flanagan said. "However, this legislation includes several provisions that are of deep concern to me and will impact schools across Michigan."

The State Board also voted 5-1-1 to oppose Senate Bill 620, the so-called "parent trigger bill" that would allow parents and/or teachers in a lowest-achieving five percent school to take the school and transform it into a Public School Academy. Board members Nancy Danhof voted no, and Daniel Varner abstained.

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