Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has his own plan to hack away at the foundations of universal, free public education.
He is vying to be one of the national leaders of the education reform movement.
Like Bobby Jindal, his Southern counterpart in the far-right of the Republican Party, Snyder would love to offer vouchers but the Michigan state constitution doesn’t permit it (neither does the Louisiana state constitution, but who cares when you are a reformer?). Leaving constitutional niceties aside, Snyder wants to promote, encourage, expand, and fund with taxpayer dollars anything that is not a public school.
Governor Snyder wants to reshape the state’s school finance system so that public money “follows the child,” instead of just automatically going to public schools. This is part of the rightwing agenda to defund public education, cloaked in alluring terminology. The governor has created a panel to figure out how to make this happen.
He won’t come right out and say (reformers never do) that public education is bad, instead he will parrot Michelle Rhee’s absurd claim that public education is rigged to support “adult interests,” not the needs of children. I think what that means is that people who work in public schools get paid for doing so, which shows how selfish they are.
Far better, in the eyes of this education reformer in Michigan, to allow public money to go to for-profit corporations who put children first or anywhere else where there are no unions.
This is one of the peculiar views of the reformers in Michigan. It released a memo saying “the existing School Aid Act of 1979 generates $14 billion for public education, but the group believes that the existing law “serves the interest of legislators and representatives of the educational interests who control the education system, it is generally inaccessible to the general public.”
See the reasoning: That $14 billion now spent on public schools for all is controlled by “the educational interests” who “control the system” and it is not really for “the general public.” Get that: the money spent for public education is not for the public.
So if you follow the logic here, what is needed is more school choice, with money not targeted to any particular district or any particular school. No student would be assigned anywhere, and any choice the student or family made would be accompanied by state funding. Needless to say, that includes online learning and charters. Be it noted that Michigan has a very large for-profit charter sector; somewhere between 70-80% of its many charters operate for profit.
The governor wants funding to be allocated to “proficiency-based funding instead of “seat time” requirements,” which means that testing will be the sole criterion of education value. This again is a green light for the online corporations, because students can pass the state tests on computers and won’t need to go to a brick-and-mortar school at all.
And of course, we can’t have “reform” without “innovation.” In this case, the governor wants “A system that embraces innovative learning tools and reflects changing from a static approach to education delivery to one responsive to individual learning styles.” There we go again: code words meaning that we don’t want public money to pay for the current status quo system of public education, which is “static,” but to pay for online delivery system where the computer can adjust to “individual learning styles.” Apparently that is something that individual teachers, mere human beings, can’t possibly do. Only computers can do that.
And most certainly the governor wants to allow “nonpublic and homeschooled students maximum access to public education resources within the constraints of the state constitution.”
There you have it, folks, Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to reform public education by funding everything other than public education.