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NOTE: PLEASE READ AND REC THE REPOST/EXTENDED VERSION OF THIS DIARY WHICH HAS JUST BEEN POSTED INSTEAD!
Hyperbole? Hair on Fire? Sky is Falling?

Absolutely.

If you or anyone you know and care about live in Michigan, or if you care whatsoever about the public school system in this country--or, for that matter, education of our children in general--I urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to read up on Michigan State House Bills 6004 & 5923, and State Senate Bills 1358 & 620.

If you think I'm over-hyping this issue, read the following letter, posted earlier today on the Bloomfield Hills School District website by superintendent Rob Glass. I repeat: This was posted by the superintendent of the BLOOMFIELD HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT.

As in, one of the wealthiest and most Republican areas in Michigan.

As in, Mitt Romney's home town, also the home town of Cranbrook.

Believe me, Rob Glass is NOT known for panicking or over-hyping issues, and I guarantee you that he's gonna catch a lot of flack for speaking out so strongly on a political issue--especially speaking out against a series of bills being pushed--HARD--by Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican-held state legislature.

An urgent call to action from Superintendent Rob Glass

Posted: November 28, 2012

Dear Parents and Citizens: This is an urgent call to action affecting your Bloomfield Hills Schools and public education in Michigan. A package of bills designed to corporatize and dismantle public education is being hastily pushed through this current ‘lame duck’ legislative session. If we do not take immediate action, I believe great damage will be done to public education, including our school system. We have just three weeks to take action before it’s too late. The bills are:

House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358: Would expand a separate and statewide school district (the EAA) overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor and functioning outside the authority of the State Board of Education or state school superintendent. These schools are exempt from the same laws and quality measures of community-governed public schools. The EAA can seize unused school buildings (built and financed by local taxpayers) and force sale or lease to charter, non-public or EAA schools.

House Bill 5923: Creates several new forms of charter and online schools with no limit on the number. Bundled with HB 6004/SB1358, many of these schools could be created by the EAA. Public schools are not allowed to create these new schools unless they charter them. Selective enrollment/dis-enrollment policies will likely lead to greater segregation in our public schools. This bill creates new schools without changing the overall funding available, further diluting resources for community-governed public schools.

Senate Bill 620: Known as the ‘Parent Trigger’ bill, this would allow the lowest achieving 5% of schools to be converted to a charter school while allowing parents or teachers to petition for the desired reform model. This bill will not directly affect our district, but disenfranchises voters, ends their local control, and unconstitutionally hands taxpayer-owned property over to for-profit companies. Characterized as parent-empowerment, this bill does little to develop deep, community-wide parent engagement and organization.

I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy theorist—until now. This package of bills is the latest in a yearlong barrage of ideologically-driven bills designed to weaken and defund locally-controlled public education, handing scarce taxpayer dollars over to for-profit entities operating under a different set of rules. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan and State Board of Education President John Austin and others have also expressed various concerns, as has the Detroit Free Press.

We embrace change, innovation and personalization.We’re passionate about providing choices and options for students. We compete strongly in the educational marketplace. We must never stop improving. This is not a laissez faire plea to defend the status quo. This is about making sure this tidal wave of untested legislation does not sweep away the valued programs our local community has proudly built into its cherished school system. If you are concerned about these bills, please do the following:

--Attend one of the following grassroots legislative meetings.

​--Stay informed by registering for updates through ‘Capwiz.’

--Call and e-mail your legislator and respectfully ask them to OPPOSE these bills (see contact information below).

--​Enlist ten others to do the same, and please remain active.

​Public education in Michigan can and must remain strong, but it will only happen if we act NOW.

Sincerely, Rob Glass, Superintendent

Legislative Contact information:

Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909
Email Address: Rick.Snyder@michigan.gov
Tel: 517.335.7858 (Constituent Services)

41st State Rep District (Troy) Representative Marty Knollenberg (R)
N0890 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909
Email Address: MartyKnollenberg@house.mi.gov
Tel: 517.373.1783

13th State Senate District (City BH) Senator John Pappageorge (R)
1020 Farnum Building
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536
Email Address: SenJPappageorge@senate.michigan.gov
Tel: 517.373.2523

40th State Rep District (Blfld. Twp/City) Representative Chuck Moss (R)
S0889 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909
Email: ChuckMoss@house.mi.gov
Tel: 517.373.8670

15th State Senate District (West Bloomfield) Senator Mike Kowall (R)
305 Farnum Building
P.O. Box 30036 Lansing, MI 48909
Email: SenMKowall@senate.michigan.gov
Tel: 517.373.1758

39th State Rep District (West Bloomfield) Representative Lisa Brown (D)
S0888 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514
Email: lisabrown@house.mi.gov
Tel: 517.373.1799

-----

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.

Even worse, the "three weeks" timeline mentioned by Mr. Glass may already be obsolete; I have it on good authority that the state House may be voting on the first of these bills, HB 6004 as early as TOMORROW, Thursday the 29th.

Update: Dammit, yep, it's on the official schedule for tomorrow already.
Update: According to Eclectablog, the vote tomorrow is "only" a committee vote, not the full House, but either way we still have to work VERY fast to stop this.

In addition, I received this message from a local friend:

"Got this message from a friend that works for Novi schools.

"FYI, tonight the Senate is apparently working on removing the vacant building language from the EAA bill. They will probably pass a revised bill tomorrow. Now most districts won't get too upset about the bill unless they have a school in the bottom 5% but we still need parent uproar."

If true, this is both good and bad news.

It's good because a) they're removing one of the (many) terrible things in the bill, and b) because it means that they ARE feeling the pressure/resistance already.

It's bad because, as your friend noted, it means that they probably deliberately included a bunch of truly horrible stuff so that they could then remove it later and claim to have "compromised" so that the rest will "only" seem "kind of" terrible in comparison.

Update x3: The Superintendent of Birmingham Public Schools (right next door to Bloomfield Hills, and just as high-income/upper-class as Bloomfield Hills) also posted a similar letter on their own Facebook page:

Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012

Dear Parents and Community Members,

As we make plans for the holiday season, Michigan legislators are busy making plans to overhaul the Michigan public education system as we know it. During the lame duck session, the Michigan House and Senate are making moves to further erode local control and the financial base for Michigan’s traditional public school system. These proposed plans look remarkably like a public voucher program, add unnecessary cost and complexity, and allow Lansing appointees to shift control away from the local school board trustees that you elect. All of these elements create a very concerning picture. We encourage you to learn more about HB 5923, HB 6004, and SB 1358 and help us open a dialogue with our elected officials.

I urge you to take a moment to contact your elected officials. You can find their information attached to this letter, or on the BPS website, here. You can also sign up for Capwiz, a service that will keep you informed about potential action in Lansing, and give you the ability to contact your legislator with the click of a button. Additionally, contact information and a sample letter are provided on the next page. Contacting your representative is a critical step as our elected officials prepare to make decisions for the future of our public education system.

Informational meetings are scheduled throughout the week, including this evening, Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 4 and 6:30 p.m., at Royal Oak Middle School, 709 N. Washington Ave., Royal Oak, 48067. On Monday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m., residents are also invited to attend an informational meeting to learn more about these plans. The event will be held at Rochester High School, 180 S. Livernois in Rochester Hills. The legislature hasn’t given us much time to act, but we know that informed constituents are the best line of defense we have to combat this pending legislation.

Also included in this letter are talking points. We know that you’ll find your own voice in this, but these talking points can serve as a way to help us present a united message to our legislature.

Birmingham Public Schools currently serves over 8,300 students. We offer students choice programming, opportunities to earn college credit through a vast Advanced Placement program, and world language and resources to create global, life-long learners. These bills target both high-achieving and struggling districts alike. We hope that together with our residents, we can suggest a statewide solution that helps all children, without turning public education into a public voucher program.

Sincerely,

Daniel Nerad
Superintendent
Birmingham Public Schools

UPDATE x4: I've posted a follow-up diary that includes a sample phone script that I've hobbled together for calling state legislators/the Governor's office, as well as reposting Diane Gee's excellent sample email. Please Rec this diary as well, would'ja?
MAJOR UPDATE x5: From a friend of mine:

"Happening NOW. Here's the info I have from a well-connected friend:

"Senate Republicans are planning to ignore Senate rules and bypass a vote by the Senate Education Committee on the EAA bill. This means that the full Senate could be voting as soon as the next hour on the bill."

The provisions regarding the right to take property (the provisions I really care about) and give it to charter schools are apparently still in there.

Originally posted to Brainwrap on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 05:03 PM PST.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project, Badger State Progressive, and Michigan, My Michigan.

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