Govenor Snyder’s Oxford Foundation is currently trying to frame this fall’s discussion about school funding in a fantastically bizarre way.
In their view, the top Oakland County “Districts” that parents work and sacrifice to get their kids into – Troy, Birmingham, Bloomfield, etc. – stand opposed to the “rights” of parents and the interests of kids’ themselves.
I am not kidding.
Here is their language “interpreting” Article VIII, §2 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 guaranteeing public education:
"The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.
The issue is significant in light of Governor Snyder’s approach to improving public education in that it contemplates an “unbundling” of public education.
In summary, there seem to be two inconsistent views:
- School District Control. Under this approach, admission to the public school is limited to pupils who enroll in and are controlled by the school district, i.e., “its pupils.” While every Michigan resident has the right to attend a free public elementary or secondary school, the student must attend a school is a single school district for all of his or her education in order to eligible for the “free” education.
- Pupil/Parent Rights. An alternative view is that the “free public elementary and secondary schools” are to be established for the benefit of the pupils of the state and the legislature, in maintaining and supporting a “system,” has created a system whereby the pupil and his parents may select either a complete package of education from the district of the pupil’s residence or select to receive only part of his or her experience from a particular school."
Read the “two inconsistent views” again. You are being told that your rights are somehow being compromised by the top rated Districts your child attends.
That is the framework of the argument you will hear again and again over the next couple of weeks. You can hear this in other simplified forms these days at local school board races: “I am for the kids, not high priced administrators” or “let’s get back to education for the kids" or "school is for the kids not adults" -- as if one could somehow separate the adults who parent and teach from the kids that go to school.
That is indeed an "alternative" notion of education.
Every time you hear someone say they are doing something “for the kids” in Oakland County – but they aren’t a parent or teacher or an administrator directly involved with kids in K-12 – duck.
Furthermore, The Oxford Foundation would like to create a new school aid act that opens the districts so wide that the very idea of the district will be obsolete. If you think your property values are in any way tied to your school district....
The motivation here is open for interpretation.
One can argue persuasively that the pragmatic Governor is legitimately trying to find ways to help failing districts by limiting their control.
But those in top districts should understand this is also a perfect opportunity for both opponents of public education and those hostile to supposedly “rich” districts to change everything you thought you had going for you. And they are going to do it, of course, “for the kids.”
And you haven’t been told anything about it by the Oakland County press or your local representatives.
These reforms will damage top districts so much that public education across the board will be damaged. There will be a greater demand for private schools (jacking up those tuitions and changing the character of those schools), and a cry for charter schools.
Always worthwhile to ask: who might benefit from a proliferation of “charter” schools or enhancements to private schools other than “the kids”? What markets are opened up here -- "for the kids"?
As a parent of two in BHSD, I trust my current school administrators, teachers, and fellow parents to educate my kids more than I trust the Oxford Foundation that is trying to pit me against the people teaching my kids.