New proposal to change Michigan's education system

Dec 12, 2012

Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity has been asking educators, non-profit leaders, and parents this question: Do kids in Michigan have what it takes to get ahead?

So far the answer has been pretty clear: Michigan children from low-income families face an uphill battle when it comes to being competitive on a national level. But many of our interviewees have also agreed that good education has the possibility to dramatically improve a child's future success.

That's the main reason why State of Opportunity is so interested in early education programs. Just last week Jennifer Guerra spoke with Larry Schweinhart, president of the HighScope Foundation, who gave listeners the four ingredients of a high-quality pre-K program.

This week Guerra interviews Richard McClellan, a lawyer at the Oxford Foundation, a public interest law firm based in Michigan. McClellan was recently tasked by Governor Rick Snyder to come up with a new public education model for Michigan kids.

McClellan calls the proposal - officially titled the Michigan Educational Finance Act of 2012 - "an anytime, anyplace, any pace, any way model of public education." Critics call it a defacto voucher program that will completely dismantle public education in the state.

A few key points from the proposal:

  1. More school choice: Education will no longer be "bundled," meaning a student doesn't have to take all their classes at one school or within one district. Students would be able to shop around and pick and choose classes to take in from any public school district* in the state.
  2. The money follows the student: Currently, nearly 100% of state funding for a school is determined by how many students show up on Count Day in the fall. Under the new proposal, students hold the purse strings, and state funds follow them wherever they take classes.
  3. More schools: The proposal calls for the creation of numerous new schools including non-profit charters, charters run by for-profit management companies, and online providers.

But the proposal isn't without controversy. To learn more about the impact this proposal could have on families in Michigan, visit State of Opportunity.

- Jordan Medina, Michigan Radio Newsroom