More of Michigan’s Ed Reform Plans Come into Focus

The overhaul of Michigan's education system is going full steam ahead, even if some parts of the plan to turn schools in the state around aren't quite in their final form yet. Two of the proposals that will guide the process are already making their way through the state Legislature, and one is currently in the draft stage but hasn't yet been introduced.

Richard McLellan, the education adviser for Governor Rick Snyder, could claim most of the authorship credit for all three bills. The purpose of the bills is to put in place an education system that lives up to the goal – laid out by Snyder in 2011 – to create an education system that provides learning "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace."

If the first measure — known as House Bill 5923 — passes, it will allow the creation of a number of different kinds of schools. Among them will be both those based mostly or exclusively online, and ones run and overseen by private entities.

John Austin, president of the state Board of Education, wrote on MLive that the bill could lead to a "‘Wild West' of unfettered, unregulated new school creation, decoupled from the goal of improving learning and student outcomes."

House Bill 6004 and the companion Senate Bill 1358 would see all underperforming schools in the state grouped into a single district operating under the auspices of the Education Achievement Authority. The EAA was created last year to run the bottom 5% of Michigan schools, but the two bills would protect the EAA by enshrining its existence into state law.

This year, only 15 schools around Detroit make up the EAA docket, but the Authority will take on schools from all Michigan districts starting next year. At the moment, the Authority operates thanks to an ad-hoc arrangement between Detroit Public Schools and the Eastern Michigan University.

The final component of the overhaul is the Michigan Public Education Finance Project, an enormous 300-page draft of a bill that would change how the state's education system is funded. It would replace the School Aid Act of 1979. The bill, commissioned by Governor Rick Snyder, was written by Richard McLellan and Peter Ruddell of the Oxford Foundation.

The measure looks to uncouple state funding from the district and assign it directly to the student. The money is set to follow the student — even if he or she chooses to enroll in a school, or take a number of classes in a school, outside the local district.

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