Thursday, February 14, 2008

Serious Educational Reform is Necessary by Akindele Akinyemi


It's 2008 and Michigan is getting geared up for another dismal State Representative race. In Detroit we will see over 20 people in each district where the present state representative is term limited.

They will come for endorsements as well as knock on our doors begging for our votes.

I will NOT support any candidate unless they are for serious educational reform here in Michigan. It is a damn shame that we cannot get anything done in the urban community when it comes to educating our children without redtape.

A candidate running for state representative must be willing to do the following:

1. Remove the cap on the number of charter schools state universities can authorize.

The current cap is set at 150 schools, despite increased demand from parents. In fact, 66 percent of Michigan's charter schools have waiting lists, and 75 percent of the state's charter schools' enrollment grew from the 2000-01 school year to 2001-02. The Legislature should remove this cap and allow for the expansion of charter schools rather than rationing choice and opportunity to children. It should also consider the creation of an additional authorizing entity such as a statewide charter school board.

Charter schools have been particularly well received by many minority and poor students. More than 50 percent of Michigan's charter school students are ethnic minorities, compared to an average of 19 percent in traditional public schools. Forty percent of charter school students are eligible for the free and reduced portions of the National School Lunch Program. For these students, charter schools offer the only alternative to a system that is failing to meet their needs. These opportunities should be expanded rather than restricted.

2. Permit experience and/or education to qualify teachers for charter schools.

In addition to hiring state-certified teachers, charter schools should be allowed to hire noncertified teachers whose experience and/or education qualifies them to teach in a particular field.

Arizona law permits noncertified teachers to enter the teaching profession, and that state has experienced great success in attracting the kind of quality educators who would be excluded from teaching at traditional public schools in Michigan. Meanwhile, statistics on homeschooled children demonstrate the weak relationship between certification and academic success.

3. Reform teacher certification to increase the pool of quality teachers.

Teacher certification has never guaranteed qualification. In fact, many people who possess the ability and knowledge to teach are ultimately excluded from entering the teaching profession due to expensive, time consuming, and onerous red tape imposed by certification procedures.

The original purpose of the teacher certification process was to ensure quality, but certification does not guarantee mastery of a subject. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 36 percent of public school teachers-972,000 teachers out of 2.7 million nationwide-did not major or minor in the core subjects they teach.

Dr. Sam Peavey, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, is among many experts who argue that "after 50 years of research, we have found no significant correlation between the requirements for teacher certification and the quality of student achievement."

The state should reform teacher certification in order to allow the most qualified people to enter the classroom at any time. The teaching profession should be open to all who are deemed to be positive role models and competent in their subject areas, regardless of certification or lack thereof. School districts and individual schools should be given the authority to set qualifications for teachers.

Public policy should address the shortage of highly qualified teachers by encouraging local schools and districts to recruit teachers from the ranks of their best students and provide training and mentoring in the schools in which they will serve. Additionally, by allowing local schools and districts to establish their own teacher qualification standards, competent professionals with subject matter expertise would be recruited into the teaching profession.

4. Remove from the state constitution discriminatory language that prohibits education tax credits, and place a Universal Tuition Tax Credit before voters.

Tax credits are designed to provide parents with tax relief linked to expenses incurred when they select a school other than the government-assigned one for their children. That typically means a private school, but tax credits can also apply to tuition charged by a public school that accepts a student from outside its regular jurisdiction. The credit is usually a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed (whereas a tax deduction is merely a reduction in taxable income). For example, if a taxpayer has a pre-credit tax liability of $2,000 and a tuition tax credit of $1,500, the taxpayer would pay a tax of only $500.

Many proponents of educational tax credits prefer them to vouchers on the grounds that they entail less government regulation of private schools and less risk of entanglement between church and state because of their indirect nature. Credits, unlike vouchers, do not transfer any money from the state to schools or taxpayers. There's no need to launder anybody's money through a public bureaucracy first before it pays for a child's schooling.

5.
Replace Michigan's public school "count day" with an average daily membership calculation.


Michigan should discontinue using a student count day to determine school population and adopt an average daily membership (ADM) method for determining the number of students attending a school on a daily basis. An ADM method would take school attendance numbers over time and calculate the average number of students attending school each day.


Currently, each district's pupil count is a blend of two count days. The blend is comprised of 20 percent of the count taken on a day in February of the prior school year and 80 percent of the count on a day in September of the current school year.

States that use an ADM method of accounting for student attendance ensure that schools are fairly compensated for students they actually teach. Schools with an increase in attendance receive an increase in funding. Conversely, schools with dips in attendance realize dips in funding. Schools are paid only for the days that students attend school.

6. Limiting Educational Management Organizations. EMOs do not have any oversight most of the time and therefore can take a percentage of state aid money into their companies (sometimes their own pockets). A three year limit on charter schools using EMOs would be smart legislation. Charter schools should be in the business of becoming more self-managed.

The reason I am pushing for legislation to limit the influence for EMOs because of the following:

(a) Some management companies appear to be overcharging for building and property leases at an estimated cost to tax payers of approximately $6,000,000 per year.

(b) Some management companies are being paid up to 98% of school funds for management services so that charter school boards have little real control over school operations.

(c) Some for-profit management companies are using taxpayer funds and charter school tax identification numbers to purchase property such as desks and textbooks on behalf of charter schools but are claiming ownership of the property for themselves.

(d) Some charter schools have no teachers or administrators on staff. Instead, teachers, administrators, and staff are employed by a management company, which makes any meaningful oversight of school personnel by the charter school board difficult if not impossible.

7. Abolish teacher tenure in the classroom. Tenure is a holdover from a bygone non-unionized era, and it's high time to abolish it so that critical and essential improvements to public education can proceed.

8. Introduce legislation to develop at Michigan State Board for Charter Schools. In South Carolina the General Assembly started a Charter School District Board.

The language states the following:

AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 40, TITLE 59, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO CHARTER SCHOOLS, SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE CREATION OF A SOUTH CAROLINA PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL DISTRICT, ITS GOVERNANCE, AND ITS POWERS AND DUTIES, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE MANNER IN WHICH A CHARTER SCHOOL INCLUDING THOSE SPONSORED BY THE SOUTH CAROLINA PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL DISTRICT MUST BE FORMED, FUNDED, REGULATED, AND GOVERNED; AND TO AMEND SECTION 59-18-900, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO ANNUAL REPORT CARDS AND PERFORMANCE RATINGS UNDER THE EDUCATION ACCOUNTABILITY ACT; AND TO AMEND SECTION 59-18-920, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO REQUIREMENTS OF THESE REPORT CARDS, SO AS TO REQUIRE CHARTER SCHOOLS TO REPORT DATA TO THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO GENERATE A REPORT CARD, AND PROVIDE THAT THE DEPARTMENT BY REGULATION SHALL ESTABLISH PROCEDURES FOR THIS DATA REPORTING.

In addition to the law this information:

Section 59-40-70. (A) The Charter School Advisory Committee must be established by the State Board of Education to review charter school applications for compliance with established standards that reflect the requirements and intent of this chapter. Members must be appointed by the State Board of Education unless otherwise indicated.

(1) The advisory committee shall consist of eleven members as follows:

(a) South Carolina Association of Public Charter Schools, the president or his designee and one additional representative from the association;

(b) South Carolina Association of School Administrators, the executive director or his designee;

(c) South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the executive director or his designee and one additional representative from the chamber;

(d) South Carolina Education Oversight Committee, the chair or a business designee;

(e) South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the chair or his designee;

(f) South Carolina School Boards Association, the executive director or his designee;

(g) South Carolina Alliance of Black Educators, the president or his designee; and

(h) one teacher and one parent to be appointed by the State Superintendent of Education.

It is time that we seriously start reforming education here in Michigan starting with alternative teacher certification.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Your education sector-restructuring minded readers will probably be interested in
http://eriksyring.wordpress.com

A State-wide Grade 6 initiative will be coming to Michigan in a couple of weeks:
http://globaleducationforyou.wordpress.com/