'The only ways this argument works is if you assume parents would flee conventional school districts in hordes if given the chance'
Some public school officials are calling proposed legislation expanding charter school options and allowing more choice in picking conventional public schools a “nuclear bomb” and the end of public education.
One official went so far as to say the legislation “will destroy local communities.”
So, how will it lead to these doomsday predictions?
Because it allows parents to pick the public school district their children can attend even if it is outside their traditional boundaries and the plan reimburses that out-of-boundary public school district for their new student?
That's what public school officials would have people believe and the rancor from them has been deafening.
Michigan Board of Education President John Austin said the reform plan was "a nuclear bomb."
Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University and school choice critic, said the state was "on its way to ending public education."
Michigan Future Inc. President Lou Glazer said that local school districts won’t survive.
However, Ed Haynor, a school board member at Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency in Fremont, went even further, saying the series of bills would eliminate traditional public schools and destroy local communities.
Haynor said students would become “free agents” who would leave their traditional districts and then “cities and small towns throughout the state would cease to exist as we know them…”
But others said that was a brazen overreaction.
"The only way this guy's (Haynor) argument works is if you assume the parents would flee conventional school districts in hordes if given the chance," said Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "No child would be forced to enroll in a non-conventional school district. They all could stay exactly where they are right now. Over the course of the next several years, this is going to have very little impact on how local school districts operate.
"These Chicken Little routines are just unfounded," Van Beek said. "It's based on one fallacious argument that it forces students to be enrolled in new schools or new online courses, or if given the opportunity, tons of parents will flee the districts their children are currently enrolled in. It's just providing an option. If parents don't like that option, they won't take it and nothing will change."
Haynor didn't respond to a request for comment about his statements.
Lansing attorney Richard McLellan led the group that drafted the education reform bill. McLellan is a founder of the Mackinac Center and is secretary of the organization's board of directors.
(Editor's note: Ed Haynor responded to questions after publication. His edited response is below.)
"Killing traditional neighborhood public schools, which is clearly the intention of the authors’ bill, is not in the best interest of citizens. Traditional public schools who have educated millions of children successfully for over 100 years is clearly not in the best interest of taxpayers who have invested billions in real 'public' education.
'The thing I find shocking is that there is nothing in the Mackinac Center bill (the bill was written at the governor's request by the Oxford Foundation-Michigan, whose secretary-treasurer and director is Richard McLellan, a founder of the Mackinac Center) that decouples school district’s boundaries and makes kids 'free agents' can’t be done using investments taxpayers have already made in their traditional public schools, given the resources and OK to do so. Taking back our public schools from Lansing should be citizens’ first priority at the ballot box because what detractors and naysayers are offering has never been proven successful. Why would citizens invest in something that does not have any track record of success? Why would citizens give up all local control to politicians in Lansing?
'It would be inevitable that parents would choose to send some of their children out of a school district’s boundary or use online education at home because of ideology, convenience, etc. Since the advent of charter schools in Michigan, I just read where 10 percent of children in the state are being served in charter schools, who by the way don’t play by the same rules as traditional public schools. Who would have ever thought that our state elected leaders would allow competing school districts to operate by different rules. This is clearly un-American.
"Traditional public schools and the investment taxpayers have made in infrastructure, personnel, technology, etc., cannot afford another potential 10 percent loss of children. This would be a disinvestment already made by taxpayers in their existing traditional public schools and communities. The Mackinaw (sic) Center bill is not only a detriment to the education of our children but also an attack on the well-being of communities and businesses large and small throughout Michigan. Existing traditional public schools should be the center piece of any changes to the school-aid act and funding."