Ivers: Lame-duck bills bad for educationPublished 1:59pm Friday, December 7, 2012
As a teacher, principal, local school district superintendent and now the superintendent of Berrien RESA, I have always been a strong supporter of reforms that provide greater educational opportunities for all children.
I have advocated alongside our legislators for local district control to give flexibility to school boards (in regard to employee health care benefits, retirement reforms and evaluations), at the same time ensuring students are afforded quality academic experiences. I have also worked closely with various regional and state entities to identify and implement proven educational systems and assessments to verify that our children are meeting and exceeding their own expectations.
For years, I along with hundreds of other educators across the state have been working with Michigan’s elected leaders to improve education. However, I must say for the first time in my educational career, I am frustrated by the attitudes of our lawmakers and our governor in regard to their recent attempts to force reforms on public education that have no history or documented evidence of their effectiveness.
There are two parallel bills currently being rushed through the three-week “lame duck” session in Lansing; House Bill 6004 and Senate Bill 1358. These two bills, if passed, will codify (put into state law) the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) which will allow the state to take over the bottom 5 percent of all persistently low-achieving school districts. The legislature is also considering language to expand the EAA and its authority by allowing it to become a statewide school district managed by a governor-appointed board of directors, not our publicly elected State Board of Education.
What is more troubling is that the EAA would be granted permission to take over unused school buildings paid for with local tax dollars and convert them into charter schools (or any type of school that it sees fit). This means that your tax dollars will be paying for schools that have no local oversight and that your children may not even be eligible to attend (depending on the type of school it is converted to).
In my opinion, the EAA is only 6 months old and is still an experimental entity whose results are unproven. The lowest-achieving schools, while they should receive and deserve special attention, would be exempt from current student achievement and teacher standards.
I hope you can understand why I cannot support these bills and can appreciate why I am so perplexed as to how our local leaders can justify such a “public” system.
These bills are just two examples of significant reforms being considered that will impact education for years to come.
The legislature’s “lame duck” session concludes Dec. 13; not nearly enough time to carefully and intelligently reform public education system.
I strongly urge you to contact your legislators and request that he/she take a deep breath and pause before rushing into any reforms that may have a negative impact on our schools.
Our children are counting on you.
Dr. Kevin M. Ivers
Supt. Berrien Regional Education Service Agency