Recent bills proposed in the state legislature, particularly House Bill (HB) 5923 and the Oxford Foundation Proposal will draw funding away from the Grosse Pointe Public School System (GPPSS) and make it difficult for it to operate at its current capacity. In response, the School Board decided to hold an information session regarding the proposed legislation and the plan-of-action concerned residents should take.
The actions of the Board are commendable as the changes to education made by the bills may have a negative impact on the value of a Grosse Pointe education.
As Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil once said, “all politics is local.” Superintendant Thomas Harwood and President of the School Board Judy Gaffa brought these issues into the local public eye in Grosse Pointe. Although the proposed policies were created far away, their impact is far too close to home to be ignored. However, many members of the public would not have even known about this issue, had it not been given attention. The meeting heavily emphasized the parents and students of the district making their voices heard, which is the best way to affect change.
HB 5923 provides for new forms of charter schools and expanded online education for high school students. The problem with this proposal is that charter schools can be selective in the students they accept, taking only talented students who are inexpensive to educate, while accepting the same amount of funding as other schools. The charter schools would now be profiting off of Michigan taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, since these more selective schools would only take high-achieving students, Grosse Pointe Schools would be stripped of some of their best students. HB 5923 would create a system in which charter schools succeed and public schools are doomed to fail, left with only the lowest tier of students.
The Oxford Foundation Proposal is responsible for the Michigan Public Education Finance Act, which will create a system in which students may take courses from any public institution or online subsidy in the state while remaining enrolled in their current district. State funding will then be divvied up among the participating districts accordingly for each student. Not only will this situation create a complex and annoying funding equation for each student, but it may also reduce the value of a Grosse Pointe diploma.
If a student is enrolled in a GPPSS high school, but wishes to earn credit taking an easier, online version of a class, the district must accept the credit under the proposed legislation. Currently, the GPPSS will only accept credit from one online high school, the Michigan Virtual High School, because it is the only online system that simulates the rigor of a Grosse Pointe curriculum. The system set up by the Oxford Foundation Proposal diminishes the rigor of a Grosse Pointe education and will effectively destroy what makes this district unique.
Ultimately, these proposed bills are an attempt to take local control away from school districts and force them to provide a standard, unified curriculum. These policies are un-tried and un-true, yet they would take effect all across the state. Perhaps these policies could be tested in individual districts, but implementing them statewide is reckless and dangerous to our schools and our students. While this may improve the education of students in low performing districts, it only punishes districts who have found the formula for success.