Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Monday

November 19, 2012

Michigan plan would give scholarship money for early graduation

LANSING (AP) — A proposal that Gov. Rick Snyder commissioned to overhaul Michigan's education system would let students take their public funding to any district that will accept them, enroll in state-funded online learning courses and get $2,500 in scholarship money for each semester they graduate early from high school.

A group that Michigan's Republican governor asked to propose revisions to the state's K-12 school finance system will release a draft of its bill today. The report is to be posted on the website of the Oxford Foundation.

The proposed changes to the 1979 Michigan Public Education Finance are designed to let students learn at "any time, any place, any way and at any pace," said Richard McLellan, a Lansing lawyer and former adviser to then-Gov. John Engler. Snyder asked McLellan to lead a group drafting a revision of the school finance system.

The 302-page proposal would let students get part or all of their state-funded education from any public school district that accepts them. Districts still could decide whether to accept outside students. It also would let students study online, with Michigan funding the classes based on performance.

Students could get up to $10,000 in scholarship money for graduating early from high school at a rate of $2,500 per semester, and districts would be encouraged to offer year-round schooling by spreading the 180-day school year over 12 months.

"The governor is looking forward to reviewing the report and recommendations about how we can move Michigan into the any time, any place, any way, any pace model that the new economy demands," said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.

McLellan said the bill is designed to implement the goals that Snyder set in a message on education in April 2011.

The changes could take five years to implement and would result in shifts in education money but wouldn't require additional funds, McLellan said.

Some school districts might decide to specialize in certain areas, such as science, he said.

"Right now, we require every school to do everything," said McLellan.

State Board of Education President John Austin sharply criticized the proposal.

"This is a voucher system," Austin said. "It's absolutely destructive. It has nothing to do with improving quality. It's loaded with the ideology of creating a new for-profit system for learning that will dismantle the schools we have."

David Hecker, president of American Federation of Teachers-Michigan, said he feared the plan would weaken local control of schools if students can move around and cut into the ranks of teachers if districts lose enrollment to one another and online services.

Staton Berry, president of the Michigan Parent Teacher Association, said she hopes Snyder and his aides should meetings "in every district in every city" to explain the proposed changes.

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