Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

May 31, 2012

Another View: State's school system is being dismantled

The promise of choice in public education was that competition would lead to reform and improved results. The reality is that it's tearing our schools apart.

As Central Michigan University prepared to make former Gov. John Engler's name synonymous with the charter school movement, and while the Legislature and the current governor rushed a law to lift the cap on cyber school charters, our schools cut faculty.

Where is the outrage among our state's leadership?

Our students are losing the single most important influence they have, outside of parents, in the pursuit of quality education, in a system that seems increasingly designed to create castes of winners and losers.

The resentment fueled by the need to continually cut educational resources is best channeled where it can effect systemic change.

How about an end to the cuts on education, and perhaps even some investment in what is really our state's best economic stimulus: a well-educated population?

How about an end to the scapegoating of teachers and the efforts to reduce their already inadequate compensation? That includes asking teachers to pay more for benefits with the "promise" of diverting that savings to instruction.

And let's stop the blind march to using standardized testing to measure performance of students, buildings and educators, and the blind allegiance to the notion that market-forces and for-profit charter schools can lead us to a higher level of achievement.

Our educational system has effectively turned students into commodities and forced educators to see enrollment as a revenue stream.

Even as we raise graduation requirements and debate teacher pay and benefits, we keep weakening schools' ability to rise to the increasingly difficult challenges of educating our students, often doing so along ideological lines.

This month Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law to raise the cap for cyber schools from two to 15. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the bill after rejecting a proposed delay to study the efficacy of cyber schools before creating yet another draw on our public education resources.

Why the rush, when so many urgent problems exist for our students?

During a recent ceremony in which CMU named its Center for Charter Schools in Engler's honor, the former governor said, "Competition and choice are here to stay." We believe there is a place for charter schools, but until we find a way to adequately fund and support traditional public schools, winners and losers are here to stay, as well.

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