About 200 parents and educators from Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Walled Lake and Northville jammed into a meeting room in Farmington Thursday to hear more about legislation that school officials say will create "radical" and "dangerous" changes in Michigan's public education system.
While it may have seemed she was preaching to the choir, Oakland Schools Supt. Dr. Vickie Markavitch said after the meeting that people are surprised by the depth and breadth of the proposed reforms. The bills "create a super school district, totally removed from oversight" by state and local elected officials and taxpayers.
"Forty-six years in this business, and I have to tell you, unbelievable things are happening in Lansing," said Markavitch, who started her teaching career with Farmington Public Schools.
Senate Bill 1358 and House Bill 6004 would expand an Education Achievement Authority (EAA) currently in place to help improve failing Detroit schools, Markavitch explained. The new "super district" would operate without oversight by the state superintendent of schools or the state board of education, she added.
The bills, along with House Bill 5923:
- Exempt the EAA from laws that govern community public schools
- Designate the governor and a board he appoints to oversee the EAA
- Allow the EAA to take in any student in the state
- Allow the EAA to create new categories of charter and on-line schools
- Require local school districts to turn over a list of empty school buildings so they can be leased or sold to charter, nonpublic and EAA schools. (Markavitch said this requirement may have been eliminated or softened in negotiations.)
The new legislation also allows the EAA to operate charter schools that specialize in the student body they wish to serve, selected by any criteria except religion. Markavitch said this "allows for, and will actually promote, discrimination against students" and will increase segregation by race, ability and economic class.
Markavitch stressed that lawmakers across the country, on both sides of the aisle, are promoting this kind of education reform. She urged attendees to contact their state lawmakers, even those who already oppose to the bills. Their offices keep track of how many constituents contact them about the issue.
Markavitch’s presentation is also available in a podcast on the Oakland Schools blog.