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Dear benevolent overlord Rick Michigan: A school is not a store where you purchase something

by: Eric B.

Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:16:11 AM EST

The worst thing that's happened to higher education over the last 20 years has been the rise of the governance notion that a student is a customer and the college or university in question is a provider of a service. And, of course, that service -- the product -- is a pipeline to a job that maximizes the amount of money you can earn. As to that last bit and how it's built on a Randian philosophy that not only runs counter to the history of how this nation was built, but also that of how the world actually works ... that's a topic for another day.

Let's stick to the idea that a school has to compete for money based on attracting students. It's what gave us schools of choice, and what fuels most of the charter school movement, or at least in the beginning. Now, the charter school movement has been taken over mostly by grifters who specialize in funneling public tax dollars into their own pockets. Very Serious People refer to these people in very serious terms, because they call themselves reformers of a broken system, which is something that Very Serious People like, even if the reform is really just thinly veiled looting of the public treasury.

At the heart of our tale today is education reform legislation being promoted by benevolent overlord Rick Michigan. It would complete the process of treating our schools like they are businesses and students like they are consumers. Here is a paragraph from a summary.

Funding will truly follow the Student. Under the current model, a school receives 90% of its state general education funding based on where a student sits on the first Wednesday in October. We create a dynamic system, where the funding will actually follow the student. 15 other states are already using the Average Daily Membership method for allocating funds.

There are a couple of problems with this, not the least of which is that the underlying premise is horribly flawed. The underlying premise is that school choices will be made based on the quality of a child's education. The flaws are two, and the first of those is that this encourages schools not to pursue educational excellence, but things that attract students, like transportation, athletics, and an atmosphere where grades are easily given -- at our insitutions of higher education, students expect to get good grades merely for showing up, and argue over poor grades even when it's clear that important concepts are not understood or clear grading criteria like attendance aren't met.

The second is that it entirely undermines what our schools are and have always been, which is a reflection of the community in which they exist. The reform bills under consideration, referred to in the holiday spirit as turducken, encourage loyalty only to self. If you're unhappy with the school, you can and should just leave it to fail. There is no need to try to fix it, no need even for a school board. It can all be managed by the school operator. In quaint times, we used to call those your superintendent and your school principals.

In those quaint times, I also have to point out, that the local school used to be a source of social connection. People in the community at large took pride in their community and took pride in the achievement in the accomplishments of a school district's teams. To understand this, go to any outstate high school on a Friday night and look to see who's in the stands cheering on the football team. Go to a local barber shop on a Saturday morning, or a local diner, and listen to what the people are talking about. If it isn't hunting or fishing (or politics), it's probably about the game from the night before. That sense of community gets entirely undermined by treating schools like ala carte providers of educational product.

I'm usually loathe to point out the particulars of someone's personal life, but it's worth noting that benevolent overlord Rick Michigan isn't personally invested in public schools, because he sends his kids to a private school, so much of this is probably beyond him. It's not a case of someone making a bad personal decision. It's a case of someone isolated from a community making decisions that he thinks is in that community's best interests. Usually stuff doesn't work out real well when that happens.

Eric B. :: Dear benevolent overlord Rick Michigan: A school is not a store where you purchase something
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Amen Brother B
See also

But will it do any good? Not until someone realizes kids are more important than profits.

Free Market Isn't so Free After all
Thanks for this post.  We are working to gather parents across the state who actually appreciate their community schools (which are working in many more ways than not) to make sure the insanity stops after seven years of cuts.  Stay in the loop by checking out Steve Norton's posts at Michigan Parents for Schools. http://www.miparentsforschools...
We need to work together across the state to make sure this senseless legislation (with zero track record other than succressfully moving our tax dollars to for-profit companies) stops.  The new legislation will be a massive boon to cyber schools...who don't have to pay for bussing, special ed, guidance counselors, art/music/gym, retirement, etc. Give the schools a chance to adapt to already massive changes.  And as you noted, save our communities in the process.  We need to rally parents of all political stripes to stop this. The latest:  shuttered schools due to budget cuts would have to remain "education ready" so a for profit charter can just move in....despite the fact our local tax dollars have paid for that building and its maintenance for decades.  In the world I grew up in, that's not "free market".....but apparently I learned a different definition than these folks.

[ Parent ]
Such an odd mindset
As a teacher, this year, I've seen what happens with this "move-your-kid-around" mentality.  So far, in a single HS science class, we have had 7 kids change schools OUT of of our district since September.  We've had 3 kids move in.

One of those 3 kids, who is entitled to special education services, moved in 5 weeks into the term. Think he has had a great shot at catching up and passing the class?

Kids need stability.  It amazes me that the same people that decry divorce as the cause of drastic trauma to kids never see the upheaval that constantly changing schools does to kids.  

Back in the (proverbial) day, a kid KNEW where he/she was going to high school and there was a sense of pride in belonging to that district.  Today, there's very little pride in school and the individual student's role in that school.  We have problems with fights and vandalism, partly due to kids not being invested in their school.

Moreover, why is it that Snyder and his ilk are urging public schools to merge so as to minimize administrative overhead, while, at the same time, making no such demands on charters?  Given that some charters are for-profit, wouldn't you think that skimming off profits that could otherwise go to the actual school would be a bad thing?

Yes, kids need good schools to go to.  Fund the public schools properly and stop the nonsense.

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