State lawmakers want do-over on failed schools law
Michigan lawmakers have identified repealing a 2009 law that lets the state take over failing local schools as one of their top priorities of the new session.
Sen. Phil Pavlov, a Republican from St. Clair Township, has introduced legislation to repeal the law that allows the state to close or take over chronically under-performing schools that aren’t improving despite other state interventions.
He blames the law’s failings — he says it is “riddled with flaws” — on the Jennifer Granholm administration. It is true that she was governor when the law was adopted. But Granholm didn’t write the law that Pavlov is now calling ambiguous and unworkable.
Lawmakers drafted the legislation — at least we hope it was them and not lobbyists or special interests. Pavlov was principal sponsor of one of the bills in the package.
The problem Pavlov and educators point to with the existing law is that the rules that put a school in the state’s cross-hairs are not perfectly clear. “The metrics of getting on the list are flawed,” Pavlov told the Associated Press, “as are the metrics of getting off the list.”
The metrics are clear, although not necessarily fair. A school that consistently performs among the state’s worst, as measured mainly by student performance on standardized tests, is required to create a turnaround plan. Schools that implement a state-approved improvement plan but make no progress could face closure.
The standards are clear. What’s also clear is that the state has been unwilling to face the backlash that such heavy-handedness in the name of school reform would require. Lansing has been willing to bring the hammer down on failing urban, big-city schools but flinches at seizing a school in places where parents have the time and resources to organize opposition.
In other words, the defect in the law is it works best for schools in neighborhoods Republican reformers and their charter-school fundraisers aren’t interested in.
The law may need repeal. In some cases, it appears unfair and unreasonable. It has, though, made a positive difference for pupils attending schools that fell into the state’s interventions.
Pavlov and his colleagues have had eight years with this law. That is five more years than a troubled school gets for its turnaround.
— The Times Herald (Port Huron)