Oxford Foundation Michigan

McLellan School Re-Write Getting Harsh Reaction

MIRS News

Lansing barrister Richard McLELLAN walked into the interview room.

“Here, take a look at this,” he said. “The draft has been out only about an hour and already this criticism.”

The “draft” of course is his Governor-ordered rewrite of the state’s School Aid Act and the Internet reaction ran the gamut from “un-American, to “absolutely destructive” to “war on public schools.”

Undaunted by it all, McLellan responded, “Anytime you make a change, you’ll get opposition to it. Some of it is thoughtful. Much of it is not.”

Next question.

McLellan’s 300-page suggested revamp of the allocation of scare School Aid dollars focuses on Gov. Rick SNYDER’s main objective: Producing “career ready” students and the Governor concludes the current system is not getting the job done.

“It’s a 100-year-old system based on the old manufacturing approach,” McLellan said. “It needs to be based on performance funding” whereby schools are allocated money not based on attendance but outcomes of the teachers and students.

The draft includes recommendations for more on-line learning, a $2,500 scholarship for students who finish school early, year-around schools in urban areas, and the Governor’s call for more parental choice, the so-called “anytime, anyplace, any space, anywhere” model.

“You’ll drive improvements if you link more of the money to performance. We don’t measure performance. We measure attendance,” he argued.

Under this approach, each district would receive a per-pupil allowance, but schools could earn more above that level by showing student progress during the school year and not just on test scores per se. ┬áHe said it’s the carrot, not the stick strategy.

As for the longer school year proposed for inner city schools, McLellan reported the research shows a “summer loss” when students are given three months off each year. A better approach, he said, is to use the same number of days, but use them over the entire year.

“Rather than extend the school year and pay for more days” you give the students two-week breaks throughout the year.

During the next 30 days, he wants input from the stakeholders with hopes of improving on the document he just finished.

McLellan acknowledged on today’s MIRS Monday podcast that this is a “next year” project, but the bill sponsored by House Education Committee Chair Lisa LYONS (R-Alto) need to be discussed.

“You wouldn’t want to run a bill that extensive through two or three weeks,” he said. “These are issues for next year.”

The draft bills were nearly immediately panned by Senate Minority Leader Gretchen WHITMER (D-East Lansing), who compared “Schools, Inc.” to the DeVos family-sponsored voucher school plan of 2000, a “disaster waiting to happen.”

She pointed at the Kalamazoo Promise as a national example of how reinventing local schools can be accomplished. This plan would line “the pockets of the CEOs running for-profit corporate schools.”

“(Snyder’s) latest voucher plan would simply end public schools as we know them,” she said.

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