The Times Herald
The message that comes with Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to reform K-12 education is unmistakable. Public education is changing, and public officials must adapt.
The right to an education has never been disputed. But the ways an education can be acquired today have expanded. Cyber schools enable students to learn through a computer rather than studying in a classroom.
Plus, the time when students had to be residents of a school district has passed. Schools of choice saw to that.
Considering education’s changing landscape, Snyder’s new plan shouldn’t be considered so radical. Some of its proposals, however, place more pressure on school districts to succeed.
Students would have access to a combination of school districts. In effect, they can assemble a course of study according to classes that offer the best quality. The districts the student chooses will share his or her per-pupil funding from the state. If the plan meets its potential, students would acquire the status of consumers school districts will court.
Students can access online learning throughout the state. In addition to attending classes at different school districts, online classes could further diversify students courses. Public dollars would cover the cost, and the money would pay school districts that provide online classes according to performance.
State funding in general would be performance-based. School districts that show their educational products work will receive more money. Those that don’t will be given less.
The promise of Snyder’s plan is it gives students unprecedented freedom to shaped their education. It also challenges traditional school districts to compete for those pupils.
Low-income students could benefit most, but that depends on the details. Cyber schools can offer the potential of quality education to impoverished students trapped in failing school districts. They could answer the concern that the students couldn’t afford transportation to quality school districts in wealthy suburbs.
Traditional school districts, particularly the ones struggling to meet state standards, aren’t likely to embrace Snyder’s plan. Its funding formula favors districts that perform well. That could mean wealthier districts that already receive more state aid would prosper benefit.
At least students will have more options.