By Dave Murray | MLive.com
Editor’s note: The following opinion piece reflects the views of The Grand Rapids Press editorial board.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – If you could continue living in your home but send your children to another school district, either physically or virtually, would you make changes in how your children are educated?
A work group assembled by Gov. Rick Snyder has offered a recommendation that effectively erases district boundaries and creates an educational marketplace for parents.
It’s an ambitious plan, with many aspects to be discussed and debated – and not dismissed out of hand, as some Democrats and school leaders already have suggested.
We agree with the governor, who believes that the state’s school funding plan, rooted in the industrial age, needs to be updated to better prepare students to compete globally.
He also believes that the quality of a child’s education shouldn’t be determined by his or her ZIP code.
Embracing an “any time, any place, any way and any pace” philosophy, the plan removes district “ownership” of a student, allowing them to take a course, some courses or all their courses from any districts. That includes the growing use of online courses.
Funding would change from being based on an October headcount snapshot to a new system where money would follow the student – with an eye toward linking added state aid to performance.
The plan would encourage struggling districts to open year-round, and offers scholarships as an incentive for students who are ready to graduate early.
There are many questions. For example, there should be assurances that students in low-performing districts without access to transportation would have the same options as those in the suburbs have. Would those students have access to programs in other districts if they can’t get there on their own?
Would districts dealing with high-needs students get adequate resources for helping those children overcome their struggles? Competition is healthy – when all the sides have the tools they need.
Democrats already are attacking the plan, with Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, calling it a “voucher plan that would end public schools as we know them.”
But for too many Michigan students, the public schools they know are failing them.