Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace
By Dave Murray | MLive.com
LANSING, MI – Michigan’s school finance system would be reshaped to allow money to more closely follow children and allow for a variety of choices for families under plan being shaped by a panel assembled by Gov. Rick Snyder.
While not eliminating school districts or offering vouchers – both addressed in the state constitution – the plan is intended to usher in sweeping changes to how state schools operate with a focusing more on the needs and abilities of individual students.
The group, headed by Richard McLellan, a former adviser to Gov. John Engler, promises a transparent process involving educators, lawmakers and union leaders with an eye toward a bill headed to Snyder in early 2013.
“This affects everybody, and they all have an opinion,” McLellan said. “No public policy affects as many people as public education,” he said.
He said Snyder wants to see a system that prepares students for global competition at a time when there are some state districts that don’t graduate a single student who is college or career ready.
“We face some dire challenges,” he said.
The group is starting with an open meeting planned for 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Senate Hearing Room at the Bojio Building, 124. W. Allegan St. in Lansing.
Speaking to reporters in a Monday conference call, McLellan said the goal is to create a plan replacing the 1979 School Aid Act that doesn’t necessarily add new money or eliminate school districts, which are required in the state constitution, but center around Snyder’s “any time, any place, any way, any pace” philosophy.
McLellan said the bill will not include a call for vouchers, saying the state constitution prohibits public money paying for students in private schools. It also will not affect special education, which he said exists “in a whole other universe.”
But he said it could lead to a system based around rewards, saying Snyder in the past has been more interested in supporting schools that have successful strategies rather than punishing systems for struggling.
Bill Rustem, Snyder’s strategy director, is representing Snyder in the process, and the Lansing-based Oxford Foundation will be coordinating the project.
Snyder has directed the planning effort involve state Superintendent Mike Flanagan, school districts, unions, charter schools, universities and lawmakers.
The plan is expected to adopt elements Snyder’s special message on education released in April 2011.
“The governor has said, ‘This is what I want the outcome to be, now you guys figure out how to do it,’” he said.
A memo released by the group said the existing School Aid Act of 1979 generates $14 billion for public education, but the group believes that the existing law “serves the interest of legislators and representatives of the educational interests who control the education system, it is generally inaccessible to the general public.”
The report says the act makes it difficult to try new educational ideas, including:
McLellan promised complete transparency, saying all meetings will be open and all drafts and comments will be posted.