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Snyder ignores, Dems need to step up

Sherry Gay-DagnogoBy Sherry Gay Dagnogo

Michigan’s Public Education landscape has undergone enormous challenges throughout Gov. Rick Snyder’s first term in Lansing. His Secret Skunk Works Project, the Education Achievement Authority, the dissolution of entire school districts including Buena Vista and Inkster coupled with the disproportionate appointment of emergency managers in communities of color have resulted in decreased School Aid Funding to more than 550 school districts, skyrocketing deficits of more than 56 Michigan School Districts, all of which symbolize the hallmark of Snyder’s education platform. Keep your eyes open as the governor now seeks to reinvent himself.

With the omission of a roadmap for higher education and the failed EAA during Snyder’s State of the State Address, the question Michigan citizens should keep in mind is: How will the governor’s 2014 budget recommendations translate into higher academic achievement for Michigan students? Unfortunately, it seems the students have been forgotten in this process.

Thousands of children displaced from dissolved school districts and schools for specials needs are now forced to depend on bussing or public transportation to attend schools within neighboring communities, increasing the difficulty of parental engagement — one of the single greatest factors proven to increase academic achievement. The closure of both Oakman School for the physically challenged and the Detroit Day School for the Deaf in the city of Detroit were criminal acts under the guise of improving financial bottom lines.

The repackaging of bills is underway as the governor’s proposed budget approaches. Republican State Rep. Lisa Lyons’ “Grading System” bill was held at bay in December, however, StudentsFirst lobbyists are pushing it, and if passed, it will place yet another layer of bureaucracy, not higher academic achievement within our schools. Teacher evaluation is ever evolving, and with teachers under the legal provisions of tenure reform, they will now be evaluated based on 50 percent of student testing, and other factors as determined by the legislature. This within itself is problematic, as most legislators have no point of professional reference for pedagogical competency.

The EAA remains on respirator. Democratic State Rep. Brian Banks shared, “While the close of the 2013 legislative session left Democrats with a bit of optimism, with the EAA expansion bill stalled in the Senate, we’re still not in the clear.” He added, “Something has to be said about a model that no other superintendent in Michigan wants in their district, yet Detroit students and taxpayers carry this burden daily.”

Looking ahead, Republicans may soon revisit their agenda to privatize public dollars and redirect School Aid Funding to private schools via some form of school vouchers.

Common Core continues to be highly contested nationwide. However, the premature adoption of Smarter Balance or the Science Common Core model; Next Generation Science Standards NGSS, misses the essence of learning through discovery.

One thing is for certain, Democrats must begin thinking a few steps ahead. The calculated efforts of the Republican party have exploited our greatest weakness; division and short term thinking.  With the advancement of Right to Work, the next chess move may soon cut off education union leaders’ ability to collect union dues. I’m certain with the continued closure of public schools and the cap removed from charter expansion, the MEA and AFT must consider alternative strategies to bolster its membership during these lean times in labor. We can never underestimate just how far the conservative right will go despite the protections of our constitution. We must #UniteBlueDet, and grassroots leaders are doing just that.

The Detroit Education Task Force will host “The Village Speaks,” Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Detroit Public Library-Main Branch (5201 Woodward Ave.). For more information, call Helen Moore at 313.934.7721.

Sherry Gay Dagnogo is an education consultant and candidate for Michigan State Representative in District 8. She can be reached at dagnogos@yahoo.com.

 

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