Media Plays Into 'Unfounded Hysteria' Over School Reforms

Proposal would allow more school choice for parents and students

The Bridge Magazine is misleading the public when describing an educational reform bill, said Michael Van Beek, education policy director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Bridge, which is published by The Center For Michigan, said House Bill 5923 would allow Compuware to open a school for its employee’s children and directly receive per-pupil funding. 

Van Beek said that claim is wrong. The money would go to the school, not the corporation.

Bridge Editor Derek Melot defended the article, which had a sentence that read: "For example, Compuware could open a school for the children of its employees and receive per-pupil funding for it."

"We are not implying that Compuware, as a corporate entity, would somehow receive/profit from per pupil operational funds to run a school," Melot said. "The sentence is self-explanatory."

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The article didn't include the steps a corporation would have to take to open a school.

Van Beek said before such a school could open, the employer must enter into an agreement with a public school authorizer (school district, Intermediate School District, community college or public university) and meet several other requirements.

The corporation would have to assist in meeting the capital requirements for the school building; provide continual financial support for the school; provide space for educational services to be provided on the site of the employer; provide substantial employment in the area in which the school is located; not enroll more than 75 percent of the student body from the children of the employer’s employees and contractors (the other 25 percent must be enrolled via random selection); and not have affiliation with more than 1/3 of the governing board of the school.

Bridge Magazine described House Bill 5923 as the "super choice" bill that "would significantly rewrite the state school code that governs public education."

But Van Beek said there are hundreds of sections of the nearly 300-page school code that HB 5923 will not effect. It amends nine sections and adds four new sections, he said.

Melot said legislative impact is not measured simply by counting sections of law, but also in the impact on the policies that the law governs.

"I am sure Michael (Van Beek) agrees that if 5923 were enacted in its current form, Michigan school policy would be different in how it handles choice options. For just one example, we are advised by those knowledgeable on school policy that the current language in the bill could, in practice, nullify the enrollment cap on cyber (schools) that the Legislature just approved a year ago. That appears to be significant."

Said Van Beek: "I'd like some more examples of how HB 5923 would 'significantly rewrite the state school code' other than it may effectively lift the cap on online charter schools. Those impact less than 1 percent of the total number of students enrolled in Michigan. I still don't understand how that warrants something being a 'significant rewrite.' If all it takes to be considered a significant rewrite of the school code is that it impacts other parts of the law, then what isn’t a 'significant rewrite?' Was the cyber school legislation a 'significant rewrite?' Gov. Granholm’s Race to the Top? Teacher evaluation reforms? Charter school cap?

"Descriptions like these play into the completely unfounded hysteria the public school establishment is attempting to create," Van Beek said.

Lansing attorney Richard McLellan led the group that drafted the education reform bill. McLellan is a founder of the Mackinac Center and is secretary of the organization's board of directors. McLellan didn't return an email seeking comment.

Bridge Magazine is published by the Center for Michigan, a think-tank founded by former University of Michigan Democratic Regent Phil Power.


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