Governing School Governance: The 2014 Michigan Gubernatorial Candidates’ Positions on Issues of School Governance

October 29, 2014

By Rachel White

School governance reform arises from the belief that who is in charge of schools can ultimately impact educational outcomes for students. This mid-term election cycle, Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates have taken strong stances on two specific issues related to how schools are governed in Michigan: the Education Achievement Authority and charter schools.

Photo Courtesy of Ryan McGilchrist

Photo Courtesy of Ryan McGilchrist

Before heading to the polls, it is important to understand the gubernatorial candidates’ positions on these two issues. The next Governor will be positioned to influence and drive reform related to how Michigan’s public schools are governed and who has the power to govern them.

Education Achievement Authority

The creation of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), a reform district that operates the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan, was a key education initiative for Governor Snyder. Currently, the EAA operates 15 schools in Detroit. Snyder has claimed that the EAA is “working” and “doing a number of good things.” Nonetheless, Snyder has conceded that the EAA could be better structured to have “feeder schools” geographically clustered together in Detroit, instead of spread out across the city and has stated that he wants to examine how to better manage schools operated by DPS, the EAA and charter operators within Detroit’s boundaries.

Schauer has declared the EAA “a failed experiment that has done nothing to narrow the achievement gap, or improve education for children in struggling schools.” Schauer has also called for the return of the 15 schools the EAA currently operates in Detroit to DPS. If elected Governor, Schauer has stated that he would “veto this flawed legislation.”

Charter School Transparency and Accountability

Governor Snyder signed into law Public Act 277 (2011) that removed the cap limiting the number of university-authorized charter schools with the goal of responding to people who “are looking for choice – high-quality choice” and ensuring “we deliver the best to our kids.” The drastic increase in the number of charter schools fostered by Governor Snyder’s cap removal has received much criticism. For example, a Detroit Free Press’s special report claimed a lack of transparency and accountability for charters. In response, Snyder has taken the position that all schools need increased transparency and accountability. However, he does note that there “there could be some parts [of transparency] unique to charters.”

If elected, Schauer has vowed to increase oversight and accountability of charter operators and has called for “a halt [on creating any new charters] until we review accountability and oversight measures for Michigan charter schools.” Additionally, Schauer has honed in on Michigan’s unique charter environment in which, unlike most other states, the majority of current Michigan charter operators are for-profit organizations, and has stated his commitment to “removing the profit motive” for Michigan’s charter school operators. Moreover, Schauer has indicated that he would use his executive authority to make changes to charter operator oversight even if the legislature did not approve revisions to the state’s charter school law.

The Next Governor and School Governance

Any public policy decisions related to education governance made by Michigan’s next governor could significantly impact the extent to which the general public can hold education leaders democratically accountable. Thus, Green & Write wants to encourage you to be an informed voter, understand the gubernatorial candidates’ positions on school governance issues, and get out to the polls this November 4th!

 

Rachel White — whitera3@msu.edu