In a case that could have national implications, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the state has “…no legal obligation to provide a quality public education to students” in a school district that the state turned over to a charter school that has not improved its performance. This overturned a lower court decision that the State has a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.”
Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan who filed the suit on behalf of eight students of nearly 1,000 children attending K-12 public schools in Highland Park, MI, stated that “This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system. The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”
The suit, which named as defendants the State of Michigan, its agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District, maintained that the state failed to take effective steps to ensure that students are reading at grade level.
“Let’s remember it was the state that turned the entire district over to a for-profit charter management company with no track record of success with low performing schools,” said Moss. “It is the state that has not enforced the law that requires literacy intervention to children not reading at grade level. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure and maintain a system of education that serves all children.”
Why could this have national implications? As noted in earlier posts, school districts in “failing districts” are often taken over by the State who, presumably, have the ability to overcome the effects of poverty more effectively than the local school boards and, increasingly, States look to privatization as the answer (e.g. Newark and Camden NJ; Philadelphia PA; Chicago IL, to name a few). If State’s are not responsible for providing a quality education, who is? Are parents in affluent districts the only ones who will have their children attending quality public schools? Will for-profit schools be allowed to continue to operate even if they fail to get results?
While I am not well versed in the structure of MI’s court set up, I have to assume their Supreme Court will have the find say on this… and I assume the MI State “…agencies charged with overseeing public education and the Highland Park School District” will continue to argue that they are not responsible for ensuring that every child gets a quality education.
Here’s my final question: how can the state defend it’s willingness deny a quality education to all children while at the same time wresting the control of “failing schools” from local boards who are more than willing to make every effort to achieve that goal?
On the one hand I feel bad posting twice in one day about gun violence, but this article in the Washington Post merits a post of its own. After digging around on Google I’ve learned that six states, OK, MO, IL, TN, AR, and NJ, specifically mandate active shooter drills for schools while 26 other states require general school lockdown or safety drills. Last year 10 State legislatures considered legislation that mandate “active shooter drills” as outlined in this synopsis written by Lauren Heintz for the National Conference of State Legislatures:
Since the Newtown, Conn., school shooting tragedy in December 2012, state lawmakers have been working on strategies to strengthen K-12 safety and preparedness. One of the most common responses has been to add “active shooter” or “school intruder” drills to the list of general emergency drills that 32 states already require schools to conduct for earthquakes, fires, tornadoes and other potential disasters.
Lawmakers in 10 states—Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee—have introduced such legislation since last year. The bills tend to address only general requirements for the drills, such as how many must be conducted each year and who needs to be involved, rather than specifically what should occur during the drill. Like the laws requiring schools to conduct general emergency drills, the proposed “active shooter” measures give districts and schools the flexibility to implement the type of drill they determine is best for them, from simple discussions and table-top exercises to full-scale operations involving emergency and law enforcement personnel.
To address concerns that the “active shooter” drills might unduly frighten children, the National Association of School Psychologists has created guidelines for the drills.They include recommendations that school officials steer clear of potentially traumatic stimuli, such as blank bullets or fake blood; collaborate with an outside expert to conduct the drills; and focus on communicating the purpose of the drills with students and families well in advance.
The mandatory active shooter drills provide zealous police forces with an opportunity to use their acting talents as the Washington Post article referenced above indicated. That article featured this picture from an “active shooter drill” staged earlier this year in NJ:
The picture raised a number of questions in my mind:
- Who took the picture?
- Who gave authorization for this to occur?
- Who authorized the picture?
- Why are the policeman smiling?
- Were parents smiling when they received panicked texts from their children?
- How did administrators handle the influx of panicked parents?
- Were the CHILDREN smiling afterwards?
- How did teachers and school personnel handle the panicked children afterwards?
- Were the TEACHERS smiling afterwards?
- How did administrators deal with the teachers who were stunned by the unannounced drill?
- Would the police have arrived before the shooter and his hostage left the school in a REAL “event” of this nature?
- How would police handle a shooting event if their was already carnage in the school?
- Do we need to legislate drills for cleaning up wounded bodies since most shooting incidents occur without warning and end within minutes?
- Who thought this was a good idea?
- Who drafted the legislation that mandated these drills?
I’ve got a catchy phrase for this kind of legislation: No Child Left Unafraid. I’ll be watching the legislative docket in NH to make sure I get an opportunity to weigh in any legislation they consider about this!
Nick Kristoff’s column in today’s NYTimes poses this question: “Do Politicians Love Kids?“. My answer is: “Yes…. but… they love shareholders more!”
Kristoff’s column focuses on the need for universal prekindergarten, an issue he believes both parties can support. The column offers James Heckman’s research as evidence along with lots of statistics comparing our nation’s preschool programming with our “competitors”.
But, as noted in earlier posts on this issue, I believe Republicans and “school reform” advocates will use the expansion of prekindergarten as an opportunity to expand “choice” and expand the privatization movement that has burgeoned under NCLB, RTTT, and in urban districts under the control of business minded neo-liberal and/or conservative mayors. This led me to leave the following comment:
Given the Republican majority in the House and Senate and a handful of sympathetic neo-liberal Democrats here’s the likely pre-kindergarten scenario: vouchers. Instead of putting prekindergarten programs under the aegis of public school systems Republicans and “school reform” Democrats will advocate for “parental choice” and use the funds to open privatized programs instead of expanding the mission of “failed government schools”… and the shareholders of these programs will benefit while urban neighborhood schools and small rural schools wither.
Politicians love kids… but they love shareholders even more… because kids can’t vote or make campaign contributions but shareholders can.