New Poll Finds ‘Education Reform’ Agenda Unpopular with Michigan Voters

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(Courtesy of MI Live)

Roy Roberts, left, the emergency manager of the Detroit school district and Gov. Rick Snyder at a news conference in Detroit, Monday, June 20, 2011.

A new EPIC/MRA poll commissioned by the Michigan Education Association suggests the state’s education reform agenda is unpopular with voters.

Sept. 28, Macomb Daily: The EPIC/MRA survey found that the electorate hopes to apply the brakes to several legislative proposals: outsourcing teachers, increasing the number of charter schools, and imposing right-to-work rules solely on the teaching profession.

Pollster Bernie Porn said the most disliked item on the agenda is clearly GOP legislation that would allow school districts to put their teaching services up for bid and award all classroom instruction to a private company.
The poll found 68% of respondents opposed that measure, with only 23% in favor.

These results are remarkable—even when factoring the potential bias in a poll commissioned by the MEA—considering the dismal state of public education, though not terribly surprising.

Michigan’s self-styled “education reformers” have of late comported themselves in a way that suggests they’re at best out-of-touch, and at worst incompetent.

It’s not simply the bad stagecraft of DPS emergency financial manager Roy Roberts’ SUV or Education Achievement System chancellor John Covington’s seven-figure contract, nor is it necessarily the Jacobinism inherent in their Robert Moses-like destroy the village to build the shining city-mindset. The biggest problem here is the very people who rightly say teachers and students and parents must be held accountable, don’t believe they are accountable to anyone.

Consider this anecdote from a 2010 Kansas City Star profile on new Covington’s decision to go to  KC against the advice of his Broad Foundation patrons.

Aug. 23, 2010, KC Star: Broad graduates can seek superintendent jobs wherever they please, but Broad’s resources — mentoring, trips to model districts to see what works — won’t necessarily follow them.

Broad wants urban challenges for its graduates, but not with unreliable boards, said the academy’s director of alumni services, Tim Quinn. Kansas City stood among the destinations, including St. Louis, that were considered poor risks for Broad’s investment.
In other words, Broad doesn’t want its people—like John Covington—to be burdened by public oversight when running public schools.

Lord knows, the Detroit School Board is a poster child for governance reform. No one should deny the status quo is broken. But fixing the governance structure doesn’t mean replacing public oversight with one well-paid bureaucrat. Even one with a California billionaire’s seal of approval.

Just as this bull-in-the-china-shop attitude on governance reform takes an obvious problem and tries to make it worse, the goal of shedding bad teachers morphs into policy proposals that would allow districts to hire teachers through the Bobby Ferguson Education Group.

Make no mistake, if teaching services becomes just another government contract, then it stands to reason that “friend-of-the-program” government contractors will hire the teachers.

When voters weigh the choice between the public education status quo and the reform alternative, they should probably select “C: Something Else.”

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