Thursday, May 23, 2013

Push to stop "Vouchers for Vendors"

As we have discussed before, the School Aid Budget for this year has passed the House and the Senate with a harmful measure we have referred to as "Vouchers for Vendors."  This measure will force public schools to pay for and give credit for online classes for grades 5-12 with no oversight.  We have discussed how this measure will be a syphon on the limited funds our schools can use for operating expenses, "Vouchers for Vendors," what it is, and why you should speak out against it, Okemos Parents for Schools, April 14, 2013, as well as how there are major concerns for the quality of this education, Education Budgets Moving - Vouchers and Disinvestment, Okemos Parents for Schools, April 24, 2013.  Now, a small committee of lawmakers is tasked with reconciling the bills and they have the power to take out "Vouchers for Vendors."  You can act by contacting these lawmakers directly, or by using a handy tool set up by Michigan Parents for Schools.
If you want to contact them directly, they are:

  • Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, Dist 42,  State Representative    
  • Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, Dist 75,  State Representative
  • Rep. Philip Potvin, R-Cadillac, Dist 102,  State Representative
  • Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, Dist 8,  State Senator
  • Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, Dist 37,  State Senator
  • Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Twp, Dist 32,  State Senator

There is also an entirely different aspect to why "Vouchers for Vendors" is terrible policy we have not addressed - the ease with which this system is defrauded. In Louisiana, they already have this program and they call it "Course Choice." It's the same thing.  If online providers can sign kids up, the school has to pay and has no ability to oversee the courses.  So, online providers recruit kids by offering them a free iPad.  This situation is bad enough ... but in Louisiana, at least one company appears to just be signed up 1,100 kids, collected the fee, and the kids knew nothing about it:
"... An outfit named FastPath Learning of Austin, Texas, has somehow managed to obtain student information to sign up the students without the knowledge of the student or of their parents.
Tuition for the courses ranges from $700 to $1,275 each and providers get one-half of their tuition fees up front upon registering students for courses. The second half is paid when a student successfully completes a course and the course providers have full autonomy in making the determination of when—or if—a student completes a course. The incentive to the provider, of course, is to have as many students as possible “complete” the courses.
Fox, welcome to the hen house.
The tuition is free to the student with the state picking up the tab. Students also receive a free iPad upon registering. There was no word if the 1,100 students who were unknowingly registered received iPads. ..." Course Choice provider who enrolled 1100 students without their knowledge tied to Bush, Romney, Tex. dropout scandal, Louisiana Voice, May 16, 2013.
Another story discusses an attempt to sign up a first grade student for high school Latin, recruiters who go door-to-door signing up kids, and pay for sales staff of up to $75,000 in six months.  More sordid details emerging in apparent fraudulent Course Choice registrations in three northwest Louisiana parishes, Louisiana Voice, May 20, 2013.

Please contact lawmakers and stop this from coming to Michigan.

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