Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Response from action on "Vouchers for Vendors"

On April 16 we asked people receiving our email alerts to take action and contact lawmakers regarding "Vouchers for Vendors."  This provision was tucked into the School Aid Budgets, but had nothing to do with yearly funding.  Rather, it will force every public school in Michigan into issuing vouchers for two online classes per semester for any student in grades 5-12.  This provision is found in section 21f of the Senate bill, SB 0182, and section 21f of the House bill, HB 4228

We discussed two rationales to object to this measure.  First, on the funding side, we discussed how public schools are already forced to use only the state's per pupil allowance to fund operating expenses, and how this will be a long-term syphon on this already critically stretched revenue.  Okemos Parents for Schools, "Vouchers for Vendors," what it is and why you should speak out against it, April 14, 2013. Second, on the quality side, we discussed how public schools will have no ability to ensure the quality of these online classes or monitor student achievement.  Okemos Parents for Schools, Education Budgets Moving - Vouchers and Disinvestment, April 24, 2013.

We were pleased with the number of parents who took the time to email.  We were also pleased with response from lawmakers we reached out to.  State Representatives Sam Singh (D) and Andy Schor (D) both responded that they voted against "Vouchers for Vendors" and will continue to oppose it.  State Senator Rick Jones (R) also responded that he voted against "Vouchers for Vendors" and will continue to oppose it.  Sen. Jones also gave us permission to reproduce his response, which is posted below (we added the bold and underline emphasis):
Dear [Parent]:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding the challenges facing our education system. I agree that the education of our youth is of the upmost importance and should be treated as such. As a state legislator, I have prided myself in putting children and families first. My voting record during my tenure in the legislature is evident of my belief that adequately funding education is a key component of putting children first. 
I recently voted against the SB 182, the School Aid Budget bill. I want to see a budget that will provide our kids with an education they deserve, and I did not see that in SB 182. There needs to be more funding allocated to our K-12 system and to follow the intension of Proposal A. 
I do not support expanding the EAA; with the current funding allotted to this I fear that its practices will encroach into our public schools, which I don't view as a viable practice for all school districts.  Our students' education is too valuable to be sold to the highest bidder, which is why I am hesitant toward allowing a voucher to vendor system where our educators would not be at the forefront of instructing from the Michigan Merit CurriculumFrom what I understand of the "Skunk Works" project, I am against its secretive practice and do not believe that it should have an earmark within the education budget without the public knowing what it is trying to accomplish. I am on your side in the fight for our children's quality education and I will continue on this path to ensure our youths' futures. 
Recently, I introduced two Senate Joint Resolutions (SJR) which I hope will strengthen our education system. SJR H and SJR I would restore the original intent of Proposal A. SJR H would require that school aid money must stay in K-12 funding.  SJR I would require that all schools must have equal funding per pupil gradually within ten years. I truly hope that with SJR H and SJR I, funding that belongs to our children will rightfully be allocated to their education. We need to right the wrongs of the past that have tarnished the School Aid Fund (SAF) and provide for the success of our youth. 
I have also introduced SB 119, legislation that could provide school districts with a reimbursement of 50 cents per mile for student transportation. The cost of transportation to ensure our children can attend school is great for most schools around the state, and within our district. I want as much funding to stay in classroom as possible to guarantee the best education we can provide for our children.
Thank you again for sharing your concerns. 
Rick Jones
State Senator
District 24

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