Senate, House Education Committees hear testimony on reform, technology

In testimony before the Senate Education Committee on SB 618-624, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said that while our education system was outdated and needed an overhaul, most teachers aren’t the problem. They’re just the scapegoats who—surprisingly—are feeling “bashed.”

“Teachers can be allies in reinventing education in Michigan, but when I’ve talked about the need for reforms, sometimes it’s taken as an indictment of teachers. People will resist change if they think we’re bashing them,” said Flanagan.

Cynthia von Oeyen, Bloomfield Hills board member testifying in opposition to the bills, echoed Flanagan’s observations, saying that education reforms and budget cuts already have had a negative effect on teachers—and ultimately, students.

The Committee also heard testimony both for and against charter schools and schools of choice. Flanagan, taking credit for having started the Henry Ford Academy, believes there should be a charter in every district that has at least one academically failing school and praised school choice for giving a quality education to every child with no boundaries.

Von Oeyen called charters “cookie cutter schools, the McDonald’s of education.” She also testified that mandated school of choice would create “extreme havoc” in school districts.

She said, “There is a carefully crafted attack on public education pushed by prominent activists like Betsy DeVos. No data exists that more charter schools will improve student achievement.”

Charter school students and administrators provided testimony supporting lifting the cap on charter schools.

The House Education Committee heard testimony from Microsoft representatives promoting technology that would move education into the “information age” through public and private partnerships.