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Northville Superintendent Opposes Bill Sent to Gov. Snyder that Expands Cyber Schools

Sen. Patrick Colbeck, who sponsored the bill, says he plans to continue advocating for lifting the cap on cyber schools.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) to increase the number of cyber schools in Michigan has passes the Senate and House. But not everyone, including Northville superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher, is a fan.

"I am disappointed that the Cyber School legislation, even with modification, has passed the House and Senate, as it does not fully address the concerns about transparency and effectiveness," Gallagher said. "Allowing public dollars to go to for-profit companies without a proven model of effectiveness for cyber education."

Senate Bill 619 now awaits Gov. Rick Synder's signature. Specifically, the bill calls for the state to open the number of cyber schools from its current number, 2, to an eventual 15 by 2014. The cap will be lifted to five cyber charters beginning Fall 2013.

This will increase the number of students enrolled in cyber schools statewide from 2,000 today to an eventual 30,000, or 2 percent of the school population.

"While I applaud the Legislature’s efforts to expand the cap, I will continue my efforts to remove all caps so that we can offer even greater public education choices to all of Michigan’s children," Colbeck told Patch.

He added, “Many teachers are discouraged by the lack of parental involvement in their students’ education. Opening up more public education choices encourages parents to become even more engaged in their children’s educational path. Every time we put a cap in place, it takes away another opportunity for a parent to be more involved."

Rep. Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth) also supported the bill but said he is happy with it in its current form.

"I went in very much opposed to the oringinal bill," he said. "It is the result of a tremendous amount of debate and compromise...In the end, no one got what they wanted. I like the bill as it currently exists."

Heise said he opposed the bill when it was first introduced because it lifted the cap all together. He said he supports language in the bill that addresses accountability and oversight. Still, he said that cyber education, while it may work for some, is not right for every student.

"It's not perfect," he said. "Cyber education is not for my kids and I would be very cautious about it."

Gov. Snyder has long said he is a proponent of expanding schools of choice, including cyber schools.

"We believe that online learning is a good thing, and providing interested parents and students the ability to enroll in a cyber charter school increases opportunities for a quality education," Snyder said in a statement. "It improves access to learning for those families that feel it is the best for them. In so doing we must and we will maintain proper oversight while continuing to strengthen our outstanding traditional public schools."

Denise Nash May 06, 2012 at 05:56 AM
This bill is quite simply, BAD NEWS for those of us that believe in good public education, like we have here in Northville. Sen. Colbeck is pandering to the DeVos people who don't believe in public education and are, in fact, doing everything they can to destroy it. The Patch quotes Sen. Colbeck saying: "While I applaud the Legislature’s efforts to expand the cap, I will continue my efforts to remove all caps so that we can offer even greater public education choices to all of Michigan’s children" Then, he told the Patch: “Many teachers are discouraged by the lack of parental involvement in their students’ education. Opening up more public education choices encourages parents to become even more engaged in their children’s educational path. Every time we put a cap in place, it takes away another opportunity for a parent to be more involved." HUH? Seriously, he said that there is not enough parent involvement, so his solution to this is to have them sit their kids in front of a computer at home? What are the parents doing while this is happening? Working from home? Chatting on the phone? Grocery shopping? Just because the kids are at home doesn't mean the parents are involved! Michigan voters, please remember this guy on his next election day in 2014.
sine-of-the-times May 06, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Cyber schools win, PUBLIC schools LOSE...Really? How about 30,000 kids x $6800 (which is too low, anyway, per pupil) = $204,000,000 out of public education in Michigan and into the hands of corporate schools. Fewer teachers needed. Fewer jobs. What is wrong with Mr. Colbeck for suggesting such an idea? Does America really want to have education go in this direction? If anything, parents are being fooled into thinking that this is good for their child, education by convenience is not good for building a cultured, knowledgeable, thoughtful person who can interact with society. Why not have purchased laptops/ipads for every student to take INTO their classrooms to use in interactive discussions with PEOPLE and TEACHERS instead? Remember your teacher, Jesus, Mr Colbeck...what would Jesus have done if he was outsourced?
Linda Burnett May 06, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Cyber school is appropriate for some students, but responsible implementation is crucial. Even with knowledge that cyber school operators have been the subject of investigation due to poor performance and elevating enrollment numbers to maximize revenue, Colbeck remains committed to unlimited expansion. He touts commitment to government transparency and excellence in education yet opposed several key amendments to the cyber bill (aka ALEC Virtual School Act). Despite the significantly reduced cost to operate a cyber program, Colbeck opposed an amendment to reduce the per pupil allowance for cyber students. No one wins here except the cyber management company. He also voted down an amendment requiring companies to post a link to their management/service contracts. This ‘no’ vote insulates companies (many out-of-state) from revealing what they do with taxpayer money. Colbeck also opposed requiring an ‘employee’ to proctor a student during exams. This face time is the minimum that should be required. If our goal is graduating students who will be productive members of our society, we must ensure that the students themselves are completing the work required. Contrary to the propaganda being peddled by this legislature, most parents are satisfied with their community schools. The majority do not want the ‘choice’ of parallel school systems within their community, which drain school budgets and cause districts to make devastating cuts to programs and services.

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