Michigan Schools Shore Up a Failing School System

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

While other states and school districts are searching for progressive and innovative methods to improve student achievement and graduation rates, the Michigan Schools continue to shore up the current failing system, according to The Detroit News. Rather than improving the current system, teachers’ unions act as oversight bullies, the Michigan schools appear to follow their dictates, and legislators just keep pouring money into the Michigan schools, while complaining that funds are limited.

First, money is not the issue. While inflation has risen at a rate of 21 percent, funding for the Michigan schools has risen by of 71 percent. The state legislature funds the Michigan schools annually at the tune of $13 billion, and Michigan schools teachers are among the highest paid educators in the United States.

The problem with the Michigan schools current system is that they are not working hard enough to improve it for the children. They have some excellent educators that work hard for their schools, putting every effort into helping students excel under the current policies and resources. The community should be very grateful for their dedication. Yet, the Michigan schools are still operating under old standards — pump more money into teacher benefits (for which teachers’ unions also benefit), rather than the students.

The state recently approved an increase in the per student funding rate that should be going toward improving student achievement. Yet almost the entire $216 per student rate is underwriting healthcare and retirement costs for Michigan schools employees, according to the newspaper.

With a statewide dropout rate of nearly 25 percent (some districts in Metro Detroit are as high as 60 percent), Michigan schools administrators need to do some serious housecleaning on the current system.  When the newspaper surveyed students and their parents, it found that only 30 percent of parents insist their children remain in school.  Only 12 percent of students found coursework challenging; 83 percent believe that their coursework is not relevant.

Teachers who speak up or attempt to effect change in the current Michigan schools system are shutdown by the strong, organized and vocal teachers’ unions and administrators of the Michigan schools. They both seem to like things as they are.

Some progressive teachers have publicly recommended that school grade levels be reorganized; the current pay system for teachers be replaced with pay-for-performance measures; and parents be allowed to send their children to the schools of their choice (charter, public, private or home school) — as is done in many states.  The teachers’ unions quickly silenced these progressives.

The teachers’ unions give no particular evidence as to why these recommendations should not be considered, nor do they offer any solutions, except for their recent proposal — guaranteed yearly pay raises for teachers. They are aggressively pushing for the state legislature to write an amendment into the state constitution that guarantees funding for annual teacher pay raises. Where is the accountability?

With all the problems of student achievement, it is time the Michigan schools stop catering to the teachers’ unions and focus on improving student achievement.