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Snyder announces education reform

June 26, 2011

Eli Broad, an MSU alumnus and benefactor, is considering the ways in which his foundation can support Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to help students from Detroit and other Michigan cities better prepare for higher learning.

Snyder announced Monday education reform to assist the failing Detroit Public Schools, or DPS, system, as well as the lowest performing 5 percent of school districts in the state. This plan includes the creation of an Education Achievement System, or EAS, which would take over operations of these failing schools, working to make them stable, financially responsible and academically successful.

This reform will help Detroit’s students to get the education they need and deserve, preparing them and the state for a successful future, said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.

“Quality education is key to somebody having a strong quality of life,” she said. “The governor feels strongly that a strong education is the key to Michigan’s resurgence.”

As a graduate of DPS, Broad has had a long-standing interest in the success of the region’s schools, said Erica Lepping, communications director for The Broad Foundation Education, in an email.

“Mr. Broad credits public schools in Detroit with having paved the way for him to be successful in life,” Lepping said in the email. “He also believes that young people of all backgrounds deserve an equal opportunity to succeed in school and that there is no greater investment we as a country can make — for our economy, our democracy and our position in the world — than to strengthen public education for generations to come.”

Lepping said Eli Broad and his wife Edythe Broad also have pledged nearly $40 million dollars to MSU, including endowments for the university’s Eli Broad College of Business and Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.

Specifics of Snyder’s plan still need to be determined, but both Republicans and Democrats will be included in establishing this reform, said Gregory Tedder, strategic adviser in the Office of Governor Rick Snyder.

“(Lawmakers) are going to be looking at things that are talked about in education, like longer school days (and giving) the control of the buildings to the principals and to the teachers and to the parents so that they can make the best decisions for their students,” Tedder said.

Other states in the U.S. also are looking to turn around their failing schools, assistant professor of political science Sarah Reckhow said.

“This is based on the broader (initiative) coming down from the Obama administration,” she said. “They want states to focus on the lower-5-percent-achieving schools.”

The EAS will be composed of members appointed by Snyder, by DPS and by Eastern Michigan University, which is partnering in this plan.

Wurfel said the governor will look for expertise from other universities with faculty knowledgeable in matters of education, including MSU, the University of Michigan and Central Michigan University, to help turn around other failing state schools in the future.

The EAS will begin its work in DPS during the 2012-13 academic year. Other schools in Michigan will receive such authorities’ help beginning in the 2013-14 academic year. The schools will remain in the EAS until they show they have made progress.

The DPS system has faced such hardships because of its declining student enrollment, Reckhow said.

Because students have left the district, these district schools receive less funding from the state. But they still have to keep up with their fixed costs. Faculty and buildings intended to accommodate more students still must be paid for, whether students have left the district or not.

Although not as severe as those in Detroit, schools in Lansing and Grand Rapids also are facing similar funding issues, Reckhow said.

This plan holds promise, but the legislature will have to approve specifics before its success really can be forecasted, Reckhow said. She hopes the action Snyder is taking will improve academic standards among students in these failing schools.

“(Snyder) is stepping forward with a plan and clearly has taken a lot of initiative,” Reckhow said.

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