"Crisis Mode": State Super Says Schools Are In Danger

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

Very few have ever compared running a school to running a car company.

But State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan says the similiarities right now are frightening.

"Going into bankruptcy, the GM chairman said 'This is beyond urgent, this is now.' It's the same thing with failing schools. If we don't get all our kids on higher levels of achievement quickly, we're going down. We won't exist," Flanagan says.

Education expert Sharif Shakrani of MSU takes the analogy a step further.

"We should apply the same restructuring at GM, Chrysler and Ford as at the failing schools," Shakrani says.

Why the need now for such urgency? Because so many of Michigan's schools aren't reaching adequate yearly progress, or AYP.

It's an institutional problem at this point, Flanagan says, one that no amount of money can fix.

"I could make a case where money, heck, it could buy smaller class sizes. But there is no money, and there's going to be less money, so suck it up and get ready to move on," he says.

So they're finding other fixes.

Experts say if schools continue to fail year after year, one thing that could be explored would be turning them into charter schools.

Sen. Majority Leader Mike Bishop, (R) Rochester, and Sen. Wayne Kuipers, (R) Holland, introduced legislation Thursday that would allow parents and teachers the ability to take over failing schools and turn them into "neighborhood" public schools.

Rep. Tim Melton, (D) Pontiac, has introduced similar legislation to turn failing schools into charter schools in the House.

"I'd be in favor of any alternative to the existing failing school, whether it's a neighborhood school or a charter school. The bottom line is the school needs to close if it's failed for that long," Flanagan says.

"What I know is if you don't do anything, they will continue to fail fail these kids being served," Shakrani says.


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