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Governor signs order to take control of School Reform Office

The Michigan state capitol building
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Michigan Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder has taken direct control over the state office tasked with monitoring Michigan’s worst performing schools.

The elected state Board of Education previously had control over the state School Reform Office. Snyder signed an executive order on Thursday that moves the reform office to his budget office.

“Which will give us an opportunity for me to be more proactive on educational issues,” Snyder said at an unrelated event in Dearborn.

“I just felt it was a good opportunity to say let’s be more active about helping the lowest-performing schools,” he said. “And this is a way to do it in terms of giving us a bigger role, a bigger voice in making sure we’re doing the best we can for those challenged schools.”

State Board of Education President John Austin says moving the office into a department with no expertise in education will not help student outcomes.

“Governor Snyder's Executive Order, moving State School Turnaround authority from the Michigan Department of Education to (the state Department of Technology Management and Budget) is unfortunate and counterproductive,” Austin said in an emailed statement.

“We are in the middle of the process of picking a new superintendent who can provide a fresh start and proven ability to effectively support this work,” he said. “Moving the authority to a state agency with no educational abilities nor mandate will make it harder, not easier to improve educational outcomes for children in chronically failing schools, and undermines our ability to work together – governor, state board and our new superintendent to improve education in Michigan.”

State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids,  says moving the office is not the answer.

“It hasn’t worked. It’s not going to work, and simply just transferring the functions to the governor is not going to change the fact that the model is broken,” he said.

The School Reform Office is separate from the controversial Education Achievement Authority. But the move could still give the governor more influence over the EAA and the 15 low-performing schools in Detroit it oversees. The EAA has had mixed results.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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