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Patrick O'Connor Headshot

Education Reform in Michigan

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The possible setting: A school counselor's office, eight weeks from now

"Excuse me, Dr. O'Connor?"

"Good morning, Principal Skinston."

"I'm sorry I'm late -- it took five minutes to get past all of those students sitting in your waiting area. I hope I'm not keeping you from anything."

"Only all of those students sitting in the waiting area."

"How's that? Oh -- heh heh -- of course. Well, I needed to see you because you'll be moving out of this office."


"Yes. As you know, a number of education reform bills passed the Michigan legislature last December."

"The bills that were introduced after the election and passed without formal public hearings?"

"One of those bills gave charter schools the right to use available public school facilities without having to pay for the building..."

"...which is actually owned by the school district, an entity funded by taxpayers."

"Correct. Once the governor signed those bills when the legislature adjourned on Christmas Day, a charter school requested use of our available facilities, so we have to give them access. They'll be moving in tomorrow, so you'll need to..."

"But Principal Skinston, the law only requires us to offer facilities that we aren't using."

"Also correct, O'Connor."

"And I'm using this office. To see students."

"That's the other thing I wanted to discuss. Since the charter school opened, 80 percent of our students are now enrolled in their high school academy. Because the charter school now gets all of the taxes we used to have to educate all of those children..."

"...we no longer have the funds to keep this building open..."

"...or to keep you on staff."

"I'm sorry?"

"Today is your last day at the school."

"Principal Skinston, this is insane. Everyone knows that the average cost to keep a student in school includes more than the price of paying the teachers. Some of that money has to go to pay for heat, lights, insurance..."

"...and college counselors?"

"Well, yes."

"Apparently not everyone knows this, O'Connor, but you're right. With the creation of the charter high school, the state now has to pay for the upkeep of two partially full buildings. That means more money will be used to heat and maintain empty classrooms, and less money can be spent on student services."

"So the charter school will have fewer teachers, larger class sizes, less student materials, and our high school will have no college counseling services?"

"Yes, but they're solving the class size issues by hiring new, uncertified teachers who are willing to work for free."

"Who's going to fill those positions?"

"Since the new legislation offers students a cash incentive of $2,500 for every semester they graduate early from high school, some of our brighter students will be getting diplomas today, and will begin their teaching careers tomorrow -- as soon as a couple of them reschedule their orthodontist appointments."

"And who will do our college counseling?"

"It turns out 95 percent of our students applied to the charter school, but since the charter school doesn't have to admit everyone, they only admitted the students with college potential."

"'College po--'"

"Since we only have the students they turned down, the board of education feels our students don't need any college advising."

"And all this happened..."

"...while everyone was getting ready for the holidays, and didn't go to the Michigan House and Michigan Senate Web sites to express their opposition to bills SB 1358, HB6004, and HB9523."


"So what will you do with your time now, O'Connor?"

"I don't know. Maybe one of those early graduates and I will build a time machine."