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From the Daily: Improving education

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published November 28, 2012

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to present the details of an important new education bill for the state of Michigan in February. The proposed education reform bill, which was recently obtained by the Detroit Free Press, would substantially change the public education system in the state of Michigan. While reforming Michigan education should be discussed, this bill could change the entire ideology of our educational system by implementing unnecessarily extreme changes.

Among other provisions, the bill would provide scholarships of $2,500 per semester, of up to $10,000, to students who finish high school early, and would "provide a framework for funding based on performance, once the proper assessment and testing mechanisms are in place,” the Free Press reported. The bill also removes district ownership of students, allowing students to choose in which district they enroll. Funding provided to students will then follow the students to the district they transfer to — potentially splitting a student’s funding among multiple districts.

We shouldn’t be encouraging high school students to graduate early. Many students who graduate early may not be mature enough to move into a college environment. Attending high school for four years is important for students because they have time to develop their social skills and ability to interact with peers and teachers, which will benefit them in both casual and professional social situations later in life. Extracurricular activities in high school help to develop skills such as teamwork and cooperation that cannot be taught in the classroom and make students more well-rounded individuals. If students focus exclusively on schoolwork and rush to graduate, they may miss out on many of these valuable opportunities. Education isn’t just about grades.

Funding based on performance is also very problematic for disadvantaged students. Schools in lower-income areas are likely to perform differently than students in higher-income areas. The current bill doesn’t compensate for this disparity. Public education is supposed to provide the best education for everybody. Performance-based funding isn’t the way to fund public education.

Unlike a voucher system, public education is intended to benefit everyone. Public education is paid through taxes, much more effective than the voucher system. By turning Michigan’s education system into a voucher system, some students will have more opportunities than others, leaving some students worse off. This system based in inequality is the wrong way to fix Michigan’s education system.

We need to find ways to improve Michigan’s educational system, but the proposed bill does more harm than good for Michigan’s students.