In an odd turn of events, and with little explanation, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has decided to return the state’s School Reform Office back to the Department of Education.
Why is this odd? Well, maybe it isn’t odd. What is odd is that Snyder initially removed the SRO from the Department of Education and placed it under the control of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget in March of 2015. And why did he do this? I’m honestly not sure anyone knows. However, the suspicion continues that this move was a means of moving the SRO out of the control of the state superintendent and the democratically elected (meaning accountable to us citizens) state school board. This certainly falls within Snyder’s established pattern of avoiding democracy. (Flint anyone?) He took what was ours.
In today’s statement, Snyder explains in an Orwellian sentence, “Improving our schools and holding them accountable for their performance is critical to Michigan’s students’ success.”
Let’s fact check that. Detroit Public Schools (now named the Detroit Public Schools Community District) has 16 of its schools on the state’s “failing” list,” schools that are among those whose fate is controlled by the SRO. Actually, due to its submission to the state’s emergency management system, these are schools that have been completely under the control of the state during the existence of the SRO. Which means that the state’s SRO is tasked with keeping the state accountable to its own “failure.” And how has the SRO done this? By threatening (and then renegotiating the threat) to close those schools. Which means that those actually being held accountable for such “failure” are the students, parents and teachers of those communities rather than the state. It’s a reflection of the state’s strategy of improvement through starvation. A strategy that Snyder and the state continues to avoid accountability for.
And as we know, it simply doesn’t work.
It’s enough to make one dizzy. It’s also enough to show that our governor, to be generous, is at best confused.
So now what?
I guess we should be somewhat satisfied that the SRO is where it belongs. (And much kudos to the state board of education, Detroit public school teachers and all others who continue to fight for our state’s children.) But it kind of feels like the time the neighborhood bully stole my bike and his dad made him return it.
Should we be grateful?