By: SHANNAN O’NEIL
Capital News Service
LANSING – The Michigan public education system is up for possible changes including teacher privatization or outsourcing teachers.Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, introduced a bill recently that would allow schools to hire teachers through private firms using a bidding system.
Part of Pavlov’s bill has gotten a lot of “undeserved” attention , according to Don Wotruba, a Michigan Association of School Boards’ (MASB) lobbyist. Wotruba sees the bill as a minor change.
If this bill were passed, Michigan would be the first state to have teacher unions competing against a profit-seeking private company. This isn’t a new concept, according to Wotruba. About 170 Michigan schools supply teachers from private companies—all charter schools.
Charters still receive public funding but do not have to follow traditional school codes and statutes. This allows parents to choose which schools their child should attend and schools to choose how to hire their teachers.
Charter schools have a high teacher turnover rate. Those against the bill fear students will be negatively affected by the high rate. “I think it does have an impact on quality, it has to,” said Doug Pratt, director of public affairs at the Michigan Education Association.
No scientific research supports Pratt’s statement but testing does show that there are charter schools that test lower than public schools.
The bill is looking to contract certified teachers into the classroom through private firms. It would save schools money by not having to pay large union packages such as retirement.
“From a financial standpoint, significant savings would occur,” said Wotruba.
The bill would leave some financial problems unsolved. The current system pays for retirees through the paychecks of the union teachers. Schools would have to figure out another way to compensate retired teachers.
Since there is a high turnover rate for teachers in schools similar to the proposed system, teachers would have to worry about their jobs. “A teacher’s job is the student,” Pratt said. With this bill teachers would, “care about the bottom line and not the kid.”
Jan Ellis, representative manager of communication of the Michigan Department of Education, said the department does not take a stance in pending legislation
Wotruba says, “I don’t expect a lot of districts to go down that road. They want to be in full control of their teachers.”
By: SHANNAN O’NEIL