Breaking the zip code. Maybe

It sounds so innocent. In today’s editorial from the  Grand Rapids Press, Dave Murray writes

(Governor Rick Snyder) also believes that the quality of a child’s education shouldn’t be determined by his or her ZIP code.

Embracing an “any time, any place, any way and any pace” philosophy, the plan removes district “ownership” of a student, allowing them to take a course, some courses or all their courses from any districts. That includes the growing use of online courses.

While the Press has entered into the fray of  competing press releases perhaps it shouldn’t.  In a document of 300 pages there are bound to be some issues as well a host of potentially unintended consequences. The Press would better take its time fulfilling the duty of exploring what these issues and consequences might be.

First, there is the matter of online education. The emergence of MOOCs suggests the way that higher education and likely secondary education will be substantially transformed. But if this is the way, then the questions of accountability and outcomes necessarily follow. The real work will be in how such enterprises are structured, and that, I would suggest is the proper place for reporting and advocacy.

But that’s only a start. Just as critical would be the deal breakers.

For instance,  schools can opt out of the program. In fact with this option, zip code would still determine who gets what kind of education. Would non-participation and the resulting two-tier structure of Michigan education be a deal-breaker?

If education follows the student, this puts an emphasis on equal funding. Does this violate Prop A? Is this then a deal-breaker?

If local communities lose control of their school (see funding), then how do they escape being creatures of Lansing rather than local voters? Would local control be a deal breaker?

Lastly, with the expansion of educational services, what reporting mechanisms are to be installed, or should be installed? Without transparency we end up with self-dealing. Would lack of transparency be a deal breaker?

Finally, the question that should be aksed is how these efforts will produce the educated workforce Michigan needs in the next decade. The Press’s proper role is to ask such questions in order to clarify the legislation and to lay the proper foundation for reform and vibrant local schools.

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