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Forum addresses proposed changes


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December 06, 2012
By A.J. Hakim

Staff Writer

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Potential reforms, and legislation currently making its way through the House of Representatives and Senate, have the potential to impact public education in unprecedented ways, like nothing Grosse Pointe Public School System Superintendent Tom Harwood has experienced during his 26 years in education.

And it's important and beneficial, Harwood said, for Grosse Pointers and others in surrounding areas to understand the impact on local communities and public school systems. To help spread the word, Harwood is joining GPPSS Board of Education President Judy Gafa and Michigan Alliance for Special Education founder and co-chair Marcie Lipsitt Tuesday, Dec. 11, at Brownell Middle School's auditorium, for a panel discussion courtesy of the Partnership for Different Learners.

"It is extremely important that the community is aware of proposed changes in legislation that impact education funding and programming in the state of Michigan," Harwood said via e-mail.

Among the bills in question are House Bill 6004/Senate Bill 1358, which expand power of the Education Achievement Authority, a governor-controlled school system that operates the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in the state; and House Bill 5923, which redefines the concept of what constitutes a school, offering more choice for parents by creating "new forms" of schools, potentially shrinking resources and funding for community schools.

"I recently read a study that stated less than 1 percent of parents partake in the current choices in education," Gafa said via e-mail. "Parents prefer their community schools and will choose those over better schools, so why expand those choices if no one is using them?"

The trio also plans to discuss the Oxford Foundation's first draft of its "Michigan Public Education Finance Act of 2013," a new finance project based on Gov. Rick Snyder's "Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace" learning model, drafted to replace the current School Aid Act of 1979.

"I want the audience to gain knowledge of what the legislation in Lansing are proposing," Gafa said. "I want them to know there are better options of reform that we as the electorate can insist on."

In preparation for the panel discussion, community relations specialist Rebecca Fannon is putting together a flyer for distribution in the community, and Harwood created a blog on the district web site, his first post relating to the proposed legislation. To view his blog, visit gpschools.schoolwires.net/Page/11563.

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