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Lake Orion Board of Education Opposes Mandatory Schools of Choice

A new senate bill package would require all districts in the state to participate in the current schools of choice program.

The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education passed a resolution Wednesday evening opposing Senate Bill 624 and urged parents to contact their representatives to oppose the bill, too.

State Sen. Phil Pavolv (R-St. Clair) introduced the The Parent Empowerment Education Reform package on Sept. 7; the seven-bill package would require all districts in the state to participate in the current schools of choice program.

"It’s important to look at the impact this bill would have on our district,” Ginopolis said.

Although 82 percent of the state’s 551 school districts already allow open enrollment to students outside the district, Lake Orion Schools does not.

Most importantly, the bill would mean a loss of local control, and parents and community members should be active in sharing their opinions, Ginopolis said.

Allowing non-resident students into the district could negatively affect funding if the student comes from a district that has a lower per-pupil allocation, since per-pupil funding is based on the lower allocation of the two districts, Ginopolis said.

Another reason the board cited for opposing mandatory open enrollment is because they believe it could harm Lake Orion’s focus schools – the three elementary schools that focus on the arts, multi-age teaching and year-round education.

To attend these schools, students have to win a lottery, and if the district is forced to accept non-resident students, pupils who live in the district might have less of a chance of getting into these focus schools.

"We’ve got to have parents involved," trustee Birgit McQuiston said. "We’ve got to have the community stepping up as well. I can’t implore you enough. Please get involved."

Allowing non-resident students into the district could harm the school system’s performance as well, trustee Melissa Miller said. Students who come into the school with lower skills than their classmates would cause the district to fund more remedial programs, she said.

"There’s no rhyme, no reason for it," she said. "It’s not solving a problem. It will disseminate the poorly performing schools."

Karen Appledorn, a member of the grass-roots organization Michigan Citizens Advocating for Public Education, also spoke out against the bill. The group is made up of parents, citizens, board members and teachers and is meant to bridge the gap between legislators and citizens regarding public education and help shape education policy in Michigan.

"I'm totally opposed to this mandated schools of choice," Appledorn said. "If we want to go to schools of choice, I want the school board to have that power, not Lansing.

"If it's passed, it’s going to change the entire structure of how we run the district, the focus schools, our financial obligations and our curriculum."

Other meeting highlights:

  • The board discussed taking the first steps toward privatizing the custodial and transportation staff by creating a Request for Proposals document.
  • The board passed a resolution to create a Consolidated Service Plan, making a commitment to share services with other school districts.
  • The board purchased two portable computer labs with 25 laptops each for Paint Creek and Orion Oaks elementary schools at a cost of about $45,000.
  • The board hired Amy Spears as associate principal of and Robert Murray as assistant principal of .

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