Gov. Rick Snyder today announced that more time and work are needed to determine the best course of action for the 38 schools on the state's potential closure list.
"The entire team at the School Reform Office has worked diligently to analyze data, visit schools and review potential options, but we need to do more before any final decisions can be made," Snyder said. "Any action we take will have long-lasting consequences and we need to take the time to get this right. That's why I want our SRO team to work closely with State Superintendent Brian Whiston and the Michigan Department of Education to reach out and coordinate all the latest information with local superintendents and districts."
Each year, schools in the bottom 5 percent of all public schools in Michigan are identified as Priority Schools and monitored for turnaround in subsequent years. State law requires that schools identified in the bottom 5 percent of all schools write plans and receive support services. Schools are eligible to leave Priority School status if they meet three exit criteria after four years of implementing redesign plans. Earlier this year, 79 schools exited the priority list.
"Our vision at the SRO is for every kid in Michigan to have access to a globally competitive education," said State School Reform Officer Natasha Baker. "All kids deserve access to a quality school that will prepare them for a good life after high school. That's why our team remains dedicated to taking action when schools are not providing students with a quality education; in some instances this has been the case for over a decade."
Gov. Snyder said that while closure may not be the right option for serving students and their families due to the hardship it would create, there still must be some action taken to fix a failing school. That's why he is having Baker's and Whiston's teams collaborate on possible solutions.
"I appreciate the good working relationship that has developed between the Michigan Department of Education and the School Reform Office, and now we can build upon that to help students in struggling schools," Whiston said. "Closing a school is a tough decision and sometimes there just are no other options that make sense, but we need to work closely with a local district and the community they serve to reach our conclusions together."
Gov. Snyder has asked the SRO and the MDE to have all reviews and decisions ready by May, and that any decisions available before then should be announced as soon as they are ready.
"I understand the anxiety that parents have when there is a discussion about a school being closed and that everyone wants answers right away. But if we are going to do this right, we are going to have to take the time to do the right thing," Snyder said. "We have heard from communities and their elected officials about the desire to have more input into this process and we will consider feedback from local communities as we move forward. The focus in all of this needs to be on helping and teaching the kids involved, so even if a school is not closed, there will be some changes made.
"We also know that legislators want to review and possibly replace the law that the SRO is governed by and I look forward to working on that with them. We must ensure all students have a pathway to Michigan's future success. That path starts at home and continues straight through the school doors."