Simone Lightfoot resigns from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children, saying it’s become clear to her that Snyder’s goal is to “destroy public education in Michigan”

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On Friday, a member of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children policy subcommittee, Simone Lightfoot, announced her resignation. Lightfoot, an Ann Arbor Board of Education trustee, did so, she said, because it became clear to her that the Snyder administration would never accept the policy recommendations coming from their group, which had been called together to objectively assess the state of education in Detroit and help plot a path forward that would work for the benefit of the City’s children.

“Rather than convening this outstanding group of vastly experienced education and policy leaders to cooperate and help shape solutions in a systematic way,” Lightfoot wrote in her letter of resignation, “those leading the conversation consistently re-directed it toward support for the EAA, charter schools and for-profit models of education.”

At every turn, it would seem, they were thwarted. The Snyder administration, according to Lightfoot, was only interested in preserving the EAA, and maintaining the push toward privatization, “not improving public education in Detroit.”

[For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the EAA, I’d encourage you to read my interview from this past February with Eastern Michigan University College of Education Associate Professor Steven Camron.]

This apparently came into sharp focus for Lightfoot this last Friday when Governor Snyder signed an executive order to move the School Reform Office from the Department of Education, which does not report to him, to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which does. This, according to the Detroit News, would put “K-12 school accountability and restructuring directly under his control.” And, coincidentally, this happened just as Lightfoot and her associates on the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children policy committee were preparing to make their recommendations.

Here, with all of the details, is Simone Lightfoot’s post to Facebook announcing her resignation.

Today, I submitted my official letter of resignation from the COALITION FOR THE FUTURE OF DETROIT SCHOOL CHILDREN policy subcommittee.

The statement needed to be made. The Skillman Foundation and United Way along with our Governor and the corporate community are fully committed to destroying public education in Michigan… unacceptable!

(See below my official letter of resignation)

The sole member of a fully empowered, locally elected school board (Ann Arbor Board of Education) has resigned from the Coalition For The Future of Detroit School Children policy sub-committee to: evaluate the current-education related political and policy landscape and developing strategy and policy recommendations for the Coalition as it relates to the goal of transforming education in Detroit – in protest, criticizing the atmosphere of predetermined solutions, prioritized profit centered education, and an unwavering commitment to maintaining the EAA and other practices not evidence, achievement, or solution based.

Dear Coalition For The Future Of Detroit School Children Policy Sub-Committee Members:

After much deliberation and multiple attempts to consider all pathways and outcomes, it is with great disappointment that I submit my official letter of resignation from the Coalition For The Future Of Detroit School Children policy subcommittee effective immediately.

I did not enter into this role lightly nor am I easily discouraged. I recognized from the outset that the eleven consecutively scheduled, Monday morning meetings would not be without sacrifice, conflict or compromise.

With that, I welcomed the opportunity to join other respected colleagues from across Southeast Michigan to lend my public policy, public education, civil rights and social justice expertise to our stated purpose of “evaluating the current education-related political and policy landscape while developing strategy and policy recommendations toward the goal of transforming education in Detroit”.

However, with just four meetings remaining, questions continue to plague the sub-committee as to our actual charge. This reality is incompatible with advancing thoughtful, sustainable best practices through collective review, consideration and feedback. Further concerns are exacerbated by the fact that no policies have been allowed to emerge from the fragmented, evolving and nuanced process in the manner promised. And which required we look at methodological and evidentiary-based solutions that focus on the unique challenges facing DPS and public education in our state.

To date, our only collective and deliberative action as a body has been to review proposal responses from several lobbying firms seeking to contract with the Coalition. In that process, each participating member had three options to exercise for their final choices, however the selected firm was presented to the body as the finalist without the benefit of witnessing or fully understanding the process by which that decision was made.

Moreover, our sub-committee has been continuously dissuaded from specific, expert, and thoughtful best practice solutions and persuaded toward broad, overarching and non-specific recommendations subject to broad interpretation. When questioned about this approach, we were directed to believe that the issues raised were somehow beyond our scope. In reviewing the charge of “developing strategy and policy recommendations toward the goal of transforming education in Detroit”, it is hard to imagine much of what we wanted to consider to be beyond that scope.

As time passed and multiple media accounts reported out important and relevant information not brought before our full body, more questions were raised. Each time the subcommittees concerns were brushed aside as unwarranted.

And rather than convening this outstanding group of vastly experienced education and policy leaders to cooperate and help shape solutions in a systematic way, those leading the conversation consistently re-directed it toward support for EAA, charter schools and for profit models of education.

At this point, it is without question clear that the direction and narrative dominating our work is to uphold the EAA (although another apparent failure to join the ranks of the other failing charter schools and for profit education experiments fostered on our students in the State of Michigan). I have become less and less satisfied with the apparent predetermined direction, solutions and commitment against public education of this effort and it appears we are no longer tasked with improving public education for Detroit – or anywhere else in Michigan.

Our work should leave Detroit Public Schools stronger and more empowered than before, with greater student learning outcomes and fiscal solvency. This sadly appears will not be the case.

I have a great deal of appreciation for my colleagues and their enormous time and travel commitment. Many of us volunteered for this work because we want a strong, vibrant and high achieving public school system across this state.

Unfortunately, those that lead this effort have prioritized preserving the EAA, for profit education ventures and charter schools over educational expertise, common sense dialogue and student centered, data driven decisions. In doing so they have also squander the educational legitimacy that at one time had been Michigan’s most potent offense, defense, economic and social driver. All while dismantling the largest and most effective institutional structures our nation has known, the public school system.

In keeping with this trajectory, we are straining beyond the limits of both the Detroit Public School and the Michigan education system in order to advance destructive educational outcomes that ensure instability to families, municipalities and school districts.

While it has been a privilege to witness first hand the inner workings of this policy sub-committee, it has become impossible for me to escape the conclusion, that the fervent political and profit centered policy pursuits of the Skillman Foundation, the United Way Foundation, the Governor and others on behalf of the EAA, charter schools and unproven educational experiments are not compatible with the interests I represent. The systematic manipulation of the subcommittee’s expertise intelligence is unacceptable.

I realize the emotion and tone of my letter and ask that you receive it in a manner that conveys my passionate concern and intimate awareness of the outcomes disparately impacting public education, education policy and urban school districts.

It is my contention that both my colleagues and I have extended more credibility than the current structure and destined outcomes deserve. And so, for the reasons outlined, I have determined my continued service on the Coalition For The Future Of Detroit School Children policy subcommittee is not the best use of my experience, public education expertise and time.

Simone Lightfoot
Trustee
Ann Arbor Board of Education

Coincidentally, people will be gathering tomorrow (March 17) at 1:00 PM outside of Eastern Michigan University’s Welch Hall, to one again ask EMU’s regents to cut ties with the EAA.

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7 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 17, 2015 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I find it difficult to believe that anyone could have gotten involved in this process thinking that the state would even consider a course of action that didn’t strengthen the EAA and weaken public schools. This is about moving public money into the hands of private corporations and killing the teachers union. This has never been about serving the children of Michigan.

  2. Meta
    Posted March 17, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Simone Lightfoot is on a role. She was also in the Ann Arbor News today saying that she wants to inconvenience people carrying guns into schools as much as possible.

    Current school policy has the administrators lock down the school, call the police an ask the individual to leave.

    A new policy could state clearly Ann Arbor schools are weapons- or disruption-free zones, or the district could use state and national guidelines that state a weapon on campus constitutes an emergency, said Superintendent Jeanice Swift.

    She has discussed the situation with Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto, and the police department is supportive of the district.

    School districts are generally prohibited from enacting firearm regulations, Swift said, but it does not mean they are without authority from preventing visitors from carrying a gun.

    Simone Lightfoot, a board trustee, said she wants to inconvenience gun carriers as much as possible.

    “I want us to challenge this law in front of the legislature. I’m also interested in us suing or challenging through the courts,” she said to applause from the audience of about 20 people.

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/03/ann_arbor_school_board_conside_4.html

  3. Deb
    Posted March 17, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I don’t know that it matters, but is the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children a state-sanctioned entity? Did they Snyder administration call the group together through the Skillman Foundation?

  4. Meta
    Posted March 18, 2015 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    “Eastern Michigan University’s quarterly Board of Regents meeting was shut down for the second time in a row after about a dozen protesters of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan rang out with chants of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘The EAA is killing us.'”

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/03/emu_board_of_regents_shut_down.html

  5. Steve Pickard
    Posted March 18, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    She better not resign from the A2 Board of Trustees, she’s my favorite there! I loved how she confronted the Open Carry Posse Comitatus with a taste of their own medicine. “Simone Lightfoot, a board trustee, said she wants to inconvenience gun carriers as much as possible.
    “I want us to challenge this law in front of the legislature. I’m also interested in us suing or challenging through the courts,” she said to applause from the audience of about 20 people.”

    There’s no group of cowards that hides behind the law more than the Open Carry people do.

  6. Meta
    Posted March 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    The State Board of Education calls Snyder move unconstitutional.

    The State Board of Education said Tuesday that Gov. Rick Snyder violated the state constitution last week by moving through executive order a Department of Education office charged with monitoring Michigan’s lowest academically performing schools into a state agency he directly controls.

    Snyder moved the School Reform Office’s K-12 education reform and accountability functions to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which has a public education data-gathering office called the Center for Educational Performance and Information.

    “The State Board of Education opposes any effort to diminish the constitutional authority of either the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent,” the board said in a statement that was approved in a unanimous vote.

    Read more:
    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2015/03/17/education-board-calls-snyder-move-unconstitutional/24907385/

  7. Joellen Gilchrist
    Posted March 29, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    How can I help? I am retired Detroit Public School teacher.

One Trackback

  1. […] that student achievement is actually decreasing in schools taken over of by the EAA, and claims from insiders that Snyder’s goal has always been to “destroy public education in Michigan…, but, then again, I didn’t think that they’d vote to extend the arrangement last year, […]

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