Council Comments No. 826, November 26, 1969

This Council Comment is a summary of a detailed Analysis of the Governor’s Educational Reform Proposals (Memorandum No. 213, November, 1969). Copies of the memorandum are available upon request.

The governor has submitted to the legislature a series of proposals for educational reform. The purpose is to provide for increased state responsibility for elementary-secondary education and for a more uniform distribution of educational services throughout the state. The governor’s program would be implemented over a three-year period by the following major measures:

  • Reorganization of the educational structure at the state, intermediate, and local school district levels.
  • State determination of basic operating expenditure requirements for elementary-secondary public education at all levels.
  • State responsibility for raising the revenues required to support the operating costs of elementary-secondary public education.
  • Establishment of a statewide system for assessing and evaluating educational achievement.
  • Enactment of a formula for state aid to local school districts for 1970-71.
  • State aid to non-public schools.

Reorganization of the Educational Structure

The governor calls for a top-to-bottom reorganization of the elementary-secondary public education administrative structure to make it more responsive to the governor and to the legislature.

Changes at the State Level. The governor has proposed a constitutional amendment which would abolish the present eight-member elected state board of education, which board now appoints the state superintendent of public instruction. The amendment provides for the appointment by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate of a state director of education. If approved, Michigan would be the only state with a state director of ·education appointed by the governor and also without a board of education.

Changes at the Intermediate Level. The governor’s package proposes the establishment of from ten to 15 state regional school districts with greatly expanded functions in place of the present 60 intermediate districts. The boundaries of the proposed regions would be established by March 1, 1970, by an education region development commission. The regions would be administrative units of the state department of education. Each region would be headed by a director appointed by the state superintendent subject to civil service and with the approval of the regional board. A regional board would represent the local school districts in each region and would advise the regional director on policy matters.

Regional school district areas of responsibility include: (1) the provision of basic educational programs such as vocational-technical education and special education; (2) the provision of educational services such as educational media, in-service training, coordination of adult education programs and of vocational education programs offered by community colleges, curriculum and capital planning consulting services, etc.; (3) the provision of “business” services such as transportation and data processing and in smaller districts accounting, purchasing, etc.; and, (4) serving as an administrative agent of the state department in reviewing local school district budget requests, administering the disbursement of state funds to local school districts and providing for uniform accounting and auditing at the local level.

The educational regions are designed to assure more uniform distribution of certain basic educational services, to achieve economies of scale, to improve services rendered by local school districts, and to provide a key administrative link between the state and the local school districts.

Changes at the Local Level. Local school districts would be reorganized so that each district in the state would offer a K-12 program and have at least 2,000 students (except that no district need be larger than a county). At present there are 644 local school districts in Michigan and only 261 of these are offering a K-12 program to more than 2,000 students. It is estimated by the governor that about 300 of the present districts would be eliminated leaving about 350 reorganized districts.

The State Committee for Reorganization of School Districts would establish guidelines for reorganization. While the initiative for developing reorganization plans would rest with the local districts, the state committee would have the authority to reject proposed local plans and would enact plans for districts which will not adopt their own. It is proposed that the reorganization task be completed by July l, 1973.

The local school district reorganization proposal is the strongest in Michigan’s history although it is not a mandatory enactment of a state plan. The reduced number of school districts would be more capable of providing an effective program in a more efficient manner and would facilitate the proposed budget system for state financing of elementary-secondary public education.

The governor’s program also calls for the establishment of a public nonprofit corporation to develop neighborhood education centers to provide educational opportunities to high school dropouts.
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