Rural Education Matters Travels to Lansing

By Jennifer Jarosz

Education reform is taking place in Lansing with law makers from both the House of Representatives and the State Senate. Rural Education Matters (REM) has been given a huge opportunity in advocating to Representatives in both the Senate and House. On October 12, 2011 a group of parents, grandparents, students, township officials, early childhood advocates, and concerned citizens took a charter bus to Lansing to show their support for the Parent Empowerment Package introduced to the Senate in early October. This package consists of 6 bills that could expand public school options in Michigan, and give parents the power to demand a better education for their children.
During our visit, REM was recognized on both the House of Representative and Senate floors by Representatives Bruce Rendon and Senator Darwin Booher. We also had the opportunity to sit in on the Senate Education Committee and House Transportation Commit-tees as well as be introduced in both.
The entire group had the opportunity to talk with Senator Booher as he met with us in MAPSA‘s office first thing
Wednesday morning. Dan Quinsenbery, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Association, and his staff, welcomed all of us with a continental breakfast. We had lengthy discussions regarding the current legislation our law makers are considering. Booher explained why he voted in favor of Senate Bill 618 on October 6, 2011, one part of the empowerment package, which would lift the current arbitrary cap on authorizers and allow more charter schools in Michigan. Booher expressed his support of recognizing the importance of em-powering our parents and allowing more public school options in Michigan. Booher has visited our community and been involved in local events. He recognizes the effect that not having a community school has on a small community like ours.
HB 618 is scheduled to go before the House Education Committee October 26, 2011. REM is scheduled to testify in front of the Education Committee on November 2, 2011. This bill is important to our efforts as we have not been able to get authorized due to the fact that authorizers have met the current cap placed on charter schools.
John Brownfield, Veronica Bridson, Scott Marshall, Joseph Roush, and myself met with State Representative Bruce Rendon to discuss the importance of HB 618. Rendon recognized not only the negative impact on a community with no school, but the effect it has on students. We discussed the current graduation rates of both Roscommon and Houghton Lake High Schools which average 75%. We also discussed our concerns of Roscommon Elementary being overcrowded as well as the Middle School not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Rendon also stated that he realizes more educational choices and empowerment of our parents will have a positive effect in reforming education in Michigan. Rendon shared the groups concern with the vacated school building that tax payers paid for. Part of the legislative package introduced includes a bill that could change the way school districts and the constituents deal with their school buildings.
Overall our trip to Lansing was very successful and would not have been possible without the support of this community. As we continue to fight for our children and have the motivation to do whatever it takes to ensure students get the education they deserve because of you. Some individuals, that would like to remain anonymous, made cash donations allowing students to ride the bus free, and keep the cost for others down to $10.00. Food and beverage donations were made by Gordon‘s Food Service, Hen House Restaurant, Judy
Scroggins, and Walmart. To the individuals and students that took a day out of their busy work and school schedules and put kids first, you are truly amazing and I thank you!!

Reprinted with permission from The FISH Newspaper November 2011 issue