of Michigan For Public Education
(Formerly the Michigan Public Education Task Force)
The Michigan Public Education Task Force (MPETF) was formed as
a loose coalition in 1994 as an activist arm of the Council About
Parochiaid (CAP) in response to the perceived threat of a pro-voucher
statewide campaign. Patrice (Trish) Elms, President of CAP and
also representing the Michigan Women’s Assembly, was the
group’s first leader. Trish was followed by Robert Docking,
and then by Francile (Fran) Anderson, former State PTA President,
who has continued as leader of the Task Force and is presently
Chair of the recently renamed Michigan For Public Education (MFPE).
Over the years, the Task Force has engaged in several public expressions
of support for public education. On November 15, 1995, a press
conference was held at the PTA office in Lansing. After receiving
approval from their boards of directors, twenty-nine member organizations
agreed in writing to the following guiding benchmark for school
reform legislation, to be sent to all members of the legislature:
Public education funds must be used only for public schools.
school operating with public funds must be accountable to
The same legislative policies and rules that apply to public
schools must also apply to public school academies and charter
School reform must be based on accurate information and unbiased
January, 1996, the Task Force became autonomous and was no longer
a part of Council About Parochiaid (CAP). A Speakers Bureau was
formed, and the availability of speakers was publicized as widely
as possible among community groups, such as Lions Clubs, Rotary
Clubs, Older Persons Centers, and public library discussion groups.
In February, 1997, an informational brochure entitled, Why
Are Our Schools Under Attack? was printed by one of the
coalition member organizations. Copies were distributed throughout
the state, with instructions to duplicate the brochures, and share
them with others. The brochures contained some of the common myths
used to disparage public education, such as, “Public schools
in the U.S. are failures.” The erroneous statements were
followed by specific facts that refuted the myths.
Task Force has had many guest speakers of renown in the educational
community in the state of Michigan. Among them are: Herb Moyer
from the State Board of Education speaking on “What’s
Right With Public Education?”; Kathleen Straus,
President of the State Board of Education speaking on “Public
Funds for Public Schools”; Russ Bellant author
of The Religious Right in Michigan Politics,
on the influence of special interest groups on decisions made
about public education; Nelson Maylone, professor in the School
of Education at Eastern Michigan University, who has published
his research on the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP);
and Don Wotruba, Director, Legislative Affairs, Michigan Association
of School Boards, who gave a presentation on School Finance
In April, 1998, an informational brochure entitled Vouchers/Tuition
Tax Credits: Why They Don’t Work, was published
by MPETF. Copies of the brochure were distributed widely throughout
the state in an effort to educate the public about the dangers
inherent in the proposed voucher plan. In 1999-2000, the MPETF
focused its attention on support of ALL Kids First!
in order to oppose the November 2000 ballot proposal to change
Michigan’s constitution to allow public monies to be used
for private and parochial schools. The Task Force coalition was
instrumental in informing members of the organizations affiliated
with MPETF about the voucher issue in a variety of ways: through
organizational publications, distributing anti-voucher brochures,
and speaking to community groups. In addition, organizations and
individuals were encouraged to support ALL Kids First!
through efforts to raise funds for the campaign. When Proposal
1 was soundly defeated in November, 2000, it was a victory for
MPETF, as well as the other broad-based, grassroots, statewide
organizations that spearheaded the anti-voucher movement. In 2001,
the Task Force looked at what makes a “good” school,
and explored ways to get this information out to the media and
school districts across the state. Some members testified at the
state senate education hearings in February.
In April, 2002, Charter Schools in Michigan: The Report of the Commission on Charter Schools
to the Michigan Legislature, was published. The subject of the
proliferation of charter schools has been an ongoing concern for
MPETF, particularly the issue of accountability. In 1993, a revision
of the funding of public education was instituted by the Michigan
legislature, following the adoption of Proposal A. Each student
enrolled in a public school was entitled to a “foundation
allowance” used by the public school to provide for the
students’ education. At about the same time, the legislature
also began developing laws to permit choice within the public
school system. Both inter-district choice and charter schools
are elements of the legislatively mandated school choice. In addition,
magnet schools and other programs have added to the choices parents
and students can make within the public school system. According
to the aforementioned Charter Schools in Michigan Report,
“The number of students in charter schools has grown to
64,510, or about 3 percent of the K-12 students. There is a significant
concentration of charter school students in urban areas, but charter
schools are distributed geographically throughout Michigan.”
For more information about this report, go to the website.
In 2003, the Task Force focused on promoting and supporting public
education by concentrating on three major areas of concern. They
school oversight and accountability led by Mary Wood who has
done extensive research into the private managers of charter
schools and the fees obtained by Central Michigan University
as administrator of charter schools.
The issues related to the implementation of No Child Left
Behind (NCLB) that included a videotape on standardized testing
presented by the Fair Test Organization.
The pitfalls of The Reading First Program as a mandated method
of reading instruction, presented by Connie Weaver, professor
of English at Western Michigan University.
2004, the issues of charter school accountability and the impact
of increased testing as part of the requirements for No Child
Left Behind continued to dominate the attention of the Task Force.
The number of charter schools chartered by universities has reached
the cap set by the state legislature. Bay Mills, a community college
operated by Native Americans, has a statewide jurisdiction, and
is therefore, in the process of chartering a number of schools
throughout the state. Many of the charter schools are managed
by for-profit management companies, which raise the following
What is the quality of education provided by charter schools?
is the financial accountability for the use of public funds?
Where is the public disclosure of the administration of the
private management companies?
What is the impact on revenues that would otherwise be going
to public school districts?
September, 2004, several members of the MPETF made formal presentations
to the State Board of Education outlining the concerns of the
Task Force, particularly the lack of accountability and oversight
of Public School Academies. In the spring of 2005, a decision
was made to restructure MPETF by creating and approving a Constitution
and Bylaws. A Board of Directors was elected, consisting of an
Executive Committee and four At-Large Directors. The Executive
Committee includes the Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
Fran Anderson was the first elected Chair of the reformed organization.
As an outgrowth of her MPETF involvement, in 2005, Mary Wood established
an organization called Michigan Alliance For Charter School Reform
(MACSR), and became its Executive Director. MACSR
has a website which was formed for the purpose of raising public
awareness about the lack of accountability and oversight given
to charter schools by their local boards, by the authorizers of
charter schools, and by the Department of Education.
In February 2007, the Task Force chose to rename the organization
Michigan For Public Education (MFPE). Although sharing the goals
and beliefs of the former Task Force, MFPE was deemed a more appropriate
name for the group as it moved to increase its membership and
continue its support of public education in Michigan.