This Week & Next (Apr 15, 2016)

Speaker Cotter Agrees with GLEP on DPS & K-3 Reading
House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) said yesterday he doesn’t envision the House approving the Detroit Education Commission as currently outlined in Senate DPS bills because he’s concerned there’s an incentive to treat charter schools unfairly in the process. Cotter said he is having conversations on a DPS plan, and while he understands the need for a body to decide the location of some schools, he opposes the Senate version. He said under the bills, DPS would be working to get out from state oversight, and the commission may have some incentive to close charter schools to get those students – and their foundation allowances – into the DPS system. “I get the concept as far as to have some central body or organization to be able to make decisions as to where schools are located and which schools are open, and I get that,” he told reporters after House session. “However my concern about the DEC as currently written is there is a – maybe unintended – but I think there is a bit of an incentive for charters to not be treated fairly in that decision-making process.”Mr. Cotter said he would like to spend time on HB 4822, the third grade reading bill that currently sits in a conference committee, Mr. Cotter said he expects a hearing in the coming weeks. “I would like to see this get done even before the DPS package,” he said. “I think we can get there. I think the most important part of this package is the issue of early interventions, and both the House and Senate version would provide those interventions, so I think that’s a win.” He said the main question now concerns retention, and he said there needs to be a strict requirement on retention for the legislation to work. – Courtesy of Gongwer News Service

“Kids would be better off without DPS” says Rep. Tim Kelly in the Detroit News
Isn’t about time we face facts? There simply are no fixes big enough to save Detroit Public Schools. These facts are stubborn things, folks. Haven’t we learned from decades of graft, corruption and dishonest adults feeding off the futures of the state’s most vulnerable kids that DPS is a financial train wreck? DPS also continues to prove they are the worst-performing urban school district in the country. How many years of coming in dead last for student performance do we need to confirm that DPS is beyond repair, academically? It has become increasingly obvious that students in Detroit would be better off if DPS simply went away. Replacing the district with a “new” district, where the only thing that really changes is the logo and the letterhead, isn’t progress. Click here to read Rep. Kelly’s full guest viewpoint.

GLEP’s Gary Naeyaert and Stephen Henderson Spar on DPS Reform
On Wednesday morning, GLEP’s Gary Naeyaert appeared on the “Detroit Today” radio show on WDET 101.9 FM, hosted by Stephen Henderson, Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press. The topic was DPS reform legislation, and the discussion started out lively and remained fairly animated throughout the full 30 minutes. The essential question addressed was whether DPS should continue to exist in Detroit, given their history of performance. Naeyaert pointed out that charter performance was marginally better than DPS, pushing the narrative that DPS has forfeited it’s right to education students due to poor academic and financial performance over the years. Click here to listen to the full interview.

School Aid Budgets Sail Through Full Appropriations Committees
On Wednesday morning this week the House Appropriations Committee passed HB 5291,, the omnibus education budget for FY ’17, which includes $14 billion for K-12 education. The bill wasn’t changed from the version passed by the subcommittee, which now goes to the full House.  On Thursday afternoon the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 796, the FY ’17 School Aid Budget. Noticeable changes from the version passed by the subcommittee includes $5 million for the State Reform Office and $5 million earmark to reimburse private schools for health and safety mandates from the state. This bill now goes to the full Senate. It is expected that final budgets will be passed after the Revenue Estimating Conferences on May 15. Under Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature, annual budgets have typically been completed by July 1st, well before the start of the state fiscal year on October 1.

Legislative Committee Update
On Tuesday the Senate Education Committee heard a presentation from Mike Petrilli, President of the Fordham Foundation, on the issue of school turnarounds (see next story). Petrilli noted that students “rescued” from chronically-failing schools usually experience up to 50 additional days of learning per year once they’ve been moved into a higher performing school. In the afternoon the Senate Ed Committee passed a number of bills to eliminate obsolete reporting requirements for public schools.  On Thursday the House Education Committee took extensive testimony, including an appearance from Lt. Governor Brian Calley, on a package of bills to promote the use of positive behavior strategies rather than seclusion and restraint in K-12 classrooms.

Are School Turnarounds a Myth?
Much of the discussion in the debate over DPS reform focuses on improving the quality of the poorest performing schools in the state. The issue of school improvement efforts, especially the question of whether school “turnarounds” even work, is a vibrant discussion in K-12 education today. GLEP doesn’t claim to have the answers here, but the following are a variety of recent publications to indicate the difficulties and lack of consensus on how to address chronically failing schools. This issue will continue to be raised as we review the work of the State Reform Office in a post-NCLB environment.

Vergara decision overturned
A California appeals court ruled yesterday that the state’s job protections for teachers do not deprive poor and minority students of a quality education or violate their civil rights — The decision put a road block — at least temporarily — in front of a national movement to challenge entrenched protections for teachers, championed by their unions. The plaintiffs in the case — Vergara v. California — said they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

DPS vs. Steve Conn hearing set for May 16
The twice-postponed hearing in the case of DPS vs. Steve Conn, which focuses on the massive teacher “sick out” strikes that closed over 80% of all Detroit Public School buildings, has been rescheduled for 12 pm on May 16 by Judge Cynthia Stephens.  Click here to read the legal notice. It seems clear to us Mr. Conn engaged in activity that promoted an illegal work stoppage, and DPS is entitled to some relief. Stay Tuned!!

GLEP candidate questionnaire available online
All 110 members of the State House of Representative are up for election this fall, and there are 40 open seats in what will be a high-turnout Presidential year election cycle. If you know someone running for State Representative this year,click here to access the GLEP candidate questionnaire. Candidates are only considered for endorsement by GLEP if they return the questionnaire, and the early submission deadline is April 15.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, April 18

Tuesday, April 19

  • Senate Education Committee, 9:00 am w/Randy Liepa, Wayne RESA; Mike DeVault, Macomb ISD, on failing schools
  • Senate Education Committee, 12:00 pm, Repeal Common Core; Genocide education
  • 1:1 meetings with key legislators to discuss DPS reform

Wednesday, April 20

  • Joint House Education and School Aid Subcommittee, 8 am re: Student Assessments
  • 1:1 meetings with key legislators to discuss DPS reform

Thursday, April 21

  • House Education Committee
  • 1:1 meetings with key legislators to discuss DPS reform

Friday, April 22

  • Earth Day

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please considermaking a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director