This Week & Next (Mar 28, 2014)

Michigan Voters Support 3rd Grade Reading
We were pleased to release survey data this week which confirms that 80% of Michigan voters support the early literacy improvement plan contained in a bi-partisan bill package pending in the legislature. The bills are HB 5111, sponsored by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Holland) and HB 5144, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Stallworth III (D-Detroit). Other groups joining GLEP in support of these bills include the Capital Area Literacy Coalition, MAPSA, Detroit Regional Chamber, The Council of Michigan Authorizers, Americans for Prosperity, and Democrats for Education Reform-Michigan. We are working hard to get these bills, which passed in the House Education Committee, voted on in the full House of Representatives and sent to the Senate before the legislature breaks for the summer recess.

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House Subcommittee Passes K-12 Budget, Uses 2x Equity Formula to Address Equity
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School passed out HB 5310, which is the $13.8 billion FY ’15 School Aid Budget. It is significant that this version of the budget invests a $141 million increase in the foundation grant via the 2x equity formula, which would result in an increase of $56-$112 per pupil when compared to the current year. This budget now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee. Click here for more information on the House and Senate Subcommittee versions of the FY ’15 School Aid Budget proposals, including district-by-district funding estimates.

Supplemental School Aid Budget Passed
In addition to working on next year’s school aid budget, the legislature completed work yesterday on HB 4295, which is a SUPPLEMENTAL school aid budget for FY ’14, the current fiscal year. Highlights of this bill include the following:

    • $51.7 million in a new federal “Early Learning Challenge Grant” for the state (wouldn’t it be great if this money was used to improve 3rd grade reading proficiency?);
    • $5.0 million for dissolved district transition costs;
    • $3.9 million for information technology opportunities in high schools and community colleges;
    • $2.0 million in competitive grants for at-risk districts for necessary modifications (i.e. air conditioning) to instructional facilities preparing for the operation of a year-round instructional program;
    • $2.0 million to strict discipline academies (SDAs) to pay for the portion of time students are educated at the academies after the spring count day; and
    • $250,000 to increase the number of low-income pupils who participate and succeed in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.

Kudos to Ottawa ISD and Van Andel Institute
We love it when traditional school districts offer innovative programs for kids. And that’s what happening for about 17,500 students in eight local school districts in a new partnership between 150 teachers in a partnership initiated last year between the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and the Van Andel Education Institute’s Science Academy. The program, is described as transforming science instruction for approximately 17,500 students in eight school districts. The idea is to teach lessons in a way that gets students excited about the learning process. Click here to read more about it.

DeVos Foundation pledges $225,000 to Grand Rapids Public Schools
It was great to read that The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation has pledged $225,000 to Grand Rapids Schools over three years to help acquire an environmental guru to work with the district on energy efficiency, environment and education. To those critics who never let the facts get in the way of their constant drumbeat that everyone named DeVos is out to eliminate public education, this one’s for you!

School Choice News from Other States

    • Score One For Arizona Parents: The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the state’s Education Savings Accounts program, which allows parents to spend what would have been the majority of their child’s per-student funding allotment from the state on schools of their choice.  Click here for more.
    •  “Let’s Make A Deal” on Massachusetts Charters: Consensus on a bill that would allow for charter school expansion in Massachusetts remained elusive this past week, with charter advocates saying a compromise offered up by several lawmakers would hold the schools “hostage” to state budget decisions. As of yesterday, the issue was still being debated heavily. We hope the legislature will put kids first here and support the expansion.
    • Tennessee Expands Charter Authorizing: SB 830, a bill giving the State Board of Education additional authority and final say over charter school authorization in the largest Tennessee counties has passed in the legislature and is on the way to Governor Haslam, who is expected to sign it into law.

MEA Leaders Impersonate “Chicken Little” (Again!)
In what appears to be the only argument in the MEA/DEM/Schauer campaign attack playbook for 2014, MEA President Steve Cook is at it again — claiming the state’s investment in K-12 education has plummeted under Governor Snyder and the Republicans. In fact, his latest claim is that Wayne Westland schools have LOST $40 million dollars in recent years.  However, when fact-checked, the Mackinac Center points out the number crunchers from the Wayne-Westland Community School District can’t recreate the MEA’s math, and instead acknowledge that state funding has been on the rise under Governor Snyder, to the tune of a $12 million INCREASE for the district. It must be a campaign year, eh?

Want to be Endorsed?
Please click here if you’re a candidate for State Senate or State House and would like to be considered for an endorsement from GLEP in the 2014 election cycle.


Next Week

The Michigan Legislature will not be in session (it’s called an “in district work period”) for the next three weeks (March 31-April 18), and we’ll return to adding calendar items when they return.

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

That’s it for this week! Until next week, keep fighting for kids!!

Respectfully,
Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director
517-281-2690