The Nerd vs. Chicken Little!! Kicking off this week it was great to see Governor Snyder address the orchestrated mis-information campaign regarding K-12 funding in the state. Here’s the AP article that made the rounds. You would think something as important as the state’s investment in K-12 education wouldn’t be subject to so many multiple interpretations. ICYMI: Check out our recent “Campaign Year Fuzzy Math” post in the MichEd Blog post for bit more information. The truth is that overall spending by the state for K-12 education has been on the increase under Governor Snyder. It’s true the per-pupil foundation grant isn’t been growing as strongly since the bulk of the increases in the School Aid Fund have been used to shore up the state’s teacher retirement program – made necessary when districts were recently capped at putting 25% of their payroll into MPSERS.
Since this week is “National School Choice Week”, check out a guest viewpoint from Governor Jeb Bush, Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and this very thoughtful column from Paul Long from the Michigan Catholic Conference on the need for full choice right here in Michigan. GLEP is confident this debate will continue to heat up!!
On Tuesday, Jan 28, GLEP participated in a Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards meeting of education stakeholder groups, where we discussed current issues with Dick Posthumus, Legislative Director for Governor Snyder and top MDE officials. GLEP continues to support implementation of a computer adaptive assessment which measures individual student growth and is aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Use of this type of “next generation” testing model will provide deeper and richer data from which we can improve classroom instruction and evaluate the performance of students, teachers and schools.
Despite the fact that yet another study (this one from the respected Annie E. Casey Foundation) has been released which confirms that 81% of low income 4th graders in Michigan aren’t reading proficiently, we’re still getting pushback from many legislators (who are getting an earful from traditional school groups) in opposition to bills we’re supporting to improve Early Literacy. Go figure.
The House Education Committee held another hearing Wed, Jan 29 on HB 5223 (O’Brien), the teacher evaluation bill, where the Michigan Education Association testified in support of the bills. Given our concerns that this bill could negatively recent impact teacher tenure reforms, do we really need to know anything more about these bills? A Detroit News editorial this week warns lawmakers to reach the proper balance here. You might also want to check out this provocative editorial in the LA Times on teacher tenure.
Last night I was honored to moderate a panel discussion at a screening of the latest education reform documentary (The Ticket) with filmmaker Bob Bowdon, Clark Durant and JC Huizenga. It was a great crowd and a lively discussion transpired on a variety of education choice issues. Kudos to the Mackinac Center and the Michigan Opportunity Society for hosting this National School Choice Week event. Please click here to see the trailer for this movie.
The biggest event next week will be Governor Snyder and Budget Director John Nixon presenting the recommended FY ’15 state budget at 11:00 am on Wed, Feb 5. All eyes and ears will be focused on this presentation, which serves as the starting point for negotiating next year’s overall state budget. On Thu, Feb 6, the House and Senate K-12/School Aid Appropriations Subcommittees will take a deeper dive on the Governor’s recommended FY ’15 School Aid Budget. Stay tuned for information here, and in the meantime check out this column pointing out what a consistently “broken record” our friends in the teachers’ unions have been on the “crisis” over school funding in the past few decades.
On Wednesday, February 5, we can look forward to the second joint hearing of the Senate and House K-12 policy and appropriations committees to examine which student assessment should be used in Michigan. MDE testified at the last hearing, from their recent report, that the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the most likely option for the 2014-2015 school year, but that the state may issue an RFP for the 2015-2016 year and beyond. Click here to learn more about the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
If you want to keep track of key bills in the legislature, but also want a simple iPhone app that not only alerts you about select votes of importance but provides an incredibly easy way to give feedback to your legislator, please download VoteSpotter from the iTunes store. This app, from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, has just been made available TODAY and it should be a game-changer!
If you’re a candidate for State Senate or State Representative, or you know a candidate who cares about K-12 education issues in Michigan, please email us at [email protected] to get instructions on filling out our 2014 Candidate Questionnaire. Candidates must fill out our questionnaire in order to be considered for an endorsement, and our initial deadline is March 1, 2014.
That’s it for “This Week & Next.” Let’s keep putting kids first!!
Gary G. Naeyaert, Executive Director