This Week & Next (Mar 11, 2016)

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Senate Education Committee takes up K-3 reading bill
HB 4822, the K-3 Reading bill, had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, Chaired by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township). The bill sponsor, Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township) testified with John Kennedy, Chair of the Gov. Rick Snyder’s Third Grade Reading Task Force, on the key features of the bill, which will increase third-grade reading proficiency by focusing on early and annual assessments, parental involvement and targeted interventions for struggling readers.  Among a number of interest groups, GLEP’s Gary Naeyaert testified this week, supporting the bill and requesting both

reporting requirements and some changes to improve parental and local school involvement in the process. The committee is scheduled to continue working on the bill on Tuesday, March 15. Click here to read the entire S-3 version of the bill.

DPS reform bills get more time in the House Appropriations Committee
The full House Appropriations Committee held three additional hearings this past week focusing on the “Putting Students First” 6-bill package of Detroit education reform bills. Testifying on Monday was Mayor Duggan, who snake-charmed committee members by claiming he doesn’t want to actually operate schools (which is hard) but is anxious to control which schools open, which ones close and where each school is located (defacto control of the entire education marketplace).  During Wednesday morning’s hearing Judge Stephen Rhodes, the new Transition/Emergency Manager for DPS, said April 8 will be the final funded payday for teachers and staff if the legislature doesn’t come up with additional funding for the district. In the afternoon, Wayne RESA Superintendent Randy Liepa testified in support of the DPS bailout legislation.

GLEP believes there is growing agreement on the following key issues:

  • Splitting the district in two, with DPS paying off their $515 million in operational debt (not at the cost of other schools via the School Aid Fund);
  • Creating a “new” traditional public school district in the city, with an elected board and finances under the supervision of the Financial Review Commission; and
  • Empowering the State Reform Office to intervene in poor performing traditional and charter schools in Detroit and the rest of the state.

Beyond that, there doesn’t appear to be much agreement on creating the “Detroit Education Commission” to control school choice and a host of other issues. GLEP continues to engage in order to protect school choice for students and parents. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to hold another (hopefully final) DPS hearing next Wednesday at 9 am.

Senate DPS negotiations at an impasse?
The Senate Government Operations Committee was scheduled to meet again on Tuesday afternoon, but that hearing was abruptly cancelled after a long internal caucus meeting – which included discussion of a new “phantom” substitute of SB 710 put forth by Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart), the primary sponsor.  While this was a private caucus meeting, it appears there is not yet enough votes to move the bill in Committee and/or the floor. GLEP was discouraged to hear that the “Detroit Education Commission” language was reportedly back into the Senate bills, but we’re glad the bill didn’t come up for a vote this week. Despite numerous attempts to attract Democratic votes for the bill, Senate Democrats appear to be adding to their long list of demands, including a cap on charter schools in Detroit. It is unclear when the Senate Government Relations Committee will meet next, but there are only 2 weeks of session remaining before the 2-week “in district work period” scheduled for late March and early April.

School Aid Subcommittee plugging along on the FY ’17 School Aid Budget                       
On Tuesday this week, the House School Aid Subcommittee continued hearing presentations from various stakeholders at it relates to Governor Snyder’s proposed $14 billion School Aid Budget for the state in FY 2016-17. The School Aid Subcommittee heard about STEM programs, Innovative Schools and CTE programs. Click here to download a side-by-side comparison of the FY ’15 and FY ’16 budgets with the Executive Recommendation for FY ’17 (courtesy of The Governor Engler Center for Charter Schools at CMU). Next week, GLEP is expected to testify in both the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on the FY ’17 school year, with an emphasis on reaching greater equity in the per-pupil foundation grant and addressing MPSERS.

Rhodes names Meriweather as DPS Supt
On Monday, DPS Emergency/Turnaround Manager Stephen Rhodes named Alycia Meriweather, the district’s executive director of curriculum, as interim Superintendent for DPS. She takes the reins just weeks before the district is expected to run out of money, and as lawmakers debate controversial plans to provide an additional $715 million in funding to pay off the district’s debt. The new interim superintendent for Detroit Public Schools has a key advantage:  The backing of the teachers union at a crucial time in the district’s history and amid a tumultuous relationship between the union and the district. Meriweather is a former teacher in the district, lives in the city and is a DPS graduate.

CMU Charter School Office Gets Accredited
The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University has completed a rigorous accreditation process and has been recommended for accreditation by AdvancED, one of the world’s leading third-party accreditation organizations.  An external review team of trained individuals from across the country visited the Center for an extensive, three-day onsite review of the Center’s authorizing practices in comparison to the AdvancED Accreditation Standard, which include at least the following:

  • increasing transparency by requiring charter contracts to be posted online;
  • prohibiting the practice of “authorizer shopping”;
  • preventing conflicts of interest on charter school boards; and
  • ensuring intervention in low performing schools.

CMU joins GVSU as the only independently accredited authorizers in Michigan.

Judge Cancels Hearing Against Steve Conn
There was an evidentiary hearing scheduled on March 7 in the DPS vs. Steve Conn & Nicole Conaway hearing, as these two were the primary instigators of the sick-out strikes.  DPS continues to seek injunctive relief for these sick-outs, which caused the loss of 718,000 learning hours during January. Judge Stephens, appointed by Governor Granholm, had previously denied DPS’s petition for a temporary injunction against the strikers and removed a number of potential defendants from the case. This week she cancelled the hearing, and we wouldn’t be surprised if she simply dismissed the case without any fanfare. Is this justice!?

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, March 14

Tuesday, March 15

  • House School Aid Subcommittee, 10:30 am
  • Senate Education Committee, re: HB 4822 (K-3 Reading), 12 pm
  • Senate Government Operations Committee re: DPS bills, 1:30 pm (TENTATIVE)

Wednesday, March 16

  • Senate School Aid Subcommittee, 8:30 am
  • House Appropriations Committee re: DPS bills, 9:00 am
  • House MDE Subcommittee, 10:30 am

Thursday, March 17

  • House Education Committee, 9 am

Friday, March 18



Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director