This Week & Next (Mar 25, 2016)

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K-3 Reading bill passes in Senate, House sends it to Conference Committee
On Tuesday, HB 4822, the K-3 Reading bill, was voted out of the Senate Education Committee on a 4-1 vote and was subsequently passed in the full Senate on a 31-6 vote on Wednesday. While we appreciate the quick work in the Senate, the bill was modified to allow 3rd graders who still read at a 1st grade level to be promoted to 4th grade if so requested by a parent, teacher, principal or superintendent. Given these changes, the House of Representatives voted yesterday (59-49) not to concur with the changes in the Senate-passed version, which sends the bill to a House-Senate Conference Committee for additional negotiation. The goal of the bill is to increase third-grade reading proficiency by focusing on early annual assessments, parental involvement and targeted interventions for struggling readers.

House conferees are Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant), Speaker of the House; Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township); Chair of the House Education Committee; and Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), Vice-Chair of the House Education Committee; and Senate conferees are expected to be Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), Chair of the Senate Education Committee; Sen. Geoff Hanson (R-Hart), Chair of the School Aid Subcommittee; and Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn); Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee. The conference committee will begin work on the bill when the legislature returns on April 12. A report of the conference committee would need to be voted on by both chambers.  Passage of HB 4822, in a manner that will lead to increased K-3 reading proficiency, is GLEP’s highest policy priority in the legislature.

Senate Passes $715 Million DPS Bailout that limits school choice
On Tuesday, by an extremely close vote of 21-16, the Senate passed SB 710 (Hansen), the key bill in the $715 million taxpayer-funded bailout of the Detroit Public Schools. Five other bills in the DPS rescue passage were also passed. These bills effectively retire DPS while the district’s $515 million operational debt is paid over time and $200-300 million in “seed money” is provided to the newly-created traditional public school district that will have responsibility for educating students (Detroit Community Schools). These bills will automatically close charter public schools that have one bad year while DPS schools that consistently fail won’t be touched. These bills also create the Detroit Education Commission, which effectively puts Mayor Duggan in complete control over which schools open, which schools close, and where every school is located in the city – without holding the Mayor responsible for school performance. GLEP is concerned the DEC would be required by law to put the interests of the traditional school district above charter schools and parental choice, and the Detroit News agrees with us. Our analysis is that this bill amounts a 10-year ban on new charter school operators in Detroit. GLEP continues to engage legislators in efforts to protect school choice and uniformly address failing traditional and charter public schools. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to continue working on the DPS reform bills when they return from a two-week legislative recess on April 12.

Senate Passes $50 million “mini-bailout” for DPS; Governor to Sign
In order for DPS to avoid completely running out cash in April, the State Senate agreed with the House of Representatives yesterday and passed both HB 5296 (Pscholka) and HB 5385 (Poleski). HB 5296 is a FY ’16 supplemental appropriations bill which provides $50 million to cash-strapped DPS, which means the district will be able to finish the current school year. HB 5385 extends the responsibility of the Detroit Financial Review Commission to include supervising the finances for DPS once the EM is gone. The Detroit Free Press published a concise breakdown of the financial aspects of the DPS rescue which covers the key points here. As you likely know, the legislature continues to work on a long-term financial bailout of DPS.

FY ’17 School Aid Budgets Approved in both Senate and House Subcommittees                         
The House and Senate Appropriations School Aid Subcommittees both approved their versions of the $14 billion FY ’17 School Aid Budget this week, moving them to their respective full Appropriations Committees for action after the spring recess. Click here for a side-by-side comparison of the two budgets, courtesy of the Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at CMU. Neither chamber’s budget deviated much from Governor Snyder’s Executive Recommendation, key components of both budgets include the following:

  • Foundation Grant: Both budgets increase the Minimum foundation grant by $120 to $7,511 per pupil and the Maximum foundation grant by $60 to $8,229 per pupil, using the 2x formula and lowering the funding equity gap to $718 per pupil.
  • MPSERS: Both budgets increase the “off the top” cost of unpaid liability in the teacher retirement fund to $1.08 billion (that’s B as in ‘Billion,’ folks).
  • At Risk/K-3 Reading: Both budgets continue $379 million of “at risk” funding and $24 million in targeted investments to improve 3rd grade reading proficiency.
  • State Reform Office: Neither budget includes the Governor’s recommended $5 million to be used by the SRO to assist academically-failing districts.
  • Teacher Evaluations: Neither budget includes the Governor’s recommended $10 million to fund teacher evaluation training, since the funds in this line item for the current year haven’t been spent.
  • Assessments: The House version removes M-STEP, MME and SAT as the state’s standardized student assessments, preferring a computer adaptive test.

While there is generally very little to report on the annual budget for the Michigan Department of Education, on Wednesday Rep. Phil Potvin (R-Cadillac), Chair of the MDE Budget Subcommittee, was successful in stripping $59,000 earmarked for travel expenses and per diem payments for members of the State Board of Education.If this budget gets adopted, we assume SBE President John Austin will have to fund his political campaign expenses from campaign contributions rather than on the backs of taxpayers. So there’s that.

Detroit Promise to Provide Free Community College for all Students
Every student who graduates from any high school in Detroit — public, private or charter — is now being promised two years of funding for community college tuition.
The Detroit Promise will initially be funded by private donations through the Detroit Regional Chamber, and then will be supplemented by Detroit property tax captures. Students will be able to attend Wayne County Community College, Macomb Community College, Oakland Community College, Henry Ford Community College or Schoolcraft Community College, tuition-free. Click here for more information.

GLEP 2016 Candidate Questionnaire now available
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, the GLEP candidate questionnaire is now available.  E-mail notification has been sent to all filed candidates, but if a candidate hasn’t yet filed to run, they should email Beth DeShone, GLEP Advocacy Director, and request our questionnaire. Candidates are only considered for endorsement by GLEP if they return the questionnaire, and the submission deadline is April 15.

60 Minutes looks at St. Benedict’s Prep
Scott Pelley and CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a profile of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey on March 20. The school motto is “Whatever hurts my brother hurts me” and their graduation rate is 98 percent. You really owe it to yourself to take a look at this unique school, and then ask why can’t this work in Detroit?


Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, March 28

Tuesday, March 29

  • House and Senate on Spring Recess

Wednesday, March 30

  • House and Senate on Spring Recess

Thursday, March 31

  • House and Senate on Spring Recess

Friday, April 1

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!!

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director