This Week & Next (Apr 1, 2016)

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Key Issues in K-3 Reading Bill
Michigan’s K-3 Reading bill (HB 4822) has been referred to a joint House-Senate conference committee for additional negotiations. The bill is a comprehensive approach to early literacy that focuses on annual assessments, targeted interventions, and parental involvement for struggling readers.  Conference committee members are Representatives Kevin Cotter, Amanda Price and Adam Zemke; and Senators Phil Pavlov, Geoff Hanson and David Knezek.  Once this committee develops a final bill, it will be voted up or down by both legislative chambers. From GLEP’s perspective, there are four key issues to be addressed in the conference:

  • Targeting the right students:  We must confirm which students will receive reading interventions and which will be candidates for potential retention. GLEP recommends focusing any potential retention options for students scoring “not proficient” in ELA.
  • Smart Promotion: It must be decided whether 3rd grade students non-proficient in Reading but proficient in Math should repeat 3rd grade but recRT - KidsReadingeive 4th grade Math instruction or should they be promoted to 4th grade but receive 3rd grade Reading instruction. GLEP recommends this decision be left to the district.
  • Parental Involvement: The bill’s good cause exemptions shouldn’t be expanded to include simple retention overrides that reduce the impact of the bill. GLEP recommends removing the “no cause” exemptions and include a parentally-requested review panel to make the final retention decision for their student.
  • Reporting Requirement: It will be difficult to monitor progress and analyze results for K-3 literacy initiatives across the state without a reporting requirement. GLEP recommends annual reports that include all data on all 12 outcomes for 3rd graders.

Given that only 50% of Michigan’s 3rd graders are proficient readers, GLEP’s highest policy priority remains passage of a comprehensive K-3 Reading bill that will result in increased reading proficiency across the state. Click here for a background story from Bridge magazine.

DPS Reform Bills – A Senate-House Comparison
The top education issue facing the legislature is how to address the academic and financial failure of Detroit Public Schools, the state’s largest school district.  Prior to the current legislative recess, the Senate passed SB 710 (Hansen) and five other bills, while the House is still taking testimony on HB 5384 (Garcia) and other bills. There are a number of similarities between the approaches taken by each of the two chambers, along with some significant policy differences.

Primary areas of agreement between the Senate and the House bills:

  • Retire DPS and use local property taxes to retire $515 million in operational debt;
  • Create a new traditional district (Detroit Community Schools) with a locally-elected board of directors under the supervision by the Financial Review Commission; and
  • Empower the State Reform Office to intervene in failing schools in the city.

Primary areas of disagreement include:

  • How much “seed money”, if any, will be provided to the Detroit Community Schools;
  • The need for, and the responsibilities of, the Detroit Education Commission;
  • The role of the State Reform Office and which interventions will be used with traditional public and charter public schools; and
  • Additional financial and academic reforms either in Detroit or statewide

For additional details, click here for an MLIVE article comparing the Senate and House bills.  GLEP continues to engage legislators in efforts to protect school choice and uniformly address failing traditional and charter public schools.

FBI arrests 14 in DPS scheme to steal $2.7 million from kids
In its latest crackdown on school corruption in Detroit, the federal government on Wednesday dropped a legal bomb on 12 current and former principals, one administrator and a vendor — all of them charged with running a nearly $1-million bribery and kickback scheme involving school supplies that were rarely ever delivered. At the heart of the alleged scheme is businessman Norman Shy, 74, of Franklin, who secretly did this for 13 years, scamming school after school to the tune of $2.7 million with the help of principals who benefited along the way. The news of the corruption case comes at a critical time as the state grapples with fixing the finances of the struggling Detroit district. Click here to read more from the Detroit Free Press, here for the MLive story, and here from the Detroit News.

Governor creates “21st Century Education Commission
On Wednesday, Governor Rick Snyder signed Executive Order 2016-6, which creates the21st Century Education Commission, with the goal to recommend the complete overhaul of the state’s public education system, including structure, governance, funding and accountability, with a focus on improving student achievement. We’ll be better able to identify the likely priorities of the commission when the Governor makes his list of 16 voting member appointees available to the public. The commission will have 5 voting members appointed by each of the four legislative leaders and the President of the State Board of Education, while the 4 non-voting members include the Superintendent of Public Instruction; the State Treasurer, the Director of the State Budget Office and the Director of the Talent Investment Agency. We’ll have more on all 25 members once they’ve been announced. The commission’s final report is to be delivered by November 30, 2016, and it is unclear how this group’s work is meant to interact with the “Top Ten in Ten” project spearheaded by Supt. Whiston, as well as the Education Funding to be released this year (see below), and the legislature’s current debate over education reform in Detroit. GLEP wonders how many cooks can actually fit in this kitchen?

Education Funding Study Delayed
A much-maligned and controversial education funding adequacy study was not submitted by yesterday’s legislative deadline. The goal of the study, being conducted by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA), is to determine specifically how much it should cost to bring all Michigan students to proficiency on state assessments. Critics of these adequacy studies (including GLEP) assert these studies always suggest the state spend more on education, and these studies often lead to lawsuits to force states to increase education spending. Despite the fact School_Funding.3that SB 423 from last session required the study to be completed by March 31, 2016, officials at Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) granted APA’s request to extend the deadline until May 13, 2016. We’re not sure these state bureaucrats have the authority to simply ignore state law – but we’re picky that way. We wonder if the legislature should consider halting funding for this project due to breach of contract by APA?

DPS balks at joining ESD’s common enrollment system – for now
Excellent Schools Detroit launched a new common application and enrollment program today intended to help families enroll in Detroit schools— but so far Detroit Public Schools is not participating. Enroll Detroit is available online and at six local Ed Centers, which will offer a streamlined enrollment process for all participating K-12 schools and early learning programs in the city. DPS is expected to leave the decision on whether to join the program to their newly elected school board, assuming passage of the $715 million taxpayer funding bailout pending in the legislature. Click here to learn more about this program.

EAA proposes closing a school – but not for the right reasons
We almost had a heart attack when we read the headline “EAA Chancellor to recommend closing school” – as it would have been the first traditional public school in Michigan to be closed due to poor academic performance (80 charter public schools have been closed by their authorizer for poor performance over the years). You see, Phoenix Multicultural Academy was a failing DPS school when it was taken over by the EAA 3 years ago, and the school consistently ranks in the lowest performing 5% of public schools in the state (Percentile Rank: 2012: 1%; 2013; 0%; 2014: 0%). According to Veronica Conforme, Chancellor of the EAA, Phoenix Elementary is likely to close at the end of the year because their low enrollment makes the school financially unviable. So if the school was still making money, even though kids aren’t learning, it would have remained open? This is why we need the State Reform Office to intervene uniformly in our poorest-performing schools – both traditional public and charter public – on both sides of 8 Mile Road.

Ann Arbor non-profit is helping to narrow the achievement gap
Educators in Ann Arbor have been striving to close the achievement gap between black and white students and poor and middle-class students. The school was looking for help and the Community Action Network, or CAN, a nonprofit organization that offers stable housing for adults and educational programs for children who live in low-income Ann Arbor neighborhoods, stepped up to the plate.  CAN gives students the same support middle-class families can provide their children, such as Internet access or an adult to help them graduate. The Ann Arbor News reported that, in MEAP math and reading exams, black students are achieving proficiency rates that are 23 to 41 percentage points lower than their white peers. Five years ago, the gap was 33 to 44 percentage points. CAN is an example of an outside service organization that has stepped up to improve educational outcomes for K-12 students and is succeeding. Kudos all around here!! – courtesy of Matthew Lynch, The Edvocate

South Dakota becomes 24th State to Adopt Private School Choice
Last week, Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill into law that creates South Dakota’s first private school choice program – a tax credit scholarship program to serve low-income students. With the creation of the Partners in Education Tax Credit Program, South Dakota becomes the 24th state plus the District of Columbia to offer a private school choice program. The was introduced by State Senator Phyllis Heineman and championed by House Majority Leader Brian Gosch. The $2 million tax credit program will provide scholarships to low-income students.

The War on School Choice Isn’t Just in Michigan
Currently the 15th friendliest state for school choice, California’s educational establishment is fighting back. While the battle against charter schools continues to rage, the Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) has recently denied parents the right to a parent trigger option, throwing the law into jeopardy. The number of charter schools in California has grown from 177 in 1998 to 1,230 in 2015, and they have set a goal to enroll another million students by 2022 to meet the demand of growing waiting lists. Click here to read the full story.

SCOTUS reaches 4-4 tie on mandatory union dues case
Demonstrating the impact of Justice Scalia’s recent death and vacancy on the nation’s highest court, the United State Supreme Court Tuesday voted 4-4 to uphold mandatory union dues for teachers and other public employees, at least for the time being. Justices issued a short, unsigned opinion saying that the lower court’s opinion “is affirmed by an equally divided court.”  High court votes that end in a tie affirm the lower court’s ruling — in this case, the 9th Circuit’s finding that requiring public employees to pay at least a portion of union dues did not violate the First Amendment. Click here for the New York Times analysis.

GLEP candidate questionnaire deadline is April 15
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.

Key Education Advocacy Job Openings
GLEP has been asked to help publicize two very good job openings in the K-12 education sector.  Two national education organizations are looking for regional Government Relations professionals to represent them in a number of Midwest states. These are not entry-level positions, and please email Gary Naeyaert to learn more about these two unique opportunities.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, April 4

Tuesday, April 5

  • House and Senate on Spring Recess

Wednesday, April 6

  • House and Senate on Spring Recess

Thursday, April 7

  • House and Senate on Spring Recess

Friday, April 8

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