This Week & Next (2/17/17)

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Legislative subcommittees start FY ’18 school aid budget work
Both the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on School Aid held initial hearings this week to discuss the Governor’s proposed $14.3 billion School Aid Budget for FY ’18.  As mentioned last week, some of the key issues in the proposed budget are:

  • Increasing the minimum foundation grant by $100 to $7,611 per pupil and increasing the basic foundation grant by $50 to $8,279 per pupil, reducing the funding equity gap to $668 per pupil through the 2x formula;

  • A proposed cut of $1,500 per pupil for students enrolled in cyber charter schools (but no change for those enrolled in 100% online instruction via traditional public schools);
  • A $55 million cut in “shared services” which supports non-core instruction by public school teachers for non-public school students ($115 million was invested this year);
  • A $150 million increase for “at-risk” funding, bringing this categorical to $529 million, which is $220 million more than it was before last year (72% increase); and
  • $7 million to districts with declining enrollment, which runs counter to the principle that state education funds should follow the student.

On Tuesday The Detroit News ran a story focusing on House Chairman Tim Kelly’s opposition to some of the Governor’s ideas (Hooray!!).  Sen. Pavlov and Sen. Hansen also asked very pointed questions about the Governor’s proposed budget at their hearing on Wednesday.  GLEP will continue to push for a uniform foundation grant for all K-12 students in the state – regardless of grade level or school type – with additional funding provided for special needs and at-risk students. The appropriations subcommittees will continue hearings on the FY ‘18 School Aid Budget in the weeks ahead, and they are expected to conclude their respective work on the budget before the legislative Spring Recess in early April.

MDE seeks public comment on ESSA plan
After 18 months of stakeholder engagement efforts across the state, MDE has released the final/draft state plan for assessments and accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education law.  The department is seeking public comment on the plan through March 16, 2017.  Individuals and organizations are invited to submit comments via email to: [email protected].  Those without internet access, or Luddites, can use snail mail to submit comments to the following address: ESSA State Plan Comments, Michigan Department of Education, State Superintendent Office, P.O. Box 30008, Lansing, MI 48909MDE is requesting that comments reflecting the official position of a group or organization be provided on organization letterhead, indicating specific areas of support or concern with various aspects of the plan. MDE intends to submit the final plan to the U.S. Department of Education for review on April 3, 2017. As we’ve said before, GLEP believes that Superintendent Whiston, Senate Education Chair Phil Pavlov and House Education Reform Chair Tim Kelly should come to a clear understanding on the key features of the state’s school accountability plan and revisions to MCL 380.1280c prior to submission of the state’s ESSA plan to USED.

Senate Education Committee hears more about testing and accountability
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) held another hearing on the issue of school accountability. Guest presenter Dr. Yong Zhao, invited by SBE member Tom McMillin, gave an interesting presentation on the “dangers” of testing and accountability in public education. Next week, the committee will hear presentations on alternative accountability systems from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Hudsonville Public Schools and the Ottawa ISD.

House Education Reform Committee looks at A-F letter grading and ESSA
Yesterday the House Education Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township) had two presentations related to implementing ESSA, the new federal education law. The first presentation was from Christy Hovanetz from ExcelinEd, which focused on how to integrate A-F letter grading with ESSA. The second presentation was from MDE’s Vanessa Keesler, on the department’s “final draft” plan for ESSA implementation, which is now available for public comment (see story above).

Half of DPS schools earn failing grades in Excellent Schools Detroit Scorecard
Excellent Schools Detroit (ESD) released their Annual Scorecard for K-8 schools serving Detroit students yesterday. The ESD ratings are based on proficiency (40%); growth (40%); and School Climate (20%).  While NO schools earned an A, below is the grading breakdown for all schools:

  •   1 school earned a B+ (2%)
  • 18 schools earned a B or C+ (14%)
  • 63 schools earned a C or D+ (45%)
  • 24 schools earned a D grade (18%)
  • 25 schools earned an F grade (21%)

It’s worth noting that twice as many DPS/EAA schools received D/F grades than did charter public schools (34 DPS/EAA, or 48%; compared to 15 charters, or 24%). According to ESD, 1 in 5 DPS students – but only 1 in 16 charter students – attend a failing school. Given the decidedly mixed reviews for Detroit schools in this ranking, it was interesting to note the Detroit Free Press headline for their story on the scorecard was “Schools for Detroit students get good grades from group.” This is yet another example of the misguided and skewed editorial bent of this newspaper on education issues. Parents and stakeholders would be better served by more honest reporting of school performance. ESD will release high school ratings soon.

House committee looks at Massachusetts academic standards
On Wednesday, the House Michigan Competitiveness Committee, chaired by Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) held a hearing on HB 4192, sponsored by Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Midland) to replace Michigan’s current academic standards with the standards formerly used by Massachusetts in the 2008-09 school year. It is interesting to note that Massachusetts abandoned their former standards in 2010 when they decided to use the same college and career-ready standards that have been adopted in Michigan. The bill has met with mixed reviews, per this story in the Detroit Free Press. GLEP will continue to monitor this and other key issues in K-12 education.

House Republicans Release Action Plan for 2017-18
Yesterday, the Michigan House Republicans released their Action Plan for the 2017-18 legislative session, and below is an excerpt under the heading “Giving Students and Parents More Educational Freedom”:
Parents should have every opportunity to send their child to a school that best fits their child’s needs. This must include many options, such as charter public schools, traditional public schools, private schools, online schools, and home schools. There is no better measure of a child’s potential for success in school than a parent actively engaged in his or her child’s education. We will support proposals to fund students instead of institutions, and give parents more control over their child’s education. Opportunities such as vouchers or education savings accounts to empower students and parents should remain at the center of our discussion. The status quo and special interests will not support this decision, but Michigan parents and students deserve every option and every chance at success. We will continue that important discussion and pursue policies based on the best interests of the child, rather than the best interests of bureaucrats and failing systems.
The plan also prioritizes continued reforms to the state school employee retirement plan (MPSERS), before the unfunded liabilities here start impacting current or future retiree benefits.  Needless to say, we think these are excellent priorities!!

Michigan earns B- and ranks 7th for overall education in latest ALEC Report
An annual report released by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia to spotlight the quality of education across America.The Report Card on American Education tracks state performance across six crucial areas in education policy: academic standards, charter school policy, homeschooling regulatory burden, private school choice, teacher quality, and digital learning. Because ALEC believes the future of American education involves empowering all parents with educational choice, charter school policy and school choice programs were more heavily-weighted than other categories. Michigan was ranked #7 and earned a B- grade in the report. Not too shabby.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week

Monday, February 20

Tuesday, February 21

  • 1:1 meetings with new Representatives
  • Senate Education Committee
  • House School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee

Wednesday, February 22

  • 1:1 meetings with new Representatives
  • Senate School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee

Thursday, February 23

  • 1:1 meetings with new Representatives
  • House Education Reform Committee

Friday, February 24

  • Letter Grading in ESSA Workshop via ExcelinEd in Tampa, Florida

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