This Week & Next (Feb 20, 2015)

House and Senate Begin Hearings on FY ’16 School Aid Budget
After last week’s presentation by Governor Snyder of his proposed $54 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16, both the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on School Aid held initial hearings on the $14 billion FY ’16 School Aid Budget this past week. At both hearings, officials from the Department of Treasury, Management and Budget made presentations to explain the Executive recommendations. Committee members asked a number of questions, specifically about the $75 million line item for “Distressed Districts” is proposed to be invested. Officials from the Governor’s Office commented that these funds are targeted for debt relief for DPS and other urban districts in deficit.

Critics of the Governor quickly donned their “Chicken Little” costumes and re-started their misinformation campaign by claiming there really wasn’t any funding increase in the budget, and some in the media took the bait. At the same time, a more careful analysis showed that 96% of school districts would receive an increase in overall funding if this budget proposal becomes law. It’s important to note the Executive Recommendation is the first of a 6-step process to approve the budget, which is expected to wrap up my June 1st. While we expect a number of changes in the legislative process, you can click here for district by district funding estimates based on the Governor’s recommendation.

GLEP continues to advocate for closing the $848 per-pupil funding equity gap and to address the skyrocketing costs of MPSERS, the state’s teacher retirement program.

U.S. House to Pass NCLB Reauthorization Bill Next Week
The full U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass HR 5, the Student Success Act, a bill to reauthorize ESEA/NCLB, next week in Washington, D.C.  Key features of this important legislation include significantly scaling back the role of the federal government in overseeing public education, giving states more flexibility in designing accountability systems; consolidating dozens of federal education programs; and block grant funding to allow states to distribute federal money to districts and schools as they see fit. GLEP is hopeful Congress will also require that Title I and SPED funds follow the students to the school of their choice.

Next Steps in Superintendent Search
Now that the February 19 deadline to apply for the position has passed, the search process for a new Superintendent of Public Instruction to replace the retiring Mike Flanagan has begun in earnest. The State Board of Education has set the following dates for public meetings to facilitate the process:

  • Meeting with Search Firm to review candidates; March 3, 2015
  • Interview Semi-finalist Candidates; March 10-11, 2015
  • Interview Finalist Candidates; March 18, 2015

Advocacy Group Reviews (Some) Charter Authorizers
The Education Trust-Midwest this week released their own report reviewing the performance of (some) charter school authorizers in the state. The ET-M evaluated just 16 of 40 authorizers, and as one might expect from such a report, authorizer “grades” were spread out among those authorizers selected for review. We find it very interesting that a report intending to highlight what steps authorizers take to address low-performing schools completely ignores the fact that 80 charter public schools have been closed for poor performance while NOT A SINGLE traditional public school has been closed for academic failure. Naturally, the Detroit Free Press was provided an exclusive story ahead of other media, which dovetailed nicely with the newspaper’s claim the ET-M report was prompted by the Freep’s controversial 2014 series on charter schools.  This is but another example of the unnatural obsession with schools that educate less than 10% of Michigan students while completely ignoring the chronically-failing schools responsible for 90% of students. Click here to see how the national Center for Education Reform responded to the ET-M study.

House Committee Looks at MPSERS
The House Financial Liability and Reform Committee this week heard a presentation from the House Fiscal Agency on background related to the Michigan Public Schools Employee Retirement System (MSPSERS). With passage of SB 1040 in 2012, school districts are currently “capped” at only having to pay 20.96% of payroll (or $2.0 billion) to cover the Unfunded Accrued Liability (UAL) in retirement benefits for their employees, despite the fact the actual cost of UAL is closer to 35% of payroll (or $3.0 billion per year). The $1 billion per year needed to cover this gap in retirement costs is now coming “off the top” of the School Aid Fund and is expected for the next 25 years. GLEP believes the first step to getting out of this deep financial hole is to “stop digging” and close MSPERS to new employees and require districts to provide a 401(k) style portable retirement benefit for new employees. Once this is accomplished, we’ll be able to both honor our retirement promises and put MPSERS on solid financial ground for the future. Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) and a dozen co=sponsors have introduced SB 102, which would accomplish this long overdue reform. GLEP strongly supports this bill.

Education Reform News Clips

GLEP in the News

  • Common Enrollment: Lessons for Detroit (Detroit Free Press)
  • Next Week
    Monday, February 23

    • Meeting with MDE officials to discuss school accountability
    • Meeting with key legislative staff to discuss early literacy

    Tuesday, February 24

    • MASSP lobby day in Lansing
    • House School Aid Subcommittee to review rolling up categoricals in the foundation grant
    • Senate Education Committee

    Wednesday, February 25

    • House School Aid Subcommittee hearing to review Great Start Readiness Program
    • Mock Committee Hearing re: early literacy for constituents of Rep. Callton

    Thursday, February 26

    • House Education Committee will feature stakeholder presentations, including GLEP
    • Introductory meetings with new legislators

    Friday, February 27

    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