This Week & Next (Jan 9, 2015)

Parting Shots from Democrats
Even though it is merely symbolic, we note with interest the following anti-choice bills that were introduced on the very last day of the 2014 legislative session. Even though these bills couldn’t be acted upon, it’s obvious the partisan attack on charter schools and parental choice will continue this year. Gird you loins, friends!!

  • HB 6097 (Roberts): Require the State Board of Education to approve any charter school (you know the majority of SBE members are opposed to more charter schools, right?).
  • HB 6100 (Brinks): Require some charter schools to hold board meetings in hundreds of locations across the state each month (logistical nightmare and unfunded mandate).
  • HB 6101 (Roberts): Require special signage for charter public schools (unfunded mandate).

The Legislature Returns, Key Leadership Positions to be Announced Soon
All 148 legislators have moved into their offices, the computers, phones and emails are working, and artwork is getting hung on the walls. The 2015-16 legislative session is just about the get underway, and all eyes are on Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter to announce committee assignments for this session.  As far as education issues are concerned, Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) will return to chair the Senate Education Committee and Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Muskegon) will become chair of the School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee. House leadership has been very tight-lipped about who will be swinging the gavels, but we expect announcements as early as next week.  We’ll keep you informed, of course, as assignments are made public.

Legislative Rock Star in the Making?
Meet Rep. Daniela Garcia (R-Holland), named one of 5 freshmen Reps to watch in Lansing. She’s going to do great things for Michigan!! Click here or on the picture to read the MIRS story on Rep. Garcia.

MDE Selects SAT to Replace ACT as High School Assessment
After contracting with ACT to provide the state assessment for high school juniors since 2008, MDE has awarded a new contract with the College Board to administer the SAT test beginning in 2016. In a competitive bidding process, the MDE/DTMB review team scored the SAT test higher and it was $15 million less than the ACT. At the same time, the SAT will be providing FREE online test-prep services from Khan Academy and will cover up to four college application fee for poor students.  Nearly every college and university in the nation accepts both SAT and ACT scores for admission purposes. Click here for the MDE press release and here for the official Q&A.

Local Residents Appeal Refusal to Switch School Districts
Residents in Parkview Estates in Canton have requested to transfer their 42 home subdivision from the Wayne-Westland School District to the Plymouth-Canton School district, since the elementary school they prefer is both closer and higher-performing. The process is stacked against parents and choice here, since both districts have to agree to the transfer. As you might expect, the districts here refused the transfer request, as did Wayne RESA. This morning, a hearing (i.e. railroad) was held in Lansing, and we’re anxious to report if convenience for adults will trump the educational needs of students and families. Ultimately the case will go to Superintendent Flanagan for a final decision. Stay tuned!! Click here for a local media story and  here for more recent feature about the situation.

Teachers’ Union Lawsuit Struck Down (Again) in Florida
A Florida Circuit Court’s has dismissed a teacher union led lawsuit against Florida’s new Personal Learning Scholarship Account (PLSA) and improvements to the state’s highly successful tax credit scholarship program. This is the second time this lawsuit was thrown out. The PLSA program is the second program of its kind in the nation. Modeled after Arizona’s successful Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program, Florida special needs students can take their educational funds and use them towards private school tuition, tutoring, curriculum, and specialized therapies. GLEP believes low-income students and those with disabilities deserve to have their unique needs met in the classroom, and PLSAs give students the freedom to customize their education so they thrive academically. A separate lawsuit against the state’s highly successful tax credit scholarship program is still pending.

ICYMI: Nationwide Search for State Superintendent Underway
The official search for a new Superintendent of Public Instruction to replace the retiring Mike Flanagan is underway. The State Board of Education has hired Ray and Associates to manage the search process. The application deadline is February 19, 2015, with final interviews likely in mid-March. Initial salary is set at $200,000, and interested candidates can click here to learn more about the position and apply online.

Education Reform News Clips

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Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director