This Week & Next (July 17, 2015)

U.S. Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Bi-Partisan Education Bill
Yesterday afternoon the U.S. Senate passed S 1177 (the “Every Child Achieves Act”) by a vote of 81-17, indicating strong bi-partisan support from an overwhelming majority of members. Passage was praised by a wide cross-section of education stakeholder organizations, including GLEP, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chair of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, who sponsored the bill and managed it through the Senate, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee.As you know, just last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed, on a narrow 218-213 vote, HR #5 (the “Student Success Act”), which would also reauthorize ESEA/NCLB. The next step in the process is for a joint Senate-House conference committee to hammer out differences between the two bills (while negotiating with the White House, of course). Both bills retain annual student testing in Reading and Math and beef up local control by reducing the federal government. Click here for EdWeek’s overview of the key issues including intervention measures for failing schools; teacher evaluations; whether federal funds can follow students to the public school of their choice; and additional testing or ‘opt out’ requirements. GLEP will continue to monitor these proceedings and report developments.

Mia’s Story
Mia Roe is a 9-year-old student in the Detroit metropolitan area who has been diagnosed with dyslexia, and she simply wasn’t getting the kind of support she needed in her traditional public school, despite federal and state laws requiring such assistance. The Mackinac Center recently told Mia’s story in both print and video, and we wanted to share this since it goes to the heart of GLEP’s mission to promote quality educational options for all children.  Perhaps the most telling quote is from Mia’s mother, Liz, when she said “I want lawmakers to know, I am the parent here who knows what is best for my child. One size does not fit all and if you are supporting free choice, than you need to make sure every option is made available.” We are going to make sure that all 148 Michigan lawmakers get to know Mia’s story and GLEP’s mission.

7 new charter schools to open in Michigan this fall
According to a recent story in The Detroit News, only seven new charter public schools will be opening in the state this fall, which is the fewest number of new schools since the legislature lifted the cap on university-authorized charters in 2011. There were 17 new charter schools in 2014, 32 in 2013, 31 in 2012, 19 in 2011 and 18 in 2010.  Interestingly, none of the charter schools opening in 2015 are located in Detroit.  Since 2000, the number of charter schools in Michigan and their enrollment has more than doubled (see enrollment chart) reaching 141,094 in 2014-15, which is nearly 10% of the statewide enrollment, according MDE.  As evidence of continued accountability in the charter sector, 4 charter schools will be closing this year, which means Michigan will have a total of 306 charter schools next year.  Click here to read the Detroit News editorial confirming that it’s certainly not the “Wild Wild West” for charters in Detroit, as so many critics have been claiming.

Albion tells school buses to stay out of town
In a not-so-subtle shot at school choice advocates, Jerri-Lynn Williams-Harper, Albion Schools Superintendent, recently sent letters to all neighboring school districts asking them to “cease and desist” sending buses into the Albion school district boundaries to pick up school-of-choice students. Considering the fact the vast majority of school districts in the state participate in Schools of Choice, this is a fairly aggressive position for the Albion Superintendent to take. The  neighboring districts were only picking up students, as a convenience, who had already made the decision to attend nearby school districts. Albion also doesn’t have a high school anymore, so how are these kids supposed to get to their school? GLEP agrees with the Mackinac Center that this attempt to trap students and keep them in the district is simply bad policy.

Should taxpayers pay union employees to fight their district?
We understand there can be natural tension between management and labor in the workplace. And even though we find it offensive when local teacher union officials accuses their school district leaders of trying to “destroy” public education – it’s even more shocking when you realize the school district is actually paying over $250,000 each year for the salary and benefits of these same union officials. Under a concept called “release time” – the district must pay to support teachers who take on full-time union responsibilities.  On top of this, the district has to pay for substitute teachers to handle the regular responsibilities of these union bosses. Click here to read more about this situation, and please urge your State Senator to vote “YES” on SB 280 (Knollenberg) to end this practice.

Capitol Update
The Michigan legislature was (briefly) back in Lansing this week, and most discussions focused on looking for a compromise on road funding bills currently pending in the House of Representatives. The House is scheduled for session next Tuesday and the Senate will be in session on Tue, Wed & Thursday next week.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, July 20

Tuesday, July 21

  • House & Senate in Session

Wednesday, July 22

  • Senate in Session

Thursday, July 23

  • Senate in Session

Friday, July 24

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