This Week & Next (Nov 13, 2015)

Education Savings Accounts focus of joint legislative hearing
Jason Bedrick, Education Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute for Education Freedom, spent the day in Lansing yesterday discussing the role of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) in terms of expanding school choice in recent years. Bedrick was invited by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid, to make a presentation to a joint committee hearing with the House Education Committee. GLEP was pleased to participate and schedule a briefing for Bedrick with Senator Pat Colbeck (R-Canton) and key Senate staffers as well as 1:1 media interviews with education and political reporters. As you know, Rep. Kelly and GLEP believe that some sort of “Opportunity Scholarship” should be implemented as part of any plan to reform education in Detroit.

More talk about Detroit Public Schools
Despite numerous rumors and widespread speculation, Sen. Hansen’s bills to implement Governor Snyder’s bailout of DPS were not introduced this week in the legislature. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of Detroit chatter across the state.

In fact, this past week we learned the DPS operational deficit is actually $1.66 billion (it’s hard to get a straight answer on how much debt the district actually has, but suffice to say the number never gets smaller); the DPS Board of Directors is demanding the state pay the $350,000 judgement against the district for a sexual scandal; the Mackinac Center published five key principles for Detroit school reform; bi-partisan pundits agree the Governor’s plan is a very tall order; and a key House Republican believes that financial assistance should include real reform and also doubts bills can be passed by the end of the year and

Behind the scenes, GLEP continues to work with key legislators to ensure that any reforms passed will preserve school choice, keep parents in charge of their children’s education, and increase accountability over poor performing schools.

MPSERS heats up in Lansing
On Tuesday this week the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid held a hearing to review the history and current financial status of the state school employee retirement system, commonly referred to as MPSERS. According to a presentation from Bethany Wicksall, Associate Director of the House Fiscal Agency, MPSERS currently has more retirees than active employees, and an unfunded actuarial accrued liability of $25.7 billion dollars.  That’s BILLIONS, folks, with a “B.” Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp) asked HFA to coordinate with Office of Retirement Services and Department of Treasury to conduct an analysis of the financial costs and benefits of terminating MPSERS and moving new school employees to a 401(k) style retirement system. Stay tuned, folks, as this is going to get more interesting in the months ahead. We promise!!

Bills to end special deals for unions passed by Senate
Two important bills that would prevent some special union deals have passed the state Senate. Senate Bill 279 would “prohibit public school districts and unions from adopting ‘release time’ arrangements in which a school employee who goes to work full time for a teachers union remains an employee of the district for purposes of collecting a government pension.” This scheme allowed them to count their time and earnings with the MEA as credits toward their taxpayer-funded pension, artificially boosting their eventual payout compared to what it would have been based strictly on their time and pay actually working as public school employees. Senate Bill 280 would “ban government employee union contracts that pay employees who are union officials for the time they spend on the job conducting union business.” Both of these practices are a bad deal for taxpayers and unfair to public school students and employees. The bills were sponsored by Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) and now head to the House of Representatives. – Reprinted courtesy of The Mackinac Center for Public Policy

State Board of Education adopts new Science Standards
According to an MDE press release, this week the State Board of Education adopted new science standards which will provide Michigan students with a deeper understanding of science and its application in the world around them. The new standards for science education follow three years of development, review, and public information sessions on the proposed standards.  The new Michigan K-12 Science Standards replace the standards adopted in 2006, and introduce science and engineering practices. Click here for more information.

Which Hillary Clinton is running for President?
For those trying to keep track, we’re not sure which Hillary Clinton is running for President. Is it the Hillary that supported charter public schools for more than 20 years, or is it the Hillary recently endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union in the country that also opposes charter schools? It seems Ms. Clinton’s position on whether parents should be empowered to choose the right school for their children has “evolved” since getting the NEA endorsement. Politics above kids, AGAIN! Why aren’t we surprised?!

Legislators back home for next two weeks
State legislators will be back in their districts for the next two weeks, which is the traditional Thanksgiving and deer hunting recess. They will be back in Lansing on Tuesday, December 1st for what is scheduled to be 3 weeks of legislative session. Key education issues on the agenda for December include passage of HB 4822 (K-3 Reading) in the Senate and the likely introduction of bills to address education reform in Detroit.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Monday, November 16

Tuesday, November 17

  • Senate and House on Legislative Recess
  • Mtg w/Supt Whiston re: Making MI a Top 10 State

Wednesday, November 18

  • Senate and House on Legislative Recess
  • Capitol Issues Forum at SBAM: Prison Reform

Thursday, November 19

  • Senate and House on Legislative Recess

Friday, November 20

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