This Week & Next (Sept 16, 2016)

Legislative leaders request Attorney General opinion on failing schools
Senator Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter have officially requested a legal opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette on whether the State Reform Office has the statutory authority to close chronically-failing schools in Detroit. Click here to download the official request. Needless to say, GLEP agrees the legislature only passed the $667 million “bailout” of DPS with the expectation that increased accountability would occur this year. House Speaker Kevin Cotter explained his view quite well on Michigan Radio this week. Meanwhile, Supt Brian Whiston has his own ideas how the state should work with failing schools, and it doesn’t include using the State Reform Office. That’s an interesting approach that would require significant changes in state law, of course.

GLEP endorses another 12 House candidates
Last week GLEP endorsed 12 additional candidates for the Michigan House of Representatives:

  • District #17: Joe Bellino (Monroe)
  • District #17: Joe Bellino (Monroe)
  • District #20: Jeff Noble (Plymouth)
  • District #33: Jeff Yaroch (Richmond)
  • District #64: Julie Alexander (Hanover)
  • District #72: Steve Johnson (Shelbyville)
  • District #79: Kim LaSata (St. Joseph)
  • District #83: Shane Hernandez (Port Huron)
  • District #86: Thomas Albert (Belding)
  • District #100: Scott VanSingel (Grant)
  • District #101: Curt VanderWall (Ludington)
  • District #102: Michele Hoitenga (Manton)
  • District #106: Sue Allor (Wolverine)

GLEP’s endorsement process includes past voting records, personal interviews and results from our candidate questionnaire. Priority issues for GLEP include school choice and early literacy, while endorsed candidates may hold various positions on K-12 funding, curriculum standards, assessments, etc. These endorsement are in addition to the 41 GLEP-endorsed incumbents and candidates that were successful in the August primary, resulting in a total of 53 GLEP-endorsed candidates on the November 8 general election ballot. Additional endorsements may be announced in the future.

Federal lawsuit filed against Michigan education
This week a host of out-of-state lawyers filed a federal lawsuit claiming students are being deprived of their constitutional right to literacy via public education. Unfortunately, no such guarantee actually appears in the U.S. Constitution. This case, which has been applauded by the teachers’ unions, is nearly identical to the ACLU vs. Highland Park suit in which state courts ruled that Michigan is obligated to provide a public education system but isn’t obligated to ensure that students are actually educated. We certainly sympathize with the plaintiff’s here, but it would be much better if these same organizations actually supported HB 4822, the K-3 Reading bill that will actually improve early literacy in the state. If you’re going to talk the talk, we think you should also walk the walk. But that’s just us.

GLEP joins fight for school funding at Michigan Supreme Court
You may recall Governor Snyder has requested an advisory opinion from the Michigan Supreme Court on the constitutionality of a $2.5 million item in the FY ’18 School Aid Budget that will reimburse private schools for meeting a number of health and safety mandates from the state. The Governor requested the opinion be delivered by October 1, the date the new school aid budget goes into effect. The Court has requested (and received) numerous briefs from the state and interested parties, and is currently considering the issue. Legislative education leaders Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Rep. Tim Kelly and Rep. Daniela Garcia joined in GLEP’s amicus brief asking the court to invalidate the Blaine Amendment prohibiting public funds from being sued in private schools. We are currently waiting for the Michigan Supreme Court to announce whether, and when, they will issue an advisory opinion. Stay tuned!!

Will K-3 Reading bill get settled next week?
HB 4822 (Price), the K-3 Reading bill, has been in a Senate-House Conference Committee since it passed in both the House and the Senate earlier in the year. Negotiations between key legislators has been ongoing all summer, and next week is the last time both Senate and House members, including Sen. Pavlov, Senate Ed Chair and Rep. Price, House Ed Chair, will be in Lansing until the lame duck legislation session in December. Next week represents the best (and nearly the last) opportunity for legislators to settle their differences  and report a compromise bill that can be voted on by both chambers and sent to the Governor for his signature. GLEP continues to advocate for early screening, interventions and support, and potential retention only in the most dramatic cases, in order to improve early literacy and bring 3rd grade reading proficiency above the sub-par 50% rate across the state today. For the sake of students and the state’s future, we’re hoping a compromise is reached quickly.

School choice blamed for racial segregation
In a major piece from Bridge magazine this week, those taking advantage of school choice are being blamed for “white flight” and other social ills in our major cities.  This feature, on the heels of the MLive report that school choice is decimating traditional public school districts, appears to be part of a coordinated effort to demonize parents who choose not to send their students to their “government-assigned” school building. The most truthful statement of the article was when they wrote “GLEP is one of the staunchest defenders of school choice in Michigan.” Thanks for noticing!!

Former School Teacher Explains ESAs to Texas Lawmakers
On Wednesday, Former 16-year public school teacher and Nevada State Senator Scott Hammond explained the value of Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to members of the Texas Senate Education Committee, which is considering this mechanism to expand school choice and opportunity in the state. ESA’s really put parents in charge of their childrens’ education by allowing families to use their state education funding in the school that best meets their needs, as well as tutoring and other education-related activities. GLEP believes this would be a great thing for Michigan’s students and families. What do YOU think?

Free Press censors Betsy DeVos letter
After publishing another scathing and bitterly personal attack on the DeVos family because of their involvement with education reform efforts in the state, we were a bit surprised when the Detroit Free Press actually agreed to publish a rebuttal letter from Betsy DeVos, GLEP board member. Unfortunately, the Freep censored her letter by taking out the key sentence in which Betsy calls out Stephen on this missing sentence: “Though he attacked my family, I won’t attack Henderson’s.  So, I won’t attack him for the blatant hypocrisy he demonstrates by pushing to deny other Detroiters the school choice he exercises for his own family as he, too, chooses to send his kids to non-DPS schools.” So the Freep thinks it’s OK to make any accusation they see fit, but then they censor any meaningful response with which they disagree.  Oh, well, you know what they say about picking a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.

NCSI Art Contest Asks Students to Dream Big!!
The National Institute for Charter Schools is hosting the 2016 Charter Schools Art Contest, and this year they’re asking students in to illustrate what they’d like to be when they grow up. A scientist? A musician? An athlete? A doctor? President of the United States? Students are asked to create a picture of what they want to do when they’re older and send it to the NCSI for a chance to win $250! The contest is open to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students can use crayons, pencils, paint, chalk—whatever material they want—to show where they see themselves in the future. Entries are being accepted until October 31 and winners will be announced the week of December 12. Prizes will be awarded for the first, second, and third place winners. A special prize will also be given to the whole classroom with the most and best entries. Click here for all of the contest details.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week

Monday, September 19

Tuesday, September 20

  • House & Senate Session

Wednesday, September 21

  • House & Senate Session

Thursday, September 22

  • SBAM’s Capitol Issues Forum with Lindsay VanHulle
  • House Education Committee
  • House & Senate Session
  • AEI Leadership Network conference call re: Public Opinion in 2016 Presidential Race

Friday, September 23

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please considermaking a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!


Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director