News From the Capitol, Mar 10, 2017

2017-03-10 | Michigan Association of School Boards

  • 21st Century Education Commission Releases Report
  • Truancy Law Changes Pass Senate Committee
  • Quarterly Report on Deficit Districts Shows Early Warning Success
  • House Education Reform Considers Prohibiting Calendar as Subject of Bargaining
  • Senate Education Committee Continues Hearings on School Accountability
  • Registration Now Available for MASA/MASB Legislative Conference on May 2

21st Century Education Commission Releases Report

Today, the 21st Century Education Commission released its long-awaited report. The Commission was formally created in March 2016 by Gov. Rick Snyder through Executive Order 2016-6. The Commission was chaired by Dr. Thomas Haas, President of Grand Valley State University, and included administrators, teachers, unions, business leaders, higher education representatives, charter school leaders and early childhood experts.

The report acknowledges the need for increased funding for all levels of education, as well as the need to maintain the current rigorous standards in order to “ensure that longitudinal data on student growth remains intact.” It also speaks to elevating the teaching profession to attract top talent.

MASB is still reviewing the report in its entirety and will have more information in Wednesday’s DashBoard. In the meantime you can review the report, summaries and introduction on the 21st Century Education Commission website.

Truancy Law Changes Pass Senate Committee

The Senate Committee on Families, Seniors and Human Services passed Senate Bills 103-106 on Wednesday. This package of bills would create statewide definitions and policies for chronically absent and truant students. The bills would also prohibit suspension as a punishment for absenteeism.

The committee adopted a handful of amendments to the bills and voted on them without further testimony. They are now before the full Senate for consideration.

Unfortunately, none of the issues raised in last week’s News From the Capitol were addressed. There was an amendment to state that a school would refer a truant or chronically absent case to a prosecutor for appropriate action, but it still lacks a requirement for a prosecutor to act. While MASB has not yet taken a formal position on this legislation, we still believe for this new law to work, all entities involved must actively participate.

House Education Reform Considers Prohibiting Calendar as Subject of Bargaining

On Thursday, the House Committee on Education Reform took testimony on House Bill 4163, a bill that would prohibit the school calendar and schedule from the topics subject to collective bargaining. Rep. Daniela R. Garcia (R-Holland), the bill sponsor, testified along with two superintendents in support of the legislation. While no others testified, several cards were read into the record with some school management groups supporting and organized labor opposed.

This is legislation is a reintroduction of House Bill 5194 of 2015 that passed committee in December 2015, but was never taken up by the full House of Representatives. The committee chair indicated he intends to hold a vote on the bill next week.

Quarterly Report on Deficit Districts Shows Early Warning Success

This week, State Superintendent Brian Whiston and Paul Connors, Director of the Office of School Review and Fiscal Accountability at the Department of Treasury, gave the quarterly report on deficit districts to a joint meeting of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and Education and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12, School Aid, Education. For the first time in many years, they reported that there should be no new districts facing budget deficits when the 2016-2017 school year ends in June.

In MDE's quarterly report, 27 districts remain on the list, down from 40 last year. Of those, nine are projected to eliminate their deficits at the end of the school year. Further, Mr. Connors said there were 76 districts initially identified for the school year as having signs of fiscal stress, but only seven of those remained on the Department's watch list. He pointed to the success of the early warning legislation, which allows Treasury to work with districts before they face deficit. Superintendent Whiston agreed that the ability for the state to identify districts earlier and lend support to those districts has had a positive effect and led to the lower number of deficit districts.

Senate Education Committee Continues Hearings on School Accountability

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Education heard presentations from Dr. Michael Rice, Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools and Veronica Conforme, Chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority.

In his presentation, Dr. Rice made the case that students who have few or no supports at home need more supports--which include additional funding. He also spent time strongly opposing an A-F school grading system. Dr. Rice also pointed out that in most high academically achieving states, they don’t close the low-performing schools because it’s not a proven turnaround model. Instead, they pour more resources into them, especially in terms of support for low-income children.

Ms. Conforme highlighted the schools in Detroit that are on the SRO closure list and noted that most of the neighborhoods involved do not have viable alternatives. In doing so she argued that closing simply means you’re closing a building, not actually improving education. She also testified in support of partnerships, under which schools would work with other entities, such as intermediate school districts and other education-oriented groups, to "turnaround" their academic performance. Specifically, she referenced the Shelby County partnership model used in Tennessee, which employs Authorized Innovation Zones and a Massachusetts model--a partnership zone that does involve the threat of state takeover. She indicated that turnarounds typically take between three to five years, and that timely test results, and a fair and transparent system with community buy-in is essential for success.

At this time, we don’t know when we will see a proposal to replace Section 1280c and the state accountability system, but we do know that work on it continues.

Registration Now Available for MASA/MASB Legislative Conference on May 2

Registration is now available for the 2017 MASA/MASB Legislative Conference. This year’s conference will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing on May 2. Registration/breakfast begins at 7:15 a.m. and the program begins at 8 a.m.

Simply fill out and submit this form to secure your spot. The conference will feature a legislative panel, breakout sessions on the School Aid Budget, current legislative issues and other hot topics, and a legislative update to give you all you need to know to head to the Capitol to meet with your legislators in the afternoon. Details are still being finalized and will be shared as soon as they are confirmed.

Register today and we’ll see you in Lansing! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.