News From the Capitol, Feb 26, 2021

2021-02-26 | Michigan Association of School Boards

  • Senate Passes Supplemental Budget to Appropriate Federal Funding
  • Tell Congress to Expand Broadband Access
  • House Budget Committee Considers Report on Education Spending
  • U.S. Department of Education to Allow Some Flexibility on Assessments
  • Lame Duck Bill Quickly Passes the House
  • Ask the Governor to Allow In-Person Meetings
  • Registration Open for April Behind the Scenes at the Capitol

Senate Passes Supplemental Budget to Appropriate Federal Funding

On Thursday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 29, which contains its plan on how to appropriate the COVID-19 relief funds for schools passed by Congress in December. However, it does not allocate the entire amount of $1.7 billion. The bill passed on a party-line vote, with many Democrats objecting to the fact that the bill holds back nearly half of the federal aid.

The Senate-passed version of SB 29 spends $807.3 million in federal ESSER funds, $125.2 million in federal GEERS funds and $313.5 million from the state’s School Aid Fund. Of the ESSER funds, only about half of what was appropriated by Congress to be distributed through the Title 1A formula is allocated to districts. The other half is held back to be appropriated later. MASB argued against this idea and pushed for all of the funds to be appropriated. We will continue to make that case as the budget moves through the process.

Under SB 29, the discretionary federal funding (10% of the ESSER funds) is combined with the School Aid Fund dollars to be allocated through a formula that would make sure that each district receives at least $450 per pupil. This means that if a district does not receive at least $450 per pupil through the Title 1A allocation, the state allocation would bring the district up to that level. This helps offset the wide disparity in the funding each district receives through the federal formula.

Finally, the plan includes $90 million for summer programs for grades K-8, $45 million for high school credit recovery programs, $10 million for innovative summer and credit recovery programs, $21.3 million for summer teacher and school staff incentives, $22.4 million for before- and after-school programs, $11.7 million for benchmark assessments and $20 million for school mental health services. Additionally, it includes $5.9 million for parents or guardians to cover costs of summer educational programs for their child. Each program requires specific reporting to qualify for the funds.

In addition to that reporting, it requires a district to submit a spending plan within 14 days of the bill becoming law. The plan would have to detail exactly how the money is expected to be spent. We feel this requirement is burdensome and unnecessary, especially with the reporting that already exists under federal law.

SB 29 is now before the House for its consideration. We do expect some changes as the two chambers and the Governor’s office negotiate the final product.

Tell Congress to Expand Broadband Access

This week, the U.S. Congress continues to consider President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief legislation. Part of this legislation could include help to expand broadband access. We have been with partnering with the National School Boards Association to secure additional funding for the E-rate program that will help expand broadband access to districts that need it. There is growing traction on this issue, but we need your help! Visit this site to tell Congress to support $7.6 billion in emergency funds for E-rate so students can access the internet.

House Budget Committee Considers Report on Education Spending

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid heard testimony from the Business Leaders for Michigan on how much Michigan public schools spend on noninstructional expenses. The testimony came from the results of a study performed by research firm, Guidehouse.

The report defined noninstructional spending as money that is not going directly to the classroom. The results, which did not include charter schools, suggested that Michigan spends more than neighboring states and offered some suggestions on how to reduce those costs through consolidating services and creating efficiencies. The suggestions were broken down into three categories with emphasis on the role that intermediate school districts could play in sharing resources and services.

Not directly related to noninstructional spending, the one chart that committee members focused on was on how Michigan compares to the top 10 academically performing states. The chart showed that education spending in Michigan was very comparable to those other states in 1995. Since then, Michigan’s overall spending has not kept pace and there is now a considerable gap in both spending and performance.

U.S. Department of Education to Allow Some Flexibility on Assessments

The U.S Department of Education announced guidance on administering federally required assessments for the current school year. In their announcement, USED recognized the needs that many states face this year, including how to achieve high participation rates and whether or not the data collected would be a good measurement for school accountability. However, the requirement to give an assessment was not waived.

States are invited to request a waiver for the 2020-2021 school year of the accountability and school identification requirements in the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. A state receiving this waiver would not be required to implement and report the results of its federally approved accountability system. States may also apply for extending the testing window, to offer the test remotely and to shorten the assessment.

Lame Duck Bill Quickly Passes the House

This week the House passed House Joint Resolution A which would amend the Michigan Constitution to place stricter requirements for the passage of bills during lame duck session. The resolution would add a new requirement that any bills passed between the November general election and the end of the legislative session must be approved in each chamber by a two-thirds’ vote.

In order to amend the Constitution, joint resolutions have to be passed by a two-thirds’ majority of the House and Senate and then approved by voters at the next general election after passage of the resolution.

The resolution passed the House by a 102-7 vote. It is now before the Senate for its consideration.

Ask the Governor to Allow In-Person Meetings

As you know, in-person school board meetings continue to be prohibited until at least March 30, 2021. MASB has submitted a letter to MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel requesting the ability for boards to meet in person as soon as possible. We continue to have conversations with the Governor’s office and MDHHS on this issue but have yet to see movement. We have prepared a resolution your board can adopt urging the allowance of in-person meetings. If your board decides to pursue this, please be sure to share it with the Governor’s officeMDHHS and MASB Government Relations.

Registration Open for April Behind the Scenes at the Capitol

Our virtual spring Behind the Scenes at the Capitol event is scheduled for Monday, April 26 from 9 a.m. to noon. Join the MASB Government Relations staff for a look into how things work in Lansing. The event will include an update on the state budget, a discussion on broadband access and other important legislative topics. There will also be an opportunity to engage your state legislators. Registration is now open and we encourage you to sign-up today!