News From the Capitol, Mar 5, 2021

2021-03-05 | Michigan Association of School Boards

  • House and Senate Send Supplemental to the Governor
  • State Lifts Gathering Limits, Allows for In-Person Board Meetings
  • Senate Passes Legislation to Reduce Penalties for Noncertified Staff
  • House Panel Considers Eliminating Requirement to Administer the WorkKeys Assessment
  • Miguel Cardona Confirmed as New Secretary of Education
  • Coronavirus Relief Passed House, Now Being Debated by Senate
  • Registration Open for April Behind the Scenes at the Capitol 

House and Senate Send Supplemental to the Governor

On Thursday, the House and Senate sent House Bill 4048, the School Aid Budget supplemental, to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. HB 4048 appropriates $650 million of the ESSER II funding through the Title 1A formula as required by federal law. However, a district must submit a spending plan detailing exactly how the money is expected to be spent within 45 days of the bill becoming law.

It appropriates the remaining $840 million if, and only if, the Governor signs House Bill 4049. This bill states that the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services cannot order a school to close to in-person instruction or prohibit a “qualified sporting event” during the coronavirus pandemic. It would only allow a local health office to issue an emergency order closing schools or sporting events if specific conditions related to the virus are met. The fate of this bill is uncertain as the Governor has said in the past that she will not sign legislation that ties the hands of this or future administrations.

HB 4048 also appropriates $136 million in 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.

Finally, the plan includes $90 million for summer programs for grades K-8, $45 million for high school credit recovery programs, $10 million for summer and credit recovery programs deemed as innovative, $5 million for before- and after-school programs operated by a community-based organization, $21.3 million for summer teacher and school staff incentives, $17.4 million for before- and after-school programs, $4.2 million for benchmark assessments and $20 million for school mental health services. Additionally, it includes $10 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.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill quickly but may also veto some provisions. We’ll have the final details for you in next week’s DashBoard.

State Lifts Gathering Limits, Allows for In-Person Board Meetings

On Tuesday, MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the easing of some restrictions, including around gatherings. Under the order, which goes into effect today, nonresidential indoor gatherings will be allowed up to 25 people across households. This will allow for in-person board meetings with the limited number of attendees, social distancing and masks. Outdoor nonresidential gatherings are permitted up to 300, allowing larger outdoor events to resume. This order remains in effect until April 19, 2021.

Under the order, school boards will be permitted to have in-person public meetings starting today as long as no more than 25 individuals are gathered at the meeting venue. This means that school boards may conduct “hybrid meetings” where some or all of the school board members are meeting together in person, but the meeting is conducted virtually under the requirements of the Open Meetings Act to permit members of the public to attend the meeting. More thorough guidance from Legal Counsel Brad Banasik is available here.

Thank you to the more than 90 boards that passed a resolution over the last few weeks and all of you who contacted the Governor’s office and MDHHS urging the ability to meet in person. We appreciate your advocacy and effort on this issue; it did not go unnoticed. As you know, MASB has been pushing for this issue for months and are pleased that the state is finally taking this step.

Senate Passes Legislation to Reduce Penalties for Noncertified Staff

On Thursday, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 118, which would reduce penalties for employing an individual lacking certification or other credentialing requirements. Current law penalizes a district or ISD that violates this prohibition with a fine equal to the amount paid to that employee.

Under the bill, the Michigan Department of Education would now notify a district or ISD that it was in violation and provide a 10-day window for appropriate credentialing before a fine is imposed. It also adjusts the penalties, allowing MDE to impose a lower penalty if the district or ISD was hindered in the credentialing process due to circumstances not within their control. Finally, the bill would allow MDE to eliminate the second penalty that imposes a pupil membership deduction if the teacher was uncertified on the pupil count day.

The bill has now been referred to the House Education Committee.

House Panel Considers Eliminating Requirement to Administer the WorkKeys Assessment

On Tuesday, the House Education Committee took testimony on two bills that would allow districts the choice of whether or not to administer the WorkKeys test. This test is designed to assesses a student’s reading and math skills that employers can use in evaluating potential workers.

House Bills 4037 and 4038 waive the requirement that the test be given and instead leave it up to the local district to determine if offering the test if useful for their students. If a district does provide students with the opportunity to take the test, the state will reimburse the cost. Finally, the bill requires MDE to compile a list of how many students took the assessment.

MASB supports the bills and removing this testing requirement, leaving it up to local districts. The bills were not voted on, but more hearings are expected.

Miguel Cardona Confirmed as New Secretary of Education

The U.S. Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona as the next U.S. Secretary of Education on Monday. The vote was 64 to 33, with more than a dozen Republicans joining Democrats to confirm him. Cardona is a former teacher, administrator and education commissioner from Connecticut.

During the confirmation process, Cardona spoke to the urgency for K-12 students to return to in-person learning but expressed that the proper health and safety measures must be in place, starting with teachers being top priority for the COVID-19 vaccine. He emphasized how valuable in-person learning is and how schools provide an important infrastructure for students.

Cardona vowed to provide better guidance and increase funding to our schools, as well as work to combat the educational inequities caused by the pandemic. He also discussed the need for improved mental health services, enforcement of Title IX, and the importance of career and technical education.

Coronavirus Relief Passed House, Now Being Debated by Senate

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a large coronavirus relief package along party lines. The House version provides $128 billion for K-12 education, $7.6 billion to expand broadband access, and $350 billion for state and local governments. It is estimated that Michigan would receive $3.9 billion for schools if the bill becomes law.

The proposal distributes the funding to districts using the Title 1A formula which is the same formula used in previous relief packages. There is language in the bill that requires states to use the funds to supplement state funding, not supplant it. Additionally, districts would be required to set aside 20% of their funding to address student learning loss as a result of the pandemic. The definition of learning loss is unclear and needs to be addressed as the bill moves forward.

The Senate began debate on the bill today and several amendments are being proposed. There is potential that the relief package could pass out of the Senate as early as this weekend. If so, we’ll have more information on the final package in Wednesday’s DashBoard.

Registration Open for April Behind the Scenes at the Capitol 

Our spring Behind the Scenes at the Capitol virtual 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. Due to continuing concerns over COVID-19, this year’s event will be offered virtually. Registration is now open and we encourage you to register today!