News From the Capitol, Mar 12, 2021

2021-03-12 | Michigan Association of School Boards

  • Gov. Whitmer Signs School Aid Budget Supplemental
  • President Biden Signs Coronavirus Relief Bill Into Law
  • Senate Panel Hears Testimony on Early Literacy
  • House Education Committee Discusses Changes to Michigan Merit Curriculum
  • House Committee Approves Tax Exemptions for Broadband Equipment 
  • Get Involved and Strengthen Your Advocacy Skills

Gov. Whitmer Signs School Aid Budget Supplemental

On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4048, the School Aid budget supplemental, as Public Act 3 of 2021. The total budget appropriates all the federal ESSER and GEER dollars that were allocated to Michigan and includes $170.2 million additional in School Aid Fund dollars.

HB 4048 appropriates $650 million of the ESSER II funding through the Title 1A formula as required by federal law. However, the remaining $840 million would be appropriated if, and only if, the Governor signed 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. The bill also includes $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.

As expected, the Governor vetoed House Bill 4049. This raises two questions–how the remaining $840 million will now be dealt with and what can schools expect to receive? The Governor, in signing the bill, called on the Legislature to return to the negotiating table and disburse the remaining money before it leaves on legislative spring break on March 25, 2021. As far as the amount that a district can expect to receive, it will include any amount of equity payment (to reach $450 per pupil) plus 40% of the federal funding through Title IA.

While we are pleased to see some of the federal money allocated in December finally flowing to districts, we continue to be frustrated with the process. It is our hope that the Legislature and Gov. Whitmer will reach an agreement to get the remaining funds out to districts before spring break. We urge you to contact your state legislators and explain the need for the funds in a timely manner.

More details on the bill and specific appropriations are available in this recent DashBoard article.

President Biden Signs Coronavirus Relief Bill Into Law

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives agreed to the Senate version of the American Rescue Plan and President Joe Biden signed the bill into law. The finalized version provides $123 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 will receive $3.8 billion for our public schools under the plan.  

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 does require states to provide maintenance of effort and maintenance of equity. Additionally, districts would be required to set aside 20% of their funding to address student learning loss as a result of the pandemic.

More detailed information on the legislation is available in this past Wednesday’s DashBoard.

Senate Panel Hears Testimony on Early Literacy

On Thursday, the Senate Subcommittee on School Aid heard from the Department of Education, intermediate school districts and teachers on the importance of early literacy programs. The testimony kicks off the discussion on how much funding should be included in next year’s budget to ensure districts have the resources to provide quality services and instruction.

ISDs shared the successes they have had using literacy coaches but stressed the need to increase funding and expand the number of coaches across the state. Several teachers discussed the need for improved teacher training and the importance of providing them access to specific programs of instruction.  

The negative impact of failing students under the current Read by Grade Three Law was brought up by Senators on the subcommittee. They argued that holding students back is detrimental and that more services are needed to support struggling students instead of flunking them. The Chair of the Subcommittee mentioned that he does plan to place more money in next year’s budget to address early literacy.

House Education Committee Discusses Changes to Michigan Merit Curriculum

On Tuesday, the House Education Committee began discussions on a bill that would allow students to take computer coding in place of foreign language classes. House Bill 4326 would amend the Michigan Merit Curriculum to consider computer coding a language other than English. This would create flexibility for students and allow them to take classes more in line with their interests. The bill is likely to be part of a broader discussion in making changes to the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

The committee also heard testimony on House Bill 4343, which would allow students to be excused from school for the purposed of playing taps at a military funeral.  There was broad support among the committee for the proposal and even a suggestion that students should receive extra credit for performing at military funerals.  

No vote was taken on either bill and both will be back before the committee on Tuesday.

House Committee Approves Tax Exemptions for Broadband Equipment 

This week, the House Commerce and Technology Committee approved Senate Bill 46. This bill would exempt broadband equipment from the Personal Property Tax beginning on Dec. 31, 2020. To be eligible, the equipment must resolve a lack of broadband service by delivering high-speed internet access at speeds of at least 25 megabits per second downstream and three Mbps upstream. 

In committee an amendment was added that created a sunset of Dec. 31, 2025 and the exemption will last for 10 years from the filing date for that equipment. While MASB supports the expanse of broadband, understands its need and appreciates efforts to alleviate the effect on schools, we also believe there are other ways to accomplish this without a detrimental effect on revenues for local schools. 

The bill is now before the full House for its consideration and approval. 

Get Involved and Strengthen Your Advocacy Skills

Join the MASB Government Relations staff for our Behind the Scenes at the Capitol virtual event on Monday, April 26, 2021 from 9 a.m. to noon. Due to the concerns over the COVID-19, we will continue to host events virtually. Registration is now open; save your spot today to see how things really happen in Lansing.

We also encourage you to sign up for our FREE virtual Grassroots Advocacy Workshops to help your district get involved in education policy issues and build those advocacy skills for your community! We hope to see you soon!