News From the Capitol, Mar 19, 2021

2021-03-19 | Michigan Association of School Boards

  • Senate Republicans Introduce Assessment and Accountability Package
  • House Education Committee had Busy Agenda
  • House Panel Considers School Bus Safety Legislation
  • Latest Pandemic Order Expands Student-Athlete COVID Testing
  • Michigan Supreme Court Declines to Rehear Nonpublic School Aid Lawsuit
  • Registration Open for April Behind the Scenes at the Capitol  

Senate Republicans Introduce Assessment and Accountability Package

On Thursday, the Senate Republicans introduced a nine-bill package dealing with assessments, evaluations and reporting for schools. Senate Bills 260-268 are expected to move quickly next week through the Senate to be sent to the House before Legislative Spring Break the following week. The bills are all tiebarred together and are tied to Senate Bills 56 and 57, which make changes to the teacher evaluation law.

The bills include:

  • Changes to the teacher and administrator evaluation law to update the categories of effectiveness, keep the percentage of growth at 25% and, for this year only, remove the requirement that state assessment data be used to determine growth. It also updates the Teacher Tenure Act to reflect the new categories of effectiveness as ineffective, emerging or effective. (SBs 56, 57 and 260)
  • School Code and School Aid Act changes to remove the requirement that state summative assessments be given this year. A district could still choose to administer them. The SAT still must be offered and, if the College Board allows testing windows during the summer or fall, current 11th and12th graders must be given the option to take the test. (SBs 261-262)
  • New reporting requirements from districts and the Center for Educational Performance and Information. It would grant the Legislature complete access to CEPI’s data at the same level as the CEPI Director. It requires districts to report district, building and grade-level benchmark assessment results and classroom level student growth data and then CEPI to compile the information and report to the Legislature. (SB 263)
  • Creating a new assessment improvement advisory committee to work on a request for proposals for a new statewide summative assessment. It then requires an ISD with a population of less than 40,000 and no more than 50,000 pupils to issue the RFP and pick a new provider by Nov. 1, 2021 with the new test being available in spring 2022. (SB 264)
  • Removing the retention requirements under the third grade reading law for this school year. (SB 265)
  • Require teachers to do written learning recovery plans for each student and send to the parent/guardian before the beginning of the next school year and require the district to provide a written assessment summary that includes how the student performed this year and would have performed if not for the pandemic to each parent/guardian. (SB 266)
  • Allows a district to use an employee as a substitute without a teaching certificate as long as the person gets a daily substitute permit from the department. This expires Aug. 31, 2021. (SB 267)
  • Allows a parent to request their child to be retained in his/her current grade. If the parent sends a written request by July 1, 2021, the district shall retain the student; if after July 1, the district has the option whether or not to retain. (SB 268)

Because these are expected to move quickly and changes will most likely be made, we will have a more detailed update in Wednesday’s DashBoard.

House Education Committee had a Busy Agenda

On Tuesday, the House Education Committee approved House Bill 4326, which would allow students to take computer coding courses in place of a foreign language under the Michigan Merit Curriculum. The sponsor of the bill testified that computer coding was an important skill to learn, and this gives students more flexibility to pursue courses that interest them. The bill passed along party lines with all Republicans voting in favor.

The committee also approved HB 4343 by a vote of 12-1. This bill would grant excused absences to students who perform taps at military funerals. It was brought up during testimony that it has become difficult to find enough musicians to play taps and that students should be allowed time to honor military veterans. However, there were also questions as to why this would be necessary to put into law.

The committee approved bills that would make administrating the ACT WorkKeys test voluntary. HB 4037 and 4038 would eliminate the mandate that all 11th graders take the WorkKeys test. It was brought up at previous hearings that the test may not be relevant to all students and that districts should be able to decide if taking the test was important. The bills passed by a vote of 8-4.

All four bills now go the full House of Representatives for consideration.

The panel also began hearing testimony on SB 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. This bill would give MDE more flexibility in dealing with situations that are not intentional, but simply mistakes in documentation.

Finally, the committee took testimony on HB 4375, which would extend the law to allow retirees to return to the classroom without losing their retirement benefits to 2031. The current law sunsets July 1, 2021. It also would end the requirement that districts pay the unfunded liability costs when they hire retired teachers as substitutes.

House Panel Considers School Bus Safety Legislation

Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee began discussions on a package of bills that would improve safety for students riding on school buses. House Bills 4201, 4203, 4202 and 4204 would do the following:

  • Sets the penalty for boarding a bus without permission of the driver as a civil infraction punishable by up to a $500 fine.
  • Sets specific categories for who can board a school bus.
  • Establishes a civil infraction penalty for impeding the progress and/or operation of a school bus.
  • Allow stop arm cameras to be installed on school buses and allow for video or a photograph to be used as evidence for law enforcement prosecuting illegal passage of a school bus.
  • Makes failure to stop a civil infraction punishable by up to a $500 fine.

The committee heard testimony on the dangers of allowing unauthorized persons to board a bus and the need to improve safety. School transportation officials also testified on the alarming number of cars that pass stopped school buses across the state. It was estimated that this happens more than 600 times a day. The committee did not take a vote and will continue hearings on the bills next week.

Latest Pandemic Order Expands Student-Athlete COVID Testing

Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced changes to the pandemic order including gathering sizes at arenas and stadiums and youth sports testing. Under the new order, outdoor stadiums and arenas that establish infection control plans may increase capacity to 20%. The order also states beginning on April 2, 2021, all youth athletes aged 13-19 will need to participate in the testing program established for contact sports this winter. The Governor pointed to increases in case numbers tied to high school sports and, that with more testing, we can catch cases sooner and allow sports to continue.

Further guidance on athlete testing is expected early next week, but more information on the program is available on the state’s coronavirus website. This order is in effect until April 19, 2021.

Michigan Supreme Court Declines to Rehear Nonpublic School Aid Lawsuit

On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court in a 5-0 vote declined to hear the Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid v. State of Michigan. This case was brought by a coalition of education organizations, including MASB and other advocacy groups. The coalition filed a lawsuit to prevent nonpublic schools from being reimbursed for certain expenses from the School Aid Fund. These funds were first appropriated under the Snyder administration in 2016.

In December 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court deadlocked with a 3-3 vote, which upheld the lower Court of Appeals ruling that the payments are constitutional. For more details on the case, be sure to read next week’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. The event will include an update on the state budget and tips on advocating in a virtual world. Your legislators will be invited to participate in regional breakout rooms. Registration is now open and we encourage you to register today!