MASB's Government Relations team conducted ten virtual priority setting meetings last fall. Input was gathered at those meetings as to what our pro-active legislative priorities should be. All of the ideas from those meetings were then put into a survey for all of our members. This list reflects the results of that survey as adopted by our Board of Directors on January 15, 2021.
2021-2022 Legislative Session
Increase mental health services and professionals in schools and provide adequate state resources to allow schools to educate, provide social-emotional supports, and keep students and staff safe.
School psychologists, social workers and counselors are critical supports for students and staff in our schools. These mental health professionals can support our teachers and aid students who are struggling emotionally or are troubled. Giving these students the proper supports early on can prevent tragic events from taking place later and make all of our students and staff safer. The state should give districts the proper resources to increase the ratio of mental health professionals to students.
Expand access to quality internet and proper devices for all students and staff.
The 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years have highlighted the inequities in broadband access across our state and nation. This needs to be addressed at both levels, even outside the pandemic, to ensure students and staff have access to what they need to be successful. This could include creating state financial support for technology, creating programs for collaboratives in local communities and encouraging existing companies to expand their broadband footprint.
Review and implement recommendations of the School Finance Research Collaborative to move toward more equitable funding for students.
We have reached a time where there are many choices on how to receive a quality education. We also know that each child comes to school at a different level of preparedness and need. Each variation comes with a different expenditure, yet we provide revenue at a fixed amount. We must examine the costs of delivering education and adjust our school funding system accordingly. We must also examine the distribution system.
Protect the School Aid Fund and local revenues from state tax policy changes.
As changes to state tax policy are considered, it needs to be acknowledged how those changes affect the public entities that receive the revenue. The School Aid Fund and local revenues need to be protected from all negative tax revenue changes made at the state level.
Support proper funding for third grade reading intervention tools and remove mandatory retention.
Research shows that retention of third graders for reading proficiency does more harm to their long-term academic careers than good. Intervention tools for grades K-3, as required by law, should be fully supported to give districts the resources necessary to help all of our students read at grade level.
Universal preschool for all 4-year-old children.
Reaching children at a younger age increases a child’s achievement levels and reduces future remedial costs for school districts. Michigan currently does not fund slots for every 4-year-old child to participate in a preschool program, nor does it completely fund slots for the children in this state who need it most. Funding should be increased to give universal access to all 4-year-olds.
Specify that the School Aid Fund is only for PreK to 12th grade public education in Michigan’s Constitution. Also, oppose any attempts to create private school voucher or tax credit programs.
School Aid Fund dollars have been redirected to higher education and community colleges for a decade. Fiscal Year 2020-2021 alone resulted in more than $780 million not being available for our public schools. We must protect the integrity of the School Aid Fund by making sure it is only used for PreK to 12th grade public education.
Implement state-based programs to address teacher shortages and retain teachers.
The teacher shortage has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be an ongoing issue if not addressed. Michigan should create programs to encourage people to become teachers and stay in the classroom. Teacher cadet and home-grown teacher programs should be encouraged and supported across the state. Incentives for individuals to enter teaching colleges and complete the program could also be considered, among other things.