Posted on 07/06/15 at 2:58pm

You only have until July 14-next Tuesday-- to register for MEA's 2015 Summer Leadership Conference, "Power from the Past-A Force for the Future." The Conference is scheduled for July 28-30 at Lake Superior State College in Sault Ste. Marie.

Posted on 07/06/15 at 2:57pm

Public Sector Consultants, a non-partisan public policy research firm in Lansing, has released a report offering financial recommendations and policy proposals to move Michigan forward. This comes on the heels of new State Superintendent Brian Whiston's goal of making Michigan one of the top 10 states in the next 10 years.

Posted on 07/06/15 at 2:56pm

The Senate's version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) will finally get a hearing on the full U.S. Senate floor starting tomorrow on July 7. In mid-April, the Senate Education Committee approved the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) a week after it was introduced by co-sponsors Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). 

Posted on 06/29/15 at 12:25pm

Two weeks ago, Gov. Snyder's education advisor led House Education Committee members to believe that the Governor opposed SB 103, the teacher evaluation bill sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), chair of the Senate Education Committee. Under direct questioning, Karen McPhee replied that Snyder did not support the bill in its present form. 

However, last week his media spokesperson said that Gov. Snyder has taken no position on SB 103, but would support some changes to the bill. So far, the bill has had four hearings in Committee that still has not voted to discharge the bill.

Pavlov's bill emphasizes local control with districts allowed to choose whatever evaluation tool they wish. There are no provisions for training and no standards by which to judge those evaluation tools. MEA lobbyist Christina Canfield spoke in opposition to the bill, saying the bill is not in the best interest of teachers or children.

Last year, the House plan for teacher evaluations was very different from SB 103. That set of evaluation bills never made it through lame duck last year. Those bills set standards for the evaluation tools districts use; emphasized training for evaluators; and created a much fairer evaluation system for teachers. The MEA remains hopeful this year's House Education Committee will introduce similar amendments to SB 103.

Posted on 06/29/15 at 12:26pm

This Wednesday, Brian Whiston takes over as the new State Superintendent. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, he talks about standardized testing, school funding, charter and cyber schools, deficit schools and teacher evaluations.

Posted on 06/30/15 at 9:19am

With the passage of Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act in 1965, teachers finally went from begging to bargaining. Thanks to PERA, all public school employees have the right to negotiate for fair wages, quality health care benefits and decent working conditions.

Supreme Court dismisses school districts’ suit claiming state underfunding

Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit alleging that school districts were underfunded for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. More than 450 local school districts brought the suit.

Using the Headlee Amendment, the districts claimed that the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Education, state budget director, state treasurer and state superintendent of public instruction didn’t provide enough compensation to school districts for the new and increased costs of reporting information to the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). Under the Headlee Amendment, the Michigan Constitution prohibits the state from requiring new or expanded activities by local governments and school districts without full state funding.

The Supreme Court dismissed the cases on the grounds that the districts didn’t attempt to prove a specific amount of underfunding. The Court’s ruling agreed with the decision of a special master appointed by the Michigan Court of Appeals to review the case before it went to the Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the Court said, “A plaintiff claiming that the Legislature’s appropriation failed to fully fund the cost of a new or increased service or activity must allege and prove the specific amount of the shortfall. Plaintiffs failed to offer any proofs that could entitle them to relief.”

No action taken on charter authorizers on at-risk list

The 11 charter school authorizers named at-risk by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan have avoided suspension and still remain at-risk. In August, Flanagan required those authorizers to provide sufficient transparency and oversight of their operations or face suspension in October.
 

BOE Report calls for making school funding a budget priority

The state Board of Education (BOE) has adopted its"Recommendations for Change to Michigan School Organization and Finance" calling for the state to make education funding a budget priority. Since January 2014, the BOE has been analyzing the issue of school funding and holding meetings to make its final recommendations.
 

More schools added to list of schools facing financial deficit

The number of public schools and charters that are facing a financial deficit has risen to 55-up from 48 schools last year. On that list are schools that started the 2013-14 school year solvent, but after facing money problems during the year, are now part of the new list of deficit schools. The Education Achievement Authority is one of those schools newly added.

Anti-bullying law expanded to include cyberbullying

A cyberbullying bill that would require school districts and academies to change their existing anti-bullying policies to include electronic or online bullying passed during the lame duck session. SB 74 describes cyberbullying as "any electronic communication that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm one or more pupils either directly or indirectly."

Anti-bullying law expanded to include cyberbullying

A cyberbullying bill that would require school districts and academies to change their existing anti-bullying policies to include electronic or online bullying passed during the lame duck session. SB 74 describes cyberbullying as "any electronic communication that is intended or that a reasonable person would know is likely to harm one or more pupils either directly or indirectly."

2011 guidelines in place since evaluation bills die in lame duck

HB 5223 and HB 5224, which would have established a statewide evaluation system for teachers and administrators, did not survive the Legislature's lame duck session. While the bills may be reintroduced next year, the evaluation guidelines from 2011 will be in place.
 
The bills, sponsored by Rep. Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage) and Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor), passed the House and had strong bipartisan support. MEA lobbyists were instrumental in fashioning the legislation that created an evaluation system that supported rather than punished teachers. 

However, the bills could not get out of the Senate Education Committee. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Shores), Committee chair, called the bills flawed because they did not give local school districts enough flexibility.

MEA also supported legislation that would have instituted much needed charter school reforms. Unfortunately, those bills also did not make it through lame duck.

However, bills that MEA opposed that would have held back third graders who weren't reading at grade level, assigned letter grades to failing schools, expanded the Education Achievement Authority, and established an early financial warning system for school districts died in lame duck. 

Borders named DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year

MEA member Ann Marie Borders has been named United Musical Society (UMS) DTE Energy Foundation Educator of the Year. Borders is a vocal music teacher at Carpenter Elementary School in Ann Arbor. Karen McDonald, a Carpenter art teacher, shares the award with Borders since the UMS selection committee declared a tie.

MEA members earn NEA Foundation grants

Educators and MEA members from New Haven, Swartz Creek, Redford and Saginaw Valley State University received $2,000 and $5,000 grants from the NEA Foundation. The grants support proposals that have the potential for enhancing student achievement and for delivering high-quality educational professional development activities.

Tod Wolfgram, a New Haven High School social studies teacher received a $2,000 Learning and Leadership grant to attend the National Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. There he will learn more about the college, career, and civic life framework for social studies state standards. He will bring back information to his social studies colleagues and share ways to promote civil instruction in the modern classroom.

Kayla Trundle, a special education teacher from Swartz Creek Middle School, received a $2,000 Student Achievement Grant to improve community-based instruction opportunities for students with cognitive impairments. With help from the grant, their students will learn functional skills that apply to the Common Core Essential Elements through trips to a grocery store, post office, bank, restaurant, library, nature center and pet adoption center.

Kara Clayton, a Thurston High School language arts educator in Redford, earned a $2,000 Learning and Leadership Grant to learn more about the use of digital tools to improve students’ literacy skills. She will use the grant to attend seminars at the University of Rhode Island’s Institute in Digital Literacy. Clayton will attend seminars on assisting students to choose reliable and credible sources, reading comprehension, and using digital tools to conduct research. At the end of the Institute, Kara will create a collaborative lesson to be shared with other attendees and colleagues in Redford.

Dr. Marlena Bravender, an assistant professor at Saginaw Valley State University, received a $5,000 Learning and Leadership Grant to research effective ways to integrate virtual language simulations into middle school Spanish lessons. Using the lessons, students will understand authentic situations involving food, clothing, culture, common phrases and study lessons. The grant will also allow Bravender to track the impact of the virtual simulations.

The NEA Foundation awards its grants to educators three times a year. In this round, 42 educators across 22 states received $168,000 in grants to support efforts to improve teaching and learning. The next education grant deadline is Feb. 1, 2015. Go to www.neafoundation.org for more information. 

MI taxpayers helping charter school management companies make big profits

How charter management companies spend more than $1 billion dollars in state taxpayer dollars is again the focus of a news article in the Detroit Free Press. "Public money for schools buys private property" uncovers the arrangement National Heritage Academies (NHA) has with its schools. NHA, not the school, owns the school buildings and the contents, even though that's all been purchased with taxpayer money.

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