Amended version of SB 618 passes Senate; other pieces of education reform package moving

The full Senate passed a version of SB 618 by a 20-18 vote this afternoon that removed the cap on charter schools.  But the bill was amended on the floor to remove the language that would have allowed for the privatization of teachers and to require charter schools to meet the same state assessments and reporting requirements as public schools. The amendments were offered by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R- Monroe).

While MEA will now shift to lobbying the state House for a reasonable charter cap and increased transparency for charter operators, the removal of the privatization provision should be recognized as a hard-fought victory.

Democrats offered several other amendments—one to ban for-profit management companies from opening new charter schools; another that would require all schools—including charters—to have an anti-bullying policy; and an amendment requiring charter schools to show 20 percent better test scores than the resident public school district. All amendments were rejected along party lines.

On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee reported out SB 619 (Colbeck, R-Canton) and SB 621 (Hansen, R-Hart)—two more pieces of the so-called education reform package (SB 618-624). SB 619 expands the number of charter schools from the current cap of 150. SB 621 opens up the geographic boundaries that currently limit the enrollment of private school and home-schooled students so that they can take classes in any public school district or charter school within an ISD.

The Committee amended both pieces of legislation to end the tie-bar to SB 624, which would mandate “schools of choice” for all districts.

While the Senate is “piece-mealing” the package of bills, Senate Education Committee Chair Pavlov (R-St. Clair) said he was optimistic that his entire package would be taken care of this fall since it is “one of the Senate GOP caucus’ priorities.”

It’s clear that your lobbying efforts have had an effect. While MEA still opposes the idea of expanding charters schools and funneling taxpayer dollars intended for public schools into the pockets of private, for-profit companies, SB 618 was amended because you spoke up. Don’t stop now. Contact your Senator with the message that SB 619-624 does nothing to improve education, raise student achievement or create jobs.