House passes cyber school bill, other “ed reforms”

Update: Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) lost her request to reconsider the vote on SB 619 to expand charter schools, but she was successful in her request for a roll call vote on the immediate effect of the bill. The 57-52 vote failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority, so SB 619 will not go into effect until next spring.

April 26, 2012—House Republicans managed to strong-arm enough votes to barely pass SB 619—legislation to expand cyber schools—on a 56-54 vote. Thanks to intense lobbying efforts from MEA members and many other groups, the bill was vastly improved from the original passed by the Senate.

Fifteen amendments were offered, but only six Republican ones were adopted. There was no debate or explanation of any of the amendments. 

With the amendments, the bill now reads:

  • Through Dec. 31, 2013, there can only be five statewide authorizing bodies for cyber schools. The number can double the following year, but there can be no more than 15 after Dec. 31, 2014.
  • Cyber school enrollment can’t exceed 2,500 in the first year; not more than 5,000 in the second year; and no more than 10,000 in the third year and beyond.
  • The Department of Education can stop the authorization of any new cyber schools if the number of students enrolled is more than 1 percent of the total student enrollment in public schools for the 2012-13 school year. In 2014, the limit is 2 percent.

Speaking in opposition to the bill, Democrats reminded legislators that the two-year report on the current cyber schools has not yet been done.  They also spoke to the lack of data on cyber schools in general and the funneling of education money to private companies—at the expense of traditional public schools. Their statements reinforced the message that the bill again puts the interest of CEO’s before children.

Democratic Rep. Shanelle Jackson crossed over and voted for the bill. Republicans Farrington, Forlini, Glardon, Goike, Horn, Johnson, Muxlow and Pettalia voted no.  The Democrats were able to stop the bill from going into immediate effect.

While SB 619 is still a bad bill that does nothing to help students, the changes made make it a far less damaging bill to public schools, students and families.

In other action on the so-called “education reform” package, the House passed its version of SB 621 on a 60-50 vote. The bill expands the list of schools that can provide service to students in private schools and receive partial state aid. Changes made by the House were unclear to observers, since there was no explanation of amendments given on the floor.  That bill was given immediate effect. 

Other bills dealing with dual enrollment were also scheduled to come up on Thursday. Capitol Comments will have a full write-up on the results and changes made to all of these bills once House Republicans make them available.