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MEA members successfully push for increased investment in early childhood education

Thanks to the hard-fought efforts of MEA members, the state Legislature on Wednesday voted to increase the state’s investment in early childhood education funding.

More than 1,400 MEA members called and emailed their legislators in recent weeks to urge them to support more funding for early childhood education. Because of the outreach conducted by teachers, education support professionals and higher education employees, the Legislature sent an education budget to the governor’s desk that includes $65 million in additional funds for early childhood education.

“The MEA has long championed greater investment in early childhood education programs, because these investments help prepare our students for success,” MEA Vice President Nancy Strachan said. “The additional investment for early childhood education is a critical step to help our low-income students have access to high-quality preschool opportunities and enter kindergarten prepared to learn.”

“Research has clearly shown the direct correlation between early childhood education programs and increased graduation rates, reduced crime and a healthier economy,” Strachan said. “The MEA will continue to support this and other increased early childhood investments so that all Michigan children have the opportunity to succeed.”     

Joint House and Senate panels agree on education budgets

Michigan K-12 school districts are set to see a small increase in funding for next year’s budget, but nowhere near enough to make up for the $1 billion in cuts that the Snyder administration previously made to local schools.

House panel passes merit pay bill that ignores teacher experience

Despite objections from numerous education experts who testified in opposition, the state House Education Committee passed legislation Wednesday that would make performance the “primary” factor in determining pay for teachers, rather than its current status as a “significant” factor.

House Bill 4625, which now goes to the full House, would also prohibit school officials from considering experience or advanced degrees as factors in setting pay for teachers, except for a few limited exceptions.

As originally introduced, the bill would have applied only to future teachers. However, the committee passed an amendment offered by Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, that would also apply merit pay to current teachers who opt in.

The committee also passed an amendment from Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, that would delay implementation of the bill until the completion of a new educator evaluation system being developed by the Michigan Council on Educator Effectiveness. For more on the MCEE’s evaluation system, see the April edition of the MEA Voice.

Snyder signs bill relaxing snow day penalties for current school year

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new law Thursday sparing school districts from losing state funding for missing too many days due to this past winter’s unusually poor weather.

Urge reps to support flexibility and local control for high school graduation requirements

MEA President Steve Cook sent a letter Tuesday to all state representatives expressing MEA’s support for House Bills 4465 and 4466, which seek to provide more flexibility and local control for districts in establishing graduation requirements for students.

In the current legislative environment, bills worthy of MEA support can be rare, but sponsors Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and Joel Johnson, R-Clare, were inclusive of a variety of education stakeholders, including MEA, in developing these bills.

“Aside from our support, I offer our thanks and appreciation for the efforts of Representatives McBroom and Johnson as they ushered this legislation through an exhaustive and transparent process that engaged many different stakeholders in the education community,” Cook wrote in his letter. “Those discussions led to better bills and our ability to support them. MEA continues to stand ready to similarly engage on other education issues with representatives from both sides of the aisle.”

The bills maintain the high graduation standards adopted by Michigan, including Algebra II, but provide districts, educators and parents the flexibility through “personal curriculum committees” to customize the standards to meet individual students’ needs.  This addresses problems with programs like fine arts, career and technical education and agricultural sciences, which were inadvertently harmed by the establishment of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

Republican bill would ignore education, experience in salary decisions for future educators

Steve Norton, executive director of Michigan Parents for Schools, testifying Wednesday before the House Education Committee in opposition to House Bill 4625, which would ban school districts from considering teachers’ experience and much of their educational attainment when setting their wages.

It would be illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and education except for few exceptions, under legislation introduced by state Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo.

GOP’s merit pay bill ignores factors outside the classroom

 

Legislation introduced by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo, would make it illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and advanced degrees, except for few exceptions.

Republican lawmakers are ignoring external factors that affect student learning by introducing a bill that would make teacher “performance” the primary factor in determining educators’ pay, education advocates told the Associated Press in an article published over the weekend.

House Bill 4625, introduced May 7 by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo, would make it illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and advanced degrees, except for few exceptions.

Instead, the bill would make teacher performance the “primary” factor in determining pay, as opposed to its current status of being a “significant” factor. Performance would be primarily measured by student growth on standardized tests.

The AP reported Sunday that “such a policy could lead to competition in schools where cooperation and idea-sharing is essential, and punish teachers working in low-income areas where factors beyond the teacher’s control can hinder student growth.”

Basing teachers’ pay on high-stakes testing can force educators “to engage in a competitive, sort of cutthroat nature with one another,” said state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights. “I don’t think that cultivates the type of environment we want in the classroom.”

In addition, doling out pay to teachers based on their students’ test scores could unfairly punish teachers who serve academically- or economically-challenged students, state Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said.

Senate passes bill giving districts a waiver for going over snow day allotment

The state Senate passed a bill Thursday that would spare school districts from losing funding this year for missing too many days due to last winter’s unusually inclement weather.

Under current law, school districts must provide at least 1,098 hours of instruction over the course of at least 170 days. If districts don't meet both the days and hours requirements, they are ineligible for state aid.

Senate Republicans reject right-to-work penalties

Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, told the Detroit Free Press, “I’m not going to punish anybody for something they did legally.”

Penalizing school districts and higher education institutions that negotiated “fair share” agreements with employees prior to the implementation of Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law is not on the agenda of Republicans in the Michigan Senate, who this week passed education appropriations bills out of committee without the penalties.

That’s in sharp contrast to the state House, where Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted recently to eliminate grants for K-12 districts, penalize universities by 15 percent and not increase funds for community colleges — all because they followed the law and negotiated in good faith with school employees.

Between last December’s passage of right-to-work and its March 28 effective date, many school districts, colleges and universities negotiated fair share agreements with their employee associations. The agreements require that employees who benefit from union representation pay their fair share toward the cost of representation. Michigan’s new right-to-work law bans fair share agreements, but only for contracts not in place by March 28.

Extremist politicians have relentlessly attacked employers for negotiating fair share agreements, insisting they should have followed a law that wasn’t yet in place. Those attacks have included being called before McCarthy-style committee hearings in Lansing about the agreements, as well as threats of funding cuts for schools or universities that entered into contracts with employees prior to the implementation date.

While Republicans in the House are attempting to follow through on their threats and take away much-needed resources from students and school employees, Republicans in the Senate seem to be taking a more measured and responsible approach to the issue.

House Dems’ budget would restore $574 million to Pre-K-12, higher education

Michigan House Democrats have proposed major increases in public education funding.

The Michigan House Democrats’ budget, released this week, proposes to increase pre-K-12 funding by $537 million and higher education funding by $37.5 million, while providing three-quarters of a billion dollars in tax relief for middle-class families.

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