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.

Take the time today to contact your state representative – regardless of their party affiliation – and urge them to support HBs 4465 and 4466. Ask your representative to vote YES on the current versions of these bills that protect high standards while providing much needed flexibility.  The bills could come up for a vote on the House floor this week, so please act today.

While HBs 4465 and 4466 seek to increase flexibility and local control for our schools, other bills continue the recent trend to mandate policy for local districts.  In the same letter, Cook expressed MEA’s strong opposition to HB 4625, which would mandate merit pay for new educators and ban use of experience and advanced degrees in determining compensation. (Read more coverage of HB 4625 here.)

“Based on other laws passed by the Legislature in recent years, school districts already have the ability to enact merit pay scenarios to reward exceptional educators as they see fit,” Cook wrote. “They need no further laws to do so. In fact, the only thing HB 4625 seems to accomplish is continuing to place state mandates on local schools to make significant changes in how they compensate educators.”

“We believe it is imperative that the current standards for merit pay and teacher compensation remain developed, implemented and restructured at the local level,” Cook wrote. “Keeping that local control, school boards and administrators, working with their employers, can exercise the greatest amount of flexibility in meeting the needs of their students and their communities.”

MEA members should contact their state representatives – especially if they serve on the House Education Committee – and urge a NO vote on HB 4625.  Unlike the curriculum flexibility bills that return some local control to districts, this bill strips that control in favor of state mandates.

The House Education Committee is expected to discuss these bills at its next meeting on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 307 of the House Office Building, 124 N. Capitol Ave. in Lansing.