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House rams through bills to dissolve school districts without transferring employees

House Education Committee Chairwoman Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, referred to school employees as “hogs” in a floor speech late Thursday night.

After the chair of the House Education Committee referred to school employees as “hogs,” Republicans in the state House rammed through legislation late Thursday night that would dissolve the Buena Vista and Inkster school districts and leave employees in those dissolved districts without the right to a job in the receiving districts.

Under House Bill 4813 and House Bill 4815, the state superintendent and state treasurer could decide to dissolve a troubled school district if the district fails to submit a deficit reduction plan or is financially incapable of implementing such a plan; lacks the funds necessary to run a K-12 program for a year of required instructional hours; and has 2,500 students or fewer and lost at least 10 percent of its students over the course of a year.

The legislation is crafted so that only Buena Vista and Inkster qualify for dissolution. Initially, it would have applied to any school district in the state, but MEA successfully fought to have it narrowed.

A dissolved district’s students and property would be transferred to one or more nearby districts.

School employees in the dissolved districts would not have rights to jobs in the receiving district — even though their district dissolved through no fault of their own. The legislation initially protected school employees in the dissolved districts by providing them with the right of first refusal for jobs in the receiving district, but an amendment by state Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, stripped away all employee protections.

Franz’s amendment was fully supported by House Education Committee Chairwoman Lisa Lyons, R-Alto. In response to school employees’ concerns, Lyons said from the House floor: “Pigs get fat — hogs get slaughtered.” 

Lawmakers demand Snyder put brakes on EAA expansion

State lawmakers are calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to step away from his plan to expand the Education Achievement Authority, following a series of startling revelations about the corporate-backed school district.

Snyder must veto proposed ban on Common Core or every school will fail to meet AYP

Every school in Michigan will fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress and will lose federal aid unless the governor vetoes a part of the budget passed by the Legislature that strips funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards.

MEA members are asked to contact Gov. Rick Snyder immediately and urge him to restore funding for Common Core implementation. Call him at (517) 373-3400 or email him via the form on his website.

School employees have spent the better part of three years preparing for the launch of Common Core. Unless Snyder vetoes the Legislature’s budget language and restores funding for Common Core implementation, all of the prep work put in by educators will be for naught.

Education budgets go to governor’s desk for approval

The House and Senate this week passed education funding bills that provide slight increases for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities — but still fall short of providing proper funding for public education.

Education budgets go to governor’s desk for approval

The House and Senate this week passed education funding bills that provide slight increases for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities — but still fall short of providing proper funding for public education.

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.