A Mixed Bag in 2020 Lame Duck Session

MEA members’ lobbying efforts helped to score a victory in the Michigan Legislature’s abbreviated lame duck session in December – winning hazard pay grants for some school employees left out of the original legislation, including preschool and adult education teachers.

Despite having numerous scheduled session days cancelled because of coronavirus exposure, before they left for the year legislators passed SB 748, a supplemental budget bill that includes hazard pay grants of up to $500 for those who teach special education for individuals aged 18-26, adult education, Head Start and Great Start Readiness Programs.

The bill is now on its way to the Governor’s desk for signature. Once signed, the Department of Treasury will administer the program in the same manner as it administers the other grant money and will distribute those funds as soon as is feasible.

Also headed to the Governor’s desk is HB 4694 which extends the sunset to 2025 on a public act that suspended the 12-month waiting period before a retired school employee could go back to work in a school district. This only applies for critical shortage areas and added school districts that provide instruction under an extended COVID-19 learning plan.

Unfortunately SB 657 also passed the House and Senate. The bill – opposed by MEA – allows for an alternative teaching certificate process for special education instruction. Under the bill, if someone does not hold a Michigan teaching certificate they would have to complete a special education training program determined by the superintendent of public instruction to be equivalent to at least 32 college credit hours, or equivalent clock hours equal to seven hours of instruction per credit hour.

While securing teachers for all classrooms is vital, we believe it’s wrong to lower the bar. Rather, we should be addressing the considerations that make individuals less likely to enter the teaching field.

Both chambers have now adjourned for the year, meaning that all bills that were not adopted in 2019-20 must be reintroduced when the new Legislature is seated in January.

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