Legislative update: Snyder budget gives schools a bump; school letter grading rides again

Winter is ending, which means it's budget time in Lansing. It's also an election year, which means we're likely to see a mix of generosity, grandstanding, and horsetrading as lawmakers try to burnish their records before facing primary and general election voters. Here are some of the top recent developments:

  • Snyder school aid budget gives bump to schools, cuts sketchy earmarks; fate in legislature is uncertain
    • January revenue estimation conference sees increase for School Aid Fund but less so for main state budget; charter schools forecast for first-ever fall in enrollment
    • The School Aid Fund will now pick up the entire community college budget and cover one third of all state spending on colleges and universities
  • A-F grades for schools lurches back into spotlight; measure skips summative grade but creates new commission of political appointees
  • In wake of Florida school shootings, House committee chair says that "guns in schools" bills not likely to see action anytime soon
  • House committee passes bills allowing tax break on private school tuition for the well-heeled; measures also force districts to cost out all their services - for no apparent reason
  • Snyder signs bill giving charters a cut of regional enhancement millages, after a notably close vote in the House

Better grab a cup of coffee!

Letter from Oakland: reflections on NPE 2017

As I write this, the fourth annual meeting of the Network for Public Education is coming to a close. NPE is a national group dedicated to fighting for local public education, and was founded just a few years ago by education luminaries like historian Diane Ravitch and teacher/writer Anthony Cody. The meeting, in Oakland, CA, drew hundreds of education advocates from all around the country and featured panels on everything from building advocacy coalitions to the role of technology in education.

It seems to me, though, that one thread running throughout the conference was the need to continue to address issues of race and class in the struggle over the future of public education.


Letter to Senate: stop the "guns in schools" bills

Dear Majority Leader Meekhof and members of the Senate,

On behalf of parent advocates across the state of Michigan, I can only say that we are stunned that the state Senate has chosen not only to revive, but to fast-track, legislation that would end most restrictions on who can bring deadly firearms into our public schools and other sensitive areas. There is simply no excuse for this kind of reckless legislation, which solves no problems but potentially endangers many innocents.

In only one hour of committee hearings, you and your colleagues have moved forward a package of bills that not only strips local school districts of the power to control weapons in their own school buildings, but guts the original agreement that underlies the “shall issue” legislation for concealed pistol licenses. Former Gov. John Engler insisted that certain gun-free zones be included before he would sign that legislation. These bills would sweep that compromise away.

Legislative update: our letter on bill to eliminate State Board of Ed

Dear Chairman Kelly and members of the Committee,

I write to you today regarding House Joint Resolution M, the proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution which would eliminate the elected State Board of Education and place the Department of Education directly under the authority of the Governor.

Bill brief: They're Baaaaaaack...

As parents and children settle down for the new school year, our lawmakers in Lansing return from their summer break, refreshed and full of ideas. Watch out. This fall session, in between election years, is where a lot of the legislative work gets done - not all of it good. There are a number of new education-related proposals, some of which are moving very quickly. Here's an overview:

  • Back door tax credit vouchers
  • A-F rating of schools - the legislation that wouldn't die
  • A piece of the action - charters could get a share of enhancement millages
  • State takeover writ large - proposal to eliminate State Board of Education
  • Guns in schools revisited

Back-door vouchers for the well-heeled?

Hypocrisy alert: Vouchers for the well-to-do

Among the first pieces of legislation out of the gate after the Legislature's summer recess is a package of bills in the state Senate creating an "enhanced" Michigan Education Savings Plan. This proposal would allow parents to make tax deductible contributions to an account which could be used to pay for K-12 school expenses. (The plan would be an addition to the existing plan which covers post-secondary education.) The bills - SB 544 through SB 549 - were sponsored variously by Senators Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp), Phil Pavlov (R-St Clair), Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan), and Mike Green (R-Mayville). The Senate Fiscal Agency summary of the bills as reported from committee can be found here.

Sounds OK, right? A little tax break for setting aside money for those athletic fees? Well, hold on to your wallet. The SFA estimates that the cost to set up the program could reach $100 million, with indeterminate costs after that - on top of tax revenue losses from the deduction. Families could deduct up to $5000 (single return) or $10,000 (joint return) of contributions per account.

Do they really expect parents to believe that they would spend $100 million of taxpayer money and offer deductions of up to $10,000 in contributions just so we could pay for sports fees and field trips?

Uncommon Core: your Legislature at work, but for whom?

Our state, like our nation, has something of a split personality on education standards. On the one hand, we all seem to like the idea of going farther, higher, more rigorous. On the other hand, we're suspicious of things "not invented here" and especially things that are not under our own control. Of course, it also depends on what we mean by "our own" control.

A bill now in the Legislature is being presented as banning the Common Core, something appealing to many folks concerned with education. But what's the real motive here?

MIPFS joins suit opposing School Aid funds for private schools

Public Education Leaders, Parent Groups to Sue State and Gov. Snyder to Protect Public Schools

LANSING, Mich. – Public education leaders and parent groups from across Michigan will today file a lawsuit to prevent the state and Gov. Rick Snyder from funding private schools with public money. The lawsuit stems from a $2.5 million line item in the state budget that reimburses private institutions for state mandates.

Message to Senate Education on replacing State Reform Office law

MIPFS has been advocating for changes to Section 1280c, and broadly to State policy with regard to struggling schools, for several years. In fact, a version of our proposal was introduced in the 2013-14 legislative session as HB 5268 of 2014. In brief, the "Parent Proposal to Assist Struggling Schools" would accomplish the following:

  • Provide real, customized support to local schools and districts;
  • Balance our basic respect for local control with the legitimate desire of Michigan citizens to ensure that all children receive a quality education;
  • Engage all relevant stakeholders to ensure that changes are both implemented and sustained; and,
  • Provide tools for state agencies to insist on certain reforms without resort to complete takeover of a school or district.

The human cost of the "technocrats"

How many times do Michigan residents have to absorb disastrous policies before we decide a change of course is in order?

How many times do high-handed technocratic systems that usurp elected control have to fail before we demand a government "of, by, and for the people"? These are the questions that come front and center to anyone who has read the latest revelations about the Flint water disaster and has even a passing familiarity with our state's other experiments with technocratic central control. While we at MIPFS focus on education, the implications are much wider: how do we ensure that our policymakers serve and protect the people of our state? This is a crucial question to keep in mind as we go into an election year.


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MIPFS is working with parent group 482Forward, ACLU Michigan, and many school groups to ensure public funding goes to public schools.

MIPFS also contributed considerable background to this article, raising serious questions about the strategy of closing schools.

MIPFS presents to the State Board of Education

Founder of our Forest Hills affiliate testifies before State Board, 9 May 2013

Our op-ed on the EAA's failure and why the Parent Proposal embodied in HB 5268 is a better alternative. MLive.com, 9 Feb 2014

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