This week represents that last legislative days for 2011 and there are issues which could see action this week.
SB 618 may be up for a vote in the House, but so far there don't seem to be enough votes to support it. The idea of removing the cap on charter schools is meeting resistance from legislators who are concerned about the impact that throwing open the doors to charters will have on traditional public schools. President Cook has sent a letter to state representatives urging them to vote "no" on SB 618 and reaffirming our opposition to the bill. That letter, along with messages to your representatives seems to be having an effect, but we can't stop the efforts. Contact your representatives. Find out where they stand on SB 618. If they oppose it, thank them for their vote and ask what kind of support they need. If they agree with taking the cap off charter schools, tell them true education reform is based on sound research that says small class sizes, more and better teacher training, greater parental involvement and adequate resources for student earning yield the greatest results for our students.
For two days, the House Education Committee has heard testimony on SB 619, the legislation to lift the cap on cyber schools. While what most of what the Committee has heard came from parents, teachers, students and providers of cyber schools who fully endorse the legislation, today MEA submitted written testimony from President Cook along with research showing that cyber schools are not the great educational miracles many legislators are claiming and calling for more accountability in their operation.
“Our state leaders should tread very lightly when deciding whether to divert scarce educational resources into virtual schools. And they should tread very lightly before turning our kids into guinea pigs for corporate education experiments,” warned Cook.
After a hurried reshuffling of the House Education Committee yesterday to ensure the needed votes, the Committee today reported out SB 618, which would raise the cap on charter schools.
The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. Contact your state representative today -- urge him or her to vote NO on SB 618 that would allow for unlimited charter schools, regardless of the quality of those schools and the resources they draw away from neighborhood schools.
In advance of today's vote, House Speaker Jase Bolger announced late Tuesday that Rep. Holly Hughes (R-White River Township) was being replaced by Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) on the House Education Committee. Hughes continually wavered on the charter school cap issue but Bolger claims his move protected her politically from both the MEA and Republican constituencies. What it really did was assure passage of the bill, despite opposition from within the Republican caucus.
The Senate wasted no time in passing HB 4163, anti-bullying legislation that does not contain any exemptions for religious or moral grounds.
The Senate made it clear before their break that passage of the House’s version would be taken up immediately upon their return. SB 137 caused controversy nationwide because it allowed bullying in certain instances.
Democrats offered amendments to address cyber-bullying, to provide a list of groups included under the bill and to require reporting of bullying instances to the Department of Education. All amendments failed on party-line vote.
The bill now goes to Gov. Snyder for his signature.
The Legislature has only nine work days left in 2011 after it returns from break Nov. 29 to get key issues to the Governor for signature.
When it comes to education, the list of issues left to tackle include the collection of school employee union dues, so-called "education reform," and bullying.
While denying it is payback for the recall of Paul Scott, the Republican-led Legislature has SB 636 and HB 4588 on their agenda. Both bills prohibit public employers from collecting union dues via payroll deduction. MEA opposes the legislation. Contact your legislators and let them know that there must be an end to such partisan politics--especially when it doesn’t help kids or education and doesn’t create any new jobs.
Gov. Snyder led the Republican Party message on the recall saying that his administration will “forge ahead with our efforts,” and “This was not about Rick Snyder or the Republican agenda.”
When it came to the Ohio vote, he said, “The country needs a mellower, less confrontational approach to fiscal problems on the state and federal level.” He went on to claim that his new Republican administration has been able to avoid the rancor rocking other Republican governors “by steering clear of challenges to collective bargaining agreements with state employees. “I counseled dialogue and negotiations with union leaders,” he said.
On a 26-11 vote, the Senate passed SB 137 that requires schools districts to have an anti-bullying policy. The bill sparked heated debate, with Democrats criticizing the bill for the loopholes that allow bullying to still happen. Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) is sponsor of the bill.
As passed, the bill provides no real protection against bullying. It allows bullying comments which stem from religious beliefs; it lists no protections for homosexual or disabled students; and it excludes cyber-bullying.
Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) blasted the bill for having holes big enough “to drive a Mack truck through and was “worse than doing nothing.” In passionate support of her “no” vote on the bill, Whitmer called the legislation a “Republican license to bully.”
Today, the Senate passed SB 619, 621-623, 709, and 710—all part of the so-called education reform package. The bills passed on party-line votes with SB 619 barely squeaking by. The bills have been referred to the House Education Committee. Only SB 624—mandating schools of choice—is left after tie bars to the bill were broken.
Despite testimony and research showing cyber schools are not an effective alternative to traditionalschools, SB 619 removes all limitations on cyber schools. Democrats offered five amendments—one to limit the amount of state aid a cyber school student would receive to 50 percent; another to require a cyber school website that included management and third-party vendor contracts; and another to make the student/teacher ratio be equivalent to that of public schools—but all of them failed. Sen. Hoon-Young Hopgood (D-Taylor) chastised the Senate for “putting on the blinders” about the effectiveness of cyber schools.
Since the launch of www.KidsNotCEOs.com, more than 35,000 people have viewed the satirical web video on YouTube! Please, keep sharing it with your friends who may not have seen it yet.
More important than just the video, however, are the stories being shared on the site. Parents and school employees have been visiting and telling their stories about the devastating effects of education cuts on their schools and communities. Here are just a few of their stories:
“I’ve been a teacher for 16 years. I have never been so frustrated and frightened for my future, not to mention the future of our children in the state of Michigan…The government, both on a state and national level, talks about how we need to compete with the rest of the world, yet instead of investing more in education our country and our state continue to chip away at education.” - Matthias Krenzer, Teacher, Sterling Heights
Statement from MEA President Steven Cook on introduction of Senate Bill 729
The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steven Cook in response to today’s introduction of a bill that would apply so-called “Right to Work” laws only to school employees represented by the Michigan Education Association:
“So-called ‘Right to Work’ efforts – whether they apply only to school employees or to all workers in this state – are the wrong approach to helping Michigan’s economy. This is an incredibly divisive issue that will do nothing to create jobs or help students.