Republican leaders in the state House and Senate are pushing hard to pass damaging education bills before a new Legislature can be seated. MEA lobbyists need your help—NOW IS THE TIME TO RAISE YOUR VOICE.
Education policy changes being bandied about both chambers in the eleventh hour could increase the stakes on standardized test scores for schools, weaken union and collective bargaining rights, and enact a school funding shift toward vouchers with little public notice or input.
Review the MEA positions below, contact your representative and senator to urge “no” votes on the following bills, and talk with your friends and colleagues about getting involved to stop bad policies from being enacted.
We’ve stopped these kinds of Lame Duck attacks before—your calls and emails matter! Step up and make a difference, and encourage others to get involved, because we all can agree—Michigan needs thoughtful education policy that respects the voices of school employees and communities.
A-F grading system for schools:
One bill being pushed for a vote on the House floor would attach A-F letter grades to schools, a move that would only serve to worsen the current over-emphasis on standardized test scores and slap stigmatizing labels on schools in high-need communities.
House Bill 5526 would abandon the “school transparency dashboard” developed by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to include more than 20 factors in a measure of school quality. The MDE’s dashboard was developed with public input as part of the state’s compliance with the federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Release time for union business:
Union release time allows important labor-management work to be conducted during business hours, benefiting both sides.
Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Democrat from Southfield and retired sheriff’s detective, points out that union leave time arrangements provide an efficient means for management and workers to resolve disputes, disciplinary issues, and other issues in a cost-effective and timely manner.
“Bills like this only serve one purpose — they’re just another step in the systematic destruction of unions and workers’ rights,” Gregory told the Detroit Free Press.
The bills’ sponsor, Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy), responded that the bills primarily target public education and school employees. The proposed restriction would not apply to police, firefighters, corrections officers and employees of a transit authority that seeks or receives federal funding.
Contact your lawmakers today and urge them not to singularly restrict the rights of school employees and districts to enter into these agreements that benefit their local district.
Innovative schools (vouchers):
HB 6314 and 6315 would create a new type of school or district exempt from many existing requirements related to curriculum, days and hours, testing, and teacher credentialing.
The bills recently passed out of the House Education Reform Committee despite concerns raised by education groups including the Michigan Association of School Boards and MEA.
Many questions remain about the bills which would amend the Revised School Code to allow the board of a school district to apply to the state Superintendent to operate as a public innovative district.
Such a designation would allow a school or district to enact “competency-based education” and remain exempt from some state requirements for school hours and days, curriculum, standardized assessments, and teacher credentialing.
In addition, the bills’ “any time, any place, any pace” catch phrase is poorly defined but appears to allow credits to be granted for extended learning activities, including but not limited to independent study, private instruction, team sports, performing groups, internships, community service, and work study.
This will set up a type of “parochiaid” and “cafeteria style” voucher program. The state constitution prohibits tax dollars from funding private schools, and Michigan voters have overwhelmingly rejected vouchers in the past.
Contact your lawmakers today to say that education policies must respect the will of voters. In addition, complex funding and restructuring proposals should be carefully crafted and considered with educators included in the process – not rushed through in lame duck.
Teacher preparation package:
An eight-bill package targeting teacher preparation at Michigan colleges and universities would result in a loss of licensure for institutions found to be out of compliance with new mandates on everything from aspiring teachers’ college coursework to pre-service teacher experience hours.
HB 5598-5605 would stipulate the content of aspiring teachers’ college coursework; boost the required classroom experience hours for pre-service teachers to 400; increase reading credit hour requirements for elementary educators to 12; and mandate continuing education for all full-time college faculty.
Universities and various education groups have objected to the plan’s unfunded mandates, including a “warranty” program that would allow teachers labeled ineffective in their first two years of employment to take additional coursework at the expense of their alma mater.
MEA has supported two components of the plan – to pay supervising teachers and create a master teacher corps – but we do not support the top-down approach to mandating courses and requirements by politicians who are not education professionals. MEA also opposes stripping licensure from non-compliant universities, a move that would leave students who have partially completed programs – through no fault of their own – stranded without a degree or teaching certificate.
The bills passed out of the House Education Reform Committee last May and await a vote on the House floor. Read more about teacher preparation changes.
Banning bargaining over school calendar:
A bill to ban bargaining on school calendar and schedule remains on the House floor and could be taken up at any time. HB 4163 could prevent issues from being negotiated that affect student learning conditions.
Educators are the experts who know what their students and communities need in terms of calendar and schedule. From special schedules, such as exam weeks, to school start and end times, and employees’ shifts and duties – the bargaining process allows for collaboration and problem-solving.
Educators need a seat at the table, not more attacks and top-down mandates. Together, we’ve won these types of fights before thanks to your calls and emails. Make your voice heard for your students and your profession.