MEA Member Voices: Back to School in 2020
The State House has passed – and now the State Senate is considering – a series of Republican-introduced education bills that contain a variety of concerning measures, including allowing the outsourcing of virtual instruction.
“This legislation uses the cover of a pandemic to push extreme ideas that are straight from the playbook of Betsy DeVos to make a profit off the education of our students,” said MEA President Paula Herbart in a statement when the House passed HBs 5910-5913 on July 22. “The most reprehensible of the provisions passed today allows contracting out for teachers for any virtual classes. Not only does this run counter to collective bargaining law regarding outsourcing of instructional staff, it could allow unqualified individuals and for-profit companies to supplant the dedicated expertise of Michigan’s front-line educators.”
Now, the State Senate is set to begin consideration of these bills. Please contact your State Senator today and urge them to oppose this legislation.
Beyond the outsourcing concerns, the package of bills also include language that:
- Requires benchmark student assessments and financially penalizes districts that underperform – rather than investing in students who need additional support.
- Creates chaos in schools with a cafeteria-style voucher program where students could take different classes from different providers throughout the day.
- Allows up to seven snow days to automatically switch to virtual class days – ignoring that Michigan weather can change overnight without the ability to adequately plan for quality learning opportunities for students.
HBs 5910-5913 passed the House on largely party line votes, with deviations including Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant), who was the sole GOP vote against HB 5910 but voted in favor of the other three bills in the package; Reps. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) and John Reilly (R-Oakland Twp.) who voted against HB 5913 but in favor of the rest of the package; and Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) who voted for all four bills.
There are some good elements to this legislation, particularly increased flexibility around student attendance and days & hours requirements. However, those positives are outweighed by the negative language outlined above.
“MEA strongly opposes these bills and calls on lawmakers to focus their energy on providing adequate funding for schools this fall, including lobbying Congress to pass the HEROES Act to help prevent pandemic-driven cuts for our students,” Herbart said.