6 education proposals still in the works when Michigan lawmakers left for the summer
New state laws will provide more funding to public schools, require students to take financial literacy courses to graduate, and allow retirees to return to work in public schools while receiving a full pension.
These are the biggest education policy changes the Michigan Legislature has made in the first half of 2022.
But lawmakers left a lot on the table when they left Lansing for their summer vacation.
Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislative Assembly, started the year with an ambitious education agenda but were unable to send several hard-hitting proposals to the governor. Some of these measures – such as giving stipends to student teachers and increasing support for students with dyslexia – have broad support. Others are more politically charged partisan efforts: for example, measures that would ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports, restrict how students are educated about race, and threaten funding for districts that need masks. and vaccines.
“This is open season on the various culture war education issues that will be addressed in the fall,” said Matt Grossman, director of Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research.
These issues will compete for lawmakers’ attention with campaign season pressures and efforts to regulate abortion in Michigan following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Lawmakers are campaigning hard after redistricting made racing more competitive, putting Republicans at risk of losing control of the Legislature. This could leave less time to legislate before December 31, the end of the legislative session.
“Even people in safe neighborhoods are going to spend a lot of time in the neighborhood because they all have new voters,” Grossman said.
Still, education policy will be a priority when lawmakers return in September, especially as schools struggle to mitigate the effects of learning losses during the pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said. a Republican from Clarklake.
Here are some of the items pending in the Legislative Assembly.
A bill introduced in the Senate would allow experienced teachers from other states to teach in Michigan without taking the state licensing exam.
Supporters expected a Senate hearing last month, but the Education and Career Readiness Committee suspended its weekly meetings as lawmakers turned their attention to school aid budget negotiations.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Senator Ed McBroom of Vulcan, wants to lower barriers to full certification. This is important as the state works to mitigate the worsening teacher shortage. But teachers’ union officials fear weakening teacher certification standards.
Teaching about racism
A deeply divided House passed a bill restricting lessons about race and banning educators from teaching that “individuals bear collective guilt for historical wrongs committed by their race or gender.”
Knowing they outnumbered Republican supporters of the bill, Democrats declined to vote.
Theis did not put the bill to a vote in his committee. She has her own bill that more strictly bans the teaching of critical race theory, a framework primarily used in higher education that explores the lingering effects of slavery and centuries of racism. It also bans “un-American” ideas about race, or material from the 1619 Project, a New York Times project and program that links the growth of the United States to slavery and the oppression of black Americans. . Schools that violate the ban would lose 5% of their public funding.
The bill was withdrawn from committee in June but was not put to a vote by the full Senate.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has not taken a public stance on the legislation, but she will likely veto it if it gets to her office.
Computer Programming as a World Language Credit
A bill allowing computer programming courses to replace language requirements for graduation passed the House in May, with most Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats opposing it. It is now ready for a vote in the Senate.
The bill has support from business leaders who say the change would give students the opportunity to explore a skill relevant to future jobs.
The Michigan Language Association opposes the bill, saying computer coding is a valuable skill, but learning it should not come at the expense of learning a global language.
Changes to the SAT requirement
A pair of bills reducing the importance of the SAT passed through the Michigan House in March but did not make it to the Senate.
A bill would eliminate the essay portion of the standardized test given to high school juniors. The other would end the requirement for schools to include SAT scores on transcripts sent to colleges. Proponents claim that the “writing and language” multiple-choice portion of the SAT sufficiently addresses writing ability.
States across the country are moving away from the SAT as fewer colleges consider standardized test scores in their admissions decisions.
Help for students with dyslexia
The Senate passed a package of bills requiring schools to screen children for dyslexia and provide extra reading instruction to those who struggle to an unusual degree with tasks such as reading written words.
The bills are still awaiting passage through the House Education Committee. Speaker Pamela Hornberger, a Republican from Chesterfield Township, did not respond to questions about when she might call the bill. The dyslexia bills are sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin, a Democrat from Ann Arbor, but have broad bipartisan support.
Republicans have worked on two fronts to restrict transgender athletes’ access to school sports.
More recently, they inserted language into the school aid budget passed by the House that would have required schools to ban what the measure calls “boys” from participating in girls’ or women’s school athletics. The provision was not included in the final budget which was negotiated with the governor’s office and passed by both legislative houses.
Theis introduced a similar bill as stand-alone legislation in the Senate 16 months ago, but it has not gained traction. The bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee, but Theis did not discuss it.
Democrats say the proposals are cruel, discriminatory and harmful to the districts’ most vulnerable students.
Republicans say it’s about fairness: They say cisgender women shouldn’t have to compete with transgender girls who they say have biological advantages.
Whitmer, who favors strengthening protections for transgender people, is unlikely to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
Tracie Mauriello covers state education issues for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Contact her at [email protected]