Legislation on Detroit schools filed

Last week, Sen. Goeff Hansen (R – Hart) filed two bills aimed at addressing Detroit Public School’s debt and future governance. Among other things, Senate Bills 710 and 711 would create a new community school district, responsible for the education of students and ownership of school property, while the existing school district would be responsible for collecting taxes and paying down debt. The board of the new school district would initially be appointed by the Governor and Mayor, eventually transitioning to an elected board. The legislation also requires the closure of charter schools that are among the bottom five percent of schools statewide for three out of five years.

The bills come following a year of wide-ranging discussions on how to address challenges around finances, academics, and school governance. They have also been introduced amid continued school closures due to teacher sick-outs over working conditions and health and safety concerns. As introduced, the legislation does not address Detroit’s many academic issues, calls for an education commission to oversee both traditional public schools and charter schools within the city, or state relief of existing debts.

Smart States Have Good Schools and Good Roads

This excerpt is from an article by Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest, which appeared in The Detroit News on Thursday, January 16. Since this article was printed, new consensus estimates on the budget surplus have been projected to be about $575 million.

Michigan student achievement is in free fall. Over the last decade, every group of students – white, black, brown, higher-income, low-income – has seen student learning drop dramatically compared to other states. Once a top education state, Michigan is now headed to the bottom of all 50 states.

It’s critical context for the new year, as the state legislature decides how to spend a projected surplus of more than $700 million over what was anticipated for the year. There is no doubt that our state has many needs; continuing targeted investments in improving student learning is a smart investment in our state’s future.  Where to begin? By leveraging strategic investments and learning from the examples of other states, Michigan can become a top ten state for third grade reading improvement by 2020. The investment would be relatively modest, with an initial outlay of just over $8 million next year, and appropriations of less than $31 million per year the following two years.

And we need to be honest with ourselves: what we’re doing isn’t working. Michigan has continued to cling to old, ineffective models of school improvement, and those antiquated approaches have led Michigan student achievement to the bottom nationwide.

Read the full article at The Detroit News

Capitol Update

Governor’s State of the State Address. Tonight (Jan. 19) at 7:00 pm at the State Capital.  A live stream of the address is available here. Follow on twitter using #MISOTS16 and check back next week for a summary of education issues that the Governor raises.

Legislation introduced to repeal or clarify school district and local government communications ban from Senate Bill 571 (Kowall – R) – now Public Act 269 of 2015. Legislation includes: House Bill 5219 (Lyons – R), HB 5221 (Schor – D), and SB 703 (Zorn – R). In late 2015, The Education Trust-Midwest and many others called for Governor Snyder to veto SB 571, due to the last minute inclusion of an amendment that would prohibit schools and other local government entities from communicating with voters on local ballot initiatives – including millages and bonds – in the 60 days before an election.

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