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Large Education Issues Loom as Legislature Approaches End of Session

May 31, 2016

From MEA Capitol Comments

The Legislature is moving toward a mid-June summer recess with daunting education issues unresolved, so MEA members should stay closely tuned to Capitol Comments and the MEA Facebook page for the latest information and member action alerts.

The biggest of those looming issues is a fix for Detroit Public Schools. Negotiations continue behind the scenes as legislators - senators, at least - prepare for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference May 31-June 3. At least 25 Republicans who registered to attend the conference sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber - where work on a DPS solution had been planned - might be prevented from going because Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) scheduled conflicting floor votes.

The House and Senate have been at odds over how to help DPS get out from under crushing debt and start fresh. After Senate leaders spent months crafting a bipartisan plan, House Republican leaders broke away to pass an anti-union, anti-public education package of bills opposed by nearly every constituency group in the city. 

The package of bills rammed through the House along mostly party lines following an all-night session earlier this month would allow uncertified teachers in the classroom; strip away existing unions and contracts; force dedicated employees to reapply for their jobs; eliminate plans to bring order to the siting of new charter schools; and fall $200 million short in financial support. 

In contrast, the bipartisan Senate plan would fully fund the new district, bring a quicker return to local control, and create the Detroit Education Commission to bring rationality to the Wild West atmosphere of charter schools opening and closing with little oversight or accountability.

The flood of money from anti-public school pro-charter forces such as the DeVos family, the unfairness of educational opportunities in Detroit, and the prospect of similarly destructive legislation being proposed statewide, has led to many newspaper editorials and citizen activism in recent weeks, including a PTA-sponsored walk-in Monday at Rochester schools

MEA members are encouraged to continue contacting lawmakers to urge passage of the Senate DPS package. Members who live in the Rochester or Niles areas - or those willing to travel there - also have upcoming opportunities to speak in person with Republican legislators.