Friday, October 28, 2011

October 27th Legislative Report

FROM: MEA’s “Capitol Comments” -

Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 619, 621-623, 709, and 710—all part of the so-called education reform package. The bills passed on party-line votes with SB 619 barely squeaking by. The bills have been referred to the House Education Committee. Only SB 624—mandating schools of choice—is left after tie bars to the bill were broken.

Despite testimony and research showing cyber schools are not an effective alternative to traditional schools, SB 619 removes all limitations on cyber schools. Democrats offered five amendments—one to limit the amount of state aid a cyber school student would receive to 50 percent; another to require a cyber school website that included management and third-party vendor contracts; and another to make the student/teacher ratio be equivalent to that of public schools—but all of them failed. Sen. Hoon-Young Hopgood (D-Taylor) chastised the Senate for “putting on the blinders” about the effectiveness of cyber schools.

SB 621—a back-door voucher scheme—allows private and home-schooled students to take elective courses in any private, charter or public school in their ISD district.

SB 622, 623, 709 and 710—which expands dual enrollment—passed after it was amended to limit the number of community college courses a student could take. Through their junior year in high school, students can only take two community college classes, but seniors can take as many as four courses in their last year of high school. Private school students who receive state aid for college classes are included in these bills.

MEA has opposed these bills because none of them are about real education reform. They are about the destruction of public education through voucher schemes and selling out to private, for-profit companies. The Senate has provided another reason why your political involvement is so crucial.

The bills will now be sent to the House Education Committee! Please stay tuned to receive suggestions for ways to make your voices heard!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Great NEWS from the State Superintendent regarding Teacher Licensure!

This letter was sent out by the State Superintendent regarding teacher licensure, the topic I posted about in yesterday's blog!



This message is to inform educators that, regarding the proposed changes to state Administrative Rules, I do not want to have a teacher certification system that threatens an educator’s license on the basis of annual evaluations. Inasmuch, I want to assure educators in Michigan that before these proposed rules are approved by me, I will have any language removed that revokes or prevents teacher certification licensure based upon annual evaluations. I have the final authority on this matter.

The same way I was opposed to the state legislature changing the standard from “reasonable and just cause” to “arbitrary and capricious” for tenure, I am not going to inadvertently do the same thing with a teacher’s license.

While I feel that it is vitally important that every teacher be effective in the classroom, everyone deserves a chance to improve and become effective in the most appropriate and supportive situations.

When developing Administrative Rules, the worst case scenarios for those it impacts must be considered.

The proposed rules, as written now (that will be changed before they are finalized, as noted above), provide for the loss of certification for teachers after a number of years of not being evaluated as “Highly Effective” or “Effective.” Even for new teachers, if they don’t come out of their Teacher Prep programs well-prepared; get hired in an environment for which they are not adequately trained; are not afforded effective job-embedded professional development; or have to deal with an adverse supervisor, there are circumstances where this process could be potentially abused. I would not want an educator’s license to be in jeopardy under these conditions.

A teacher’s livelihood should not be at stake when others, who would not be accountable, have a major role in the effectiveness or the evaluation of that teacher. There are just too many variables beyond the teacher’s control.

For those educators who truly aren’t effective or are negatively impacting students, districts already have means available to remove the teacher, without the severity of taking away his/her license. That teacher would still then be able to get help, improve identified weaknesses, and possibly be hired in a more suitable educational setting.

Mike Flanagan

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Michigan Department of Education

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teacher Certification Changes Could End Careers!

Posted by the MEA on October 25, 2011

The Michigan Department of Education will be conducting public hearings across the state in November on proposed rule changes to teacher and administrative certification. These administrative rule changes will dramatically impact teachers and their careers.

In addition to providing alternate routes to an interim teaching certificate and creating a three-tier licensure system, the new rules would tie teacher certification advancement or certification renewal to administrator's evaluations of teachers. Teachers must be rated highly effective or effective for three consecutive years in order to renew their certificate and there would be no appeals process. If a teacher is not evaluated for three years, he or she is at risk of losing their certificate!

This rule change alone jeopardizes a teacher’s career. An unscrupulous or inexperienced administrator could get rid of teachers and end their careers by withholding a highly effective or effective rating. That’s why it’s so important that MEA members have a strong presence at these hearings. YOU MAY ALSO SUBMIT WRITTEN RESPONSES! (see information below)

The hearings are scheduled for:

Tuesday, Nov. 1 – 3-6 p.m.

Ramada Lansing Hotel and Conference Center – Waverly Room
7501 West Saginaw Highway, Lansing

Wednesday, Nov. 16 – 3 – 6 p.m.

Kent ISD Career-Technical Center
2930 Knapp SE, Grand Rapids

Wednesday, Nov. 16 – 3-6 p.m.

Wayne RESA Annex Building – Auditorium
5454 Venoy, Wayne

Written comments will be accepted at the hearings or can be submitted by mail or email no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 30. Send comments to:

Public Comment
Office of Professional Preparation Services
Michigan Department of Education
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909


Monday, October 17, 2011

Call or Write your legislator!

Charter School Expansion Package Moving in Legislature

More school “reforms” are on a fast track in the Michigan Legislature, this time dealing with charter schools, cyber schools, schools of choice and dual enrollment of students in High School and Community Colleges. Once again, these bills have less to do with improving student achievement and more to do with politics and paybacks.

There is no evidence that charters are any better than local neighborhood schools. There is evidence of profit taking by management companies and lax oversight of these schools. The first of these bills, removing all the caps on charter schools, has already passed the Senate and is now in the House. The remaining bills are being acted upon by the Senate. We need you to call your State Representative and Senator and ask them to vote NO on the Charter Bill Package.

Use this easy-to-use link to contact your House and Senate Representative:

Please use home email, phones, or cells!

The Message:
Please oppose the package of Charter school bills.
These bills don’t focus on high quality charters - more doesn’t mean high quality.
There is no transparency in these bills about how public money is going to be spent.
These bills are more about creating vender profits than serving students.

CALL THE GOVERNOR’S Office, too!!!!
PHONE: (517) 373-3400

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Report on Thursday's Action in Lansing!

1) The full Senate passed a version of SB 618 by a 20-18 vote Thursday afternoon that removed the cap on charter schools. But the bill was amended on the floor to remove the language that would have allowed for the privatization of teachers and to require charter schools to meet the same state assessments and reporting requirements as public schools.

While the removal of the privatization of teachers is welcomed, charter schools SHOULD HAVE TO MEET THE SAME STANDARDS AS PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The legislature, nor anyone else, should accept two different levels of expectations for schools (public vs. charter). Acceptance would clearly demonstrates that this is an ATTACK ON PUBLIC schools.

The MEA will now shift to lobbying the state House for a reasonable charter cap and increased transparency for charter operators. The removal of the privatization provision should be recognized as a hard-fought victory.

Senate Democrats offered several other amendments—one to ban for-profit management companies from opening new charter schools; another that would require all schools—including charters—to have an anti-bullying policy; and an amendment requiring charter schools to show 20 percent better test scores than the resident public school district. All amendments were rejected along party lines.

2) Bill 729 was introduced today by Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R, West Olive) on Thursday
Senate Bill 729 states that Right to Teach would apply for public schools with an exclusive bargaining unit that represents 50,000 or more personnel. By that definition, only the MEA qualifies. This means that teachers who are represented by the AFT will not be affected if this bill were to become law. THIS IS CLEARLY AN ATTACK ON THE MEA and singles out MEA union members apart from any other union members in the state.

Union leaders across the state from all organizations are calling “foul”, stating that bill has nothing to do with improving education or increasing jobs in the state of Michigan. Political games and attacks are the motivation behind this legislation.

The Michigan Independent News Service has been told that Governor Snyder does not support this legislation.

Below you will find a link to a site that will refer you to your local senator!
Click AND tell your senator to oppose SB 618!

Better yet, CALL THE GOVERNOR’S Office!!!!
PHONE: (517) 373-3400

Thursday, October 6, 2011

***Privatizing teachers removed from SB 618!!!!!!

From the Michigan Independent News Service – NEWS ALERT REGARDING SB 618

***Privatizing teachers removed from SB 618!!!!!!

The Senate today passed its first bill in the GOP education reform package, which lifts the cap on charter schools -- but the provision privatizing teachers was removed.

The Senate spent most of its time not talking about the charter cap, but debating a measure that would require schools to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE (R-Monroe) won an amendment on General Orders that strips out language allowing teachers to be privatized. It also adds more accountability measures for charters. SB 0618, sponsored by Senate Education Chair Phil PAVLOV (R-St. Clair), passed 20-18.

The bill removes the limit of 150 university-authorized charter schools.