A Legislative Look Forward to 2013
While Right to Work legislation cast a pall over the 2012 lame duck session, MASSP and the school management community were able to notch some significant victories in the waning hours of the 96th Legislature. We managed to stop legislation to create so-called Conversion Schools (SB 620), New Forms of Schools (HB 5923), and a mandatory parent opt-in for ineffective teachers (HB 5776). The Personal Property Tax phase-out that passed largely held education harmless by fully replacing lost revenue. Legislation to create a Education Achievement Authority (EAA) with overbroad powers was unable to gain support, thanks largely to the efforts of educators like you who reached out to their local lawmakers and pressured them to vote no. At the urging of the education community and in the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, Governor Snyder also vetoed legislation that would have repealed Michigan's gun-free schools law.
Looking forward into the 2013 session, then, the successes of last year set the stage for the battles of this year. Here is an overview of the top five issues likely to be the focus of education policy and appropriations for the coming months:
1. Education Achievement Authority (EAA)
Governor Snyder's top education policy priority for 2013 is almost certain to be legislation to codify the EAA. It seems likely, given the reception that this legislation received during lame duck, that the administration will start the process in 2013 with a much more limited scope than the statewide super-district that was the starting point in 2012. MASSP has held throughout this process that any new authority like this should have limited scope and power and should be held accountable for their success or failure using the same measures for which other schools are responsible.
2. 2013 School Aid Budget
MASSP and the education community had some success in the 2012 budget. The minimum foundation allowance was increased and every principal in the state had access to money to pay for PD in teacher evaluations. Additionally, changes to the MPSERS system mean that schools already have their MPSERS rate locked in and will not see the significant increases that have plagued school budgets for years. Looking into 2013, Governor Snyder has said that he does not plan to incorporate the Oxford Foundation report into his executive budget recommendation, but will instead convene an education summit in April before moving forward. However, it is entirely possible that some aspects of the report will make it into his executive budget. Also, early estimates project that School Aid Fund revenues are likely to come up short of projections, setting the stage for a potential battle over school funding in 2013.
3. New Forms of Schools
Though it is linked to the Oxford Foundation efforts, this bill has legislative support in its own right. As originally introduced, the legislation would create a host of new forms of charter schools that would be able to operate under different rules than either traditional charters or local districts. It is a core component of the Oxford Foundation's vision for education outlined in their whitepaper "Disaggregating High School Education."
4. Conversion Schools
The clock ran out in 2012 on this legislation that would create an option for parents to trigger the implementation of a turnaround model in Priority Schools. Lawmakers had concerns over the provision that would allow a forced chartering of the local school and the taking of public property without a vote of taxpayers. Despite this, the bill made it all the way through the Senate and passed out of committee in the House. Expect this legislation, which is one of the top priorities of the education reform organization Student's First, to see a rebirth in 2013.
5. Ineffective Teacher Opt-In
Another Students First priority, this legislation would require schools to obtain written permission from parents before being able to assign a student to the class of a teacher who obtained a single ineffective rating. This legislation could create all sorts of logistical problems for schools both because of the notification requirements and the possibility that they could end up with teachers to whom they cannot assign students but must still pay. MASSP had some success championing amendments to this legislation, which didn't pass the House until the lame duck session and never had a hearing in the Senate.