MPSERS, School Bond Loan Fund, Conversion Schools Bills All See Action
During a lame duck session that seems to be living up to its hype, the House and Senate both took action this week on legislation to sew up some outstanding issues. Legislation on MPSERS reform, the School Bond Loan Fund (SBLF), and so-called Conversion Schools all saw some level of activity last week, though only one bill saw significant movement.
Less than a week after Ingham Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina ruled that the MPSERS reform legislation was constitutional pending a change in the implementation date, both the House and Senate passed legislation to do just that. Senate Bill 1360 flew through both the Senate and House and is now on its way to the Governor's desk for signature. The bill moves the election deadline for current employees to January 9, 2013 and the changes made in the MPSERS reform bill passed earlier this year would take effect beginning February 1, 2013.
School Bond Loan Fund (SBLF)
The SBLF has long been a source of controversy in Lansing. Opponents of the program say the K-12 budget starts out contributing $60 per student to pay existing debt service and that will likely grow to $128 per student in the next six years to seven years. Proponents counter that the system is the only way many districts are able to bond for building projects and that limiting access would hurt schools. The package of bills that passed the House Appropriations Committee would allow bonds issued by a school district to receive the state's credit rating and allow the state to borrow funds. However, the ability to float new bonds would be limited. The bills, which could have a significant negative impact on school construction, are on the House floor where their future is uncertain.
Several states have passed so-called parent trigger laws, which allow the parents in low performing districts to force the implementation of federal turnaround models. SB 620, which passed the House Education Committee and moved on to the House floor last week, would make Michigan the most recent of those. Under the bill, if the turnaround model chosen by the parents was to charter the school, then parents, rather than the district, would issue the contract for the charter authorizer. The district would be forced to lease the building to the charter school for $1 per year. The bill, which is awaiting a vote on the House floor, raises significant constitutional and legal questions. It is unclear whether the legislation has the votes necessary for passage.