This Week & Next (Dec 18, 2015)

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Legislature wraps up for the calendar year
The State Senate and House of Representatives have finished up their work for the year, and they are officially on recess until January 13, 2016. While there was much activity during the final days of session, none of the focus was on K-12 education issues.  We expect to kick-start the debate on passing HB 4822 (K-3 Reading) in the Senate when they return on January 13. By the way, please click here to read Rep. Price’s strong defense of HB 4822 in MLive.

No bills, but more talk, about Detroit education reform
It’s been nearly 9 months since Governor Snyder announced his plan to reform education in Detroit, yet there still haven’t been any bills introduced to reach his objectives. But the amount of speculation and cross talk is still at a very high level. Just a few of the items from this past week are the following:

Again, GLEP continues to work with key legislators to ensure that education reforms in Detroit will preserve school choice and charter school autonomy, keep parents in charge of their children’s education, and increase accountability over poor performing schools

M-STEP results demonstrate Michigan’s literacy crisis
Local results for the new state assessment, Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), were released by today by MDE. Many Michigan students struggled on the new, more rigorous state exam, which is based on the state’s new college and career-ready standards. Statewide, half (50%) of all 3rd Grade students scored proficient or above on the English Language Arts portion of the test. And that’s the high water mark by grade and subject!! Click here to check out the results from any district.

Ed reform critics wrong on poverty
Critics of education reform are correct when they say that poverty is a major factor in lackluster academic performance. Still, poverty is an issue for virtually every nation on the planet. Where reform critics get it wrong is when they claim that America’s average scores are dragged down by the particularly poor performance of low-income students, or that the advantaged kids are doing just fine. That is objectively untrue. And its scores are not dragged down by an unusually high proportion of poor students, as measures of absolute poverty find the U.S. not to be an outlier at all. America’s mediocre performance is remarkably consistent. Why U.S. student performance is mediocre is a topic worthy of study and debate, as is how to help students at all points on the economic spectrum perform better. What it does show is that poverty can’t explain away America’s lackluster academic performance. We need to stop using it and start getting serious about improving the achievement of all the nation’s students. Click here to read this interesting feature from the Fordham Institute.

Teachers union membership down 20% while execs get big raises
According to Michigan Capitol Confidential, Michigan’s two largest public school unions have seen their numbers of dues-paying members decline sharply since 2012, according to documents filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. The Michigan Education Association lost 20 percent of its active members, going from 117,626 members in 2012 to 94,559 in 2015. The American Federation of Teachers-Michigan lost 21 percent, dropping from 23,388 members in 2012 to 18,585 in 2015. Michigan’s new right-to-work law is only one of the likely explanations for the drop in union membership. At the same time, top union leaders continue to receive double-digit salary increases while their members suffer and their debts are on the rise. It couldn’t happen to a nicer group of folks.

High School Graduation Reach All Time High
The U.S. high school graduation rate reached 82% in the 2013-14 school year, the USED announced Tuesday, up from an 81% graduation rate in 2012-2013. Wow, that’s a 1% increase!! Perhaps we should throw a parade!! For comparison, Michigan’s high school graduation rate for last year was 79%. We still have much work to do.

Mixed messages from Congress on Charters and DC Scholarships
The FY 2016 omnibus appropriations spending bill is likely to pass in Washington, D.C. today, but it includes mixed messages on school choice.  On the positive side, the Charter Schools Program (CSP) is slated to receive $80 million more than this year’s $253 million current funding level, which is a 32% increase. The CSP provides funds to help new charter schools open, replicate and expand the most successful charter school models, as well as support the financing of charter school facilities. On the negative side, lawmakers have decided not to fund the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) in Washington, D.C. in 2016, even though OSP recipients have higher graduation rates and greater parental satisfaction than D.C. public school students. GLEP continues to advocate that federal education dollars should be leveraged to empower parents with greater educational choice, and that Michigan should join the 23 states with publicly funded private school choice programs.

Education News Clips

Next Week

Due to the legislative recess and the holidays, “This Week & Next” will resume publishing on Friday, January 15th.

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please considermaking a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!


Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director