This Week & Next (Jan 13, 2017)

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Betsy DeVos Confirmation Hearing Next Tuesday
Unless you’ve been away from civilization for a while, you’re likely aware that Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing to serve as U.S. Education Secretary before the Senate HELP Committee is slated for 5:00 pm on Tuesday, January 17. Click here to watch the hearing online. Despite the unprecedented and bitterly partisan efforts of the far left and the teachers’ unions to oppose her nomination, the following are just a sampling of recent positive media stories and endorsements Betsy has received:

If you’d like to support Betsy DeVos, please click here and send a quick note to the members of the Senate HELP Committee and your own U.S. Senator, as they’ll be voting on her nomination.

The Legislature Returns and Pension Reform is on Tap
The 2017-18-legislative session has officially begun! This past Wednesday was the first day of the new session, and 40 first-term House members were sworn-in. There is little formal activity before the Governor’s annual State of the State Address, which will be held at 7 pm next Tuesday, January 17.  While Senate committees are likely to remain as they were last year (note that Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn) has been replaced by Sen. Hopgood (D-Romulus) on the Senate Education Committee), House Committee assignments will be announced in the coming weeks. It’s good news that reforming MPSERS, the bloated school employee retirement program, has already been announced as a high priority for both Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekof (R-Olive Township) and House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt). GLEP will continue to advocate that we keep our promises to retired teachers while putting the state retirement system on sound financial footing for the future.

SBE regroups at first meeting of the year
With a bipartisan board consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans, the State Board of Education met this past week and elected Casandra Ulbrich (D) and Richard Zeile (R) as co-presidents (picture at right). Tom McMillin was elected treasurer; Michelle Fecteau was elected secretary; and Nikki Snyder was elected as the board’s delegate to the National Association of State Boards of Education. We’re looking forward to the board weighing in the state’s proposed new school accountability system and other key issues that will provide choice, quality and accountability to Michigan’s students and families.

Senator Pavlov introduces bill to spark failing school discussion
Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St Clair), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has announced a bill to repeal (and then replace) the “failing school” portion of state law (MCL 380.1280c), which has proven cumbersome, confusing and extremely difficult to implement. GLEP supports replacing current language with a clearer process that will lead to improvements for kids rather than lawsuits and scapegoating.  As MDE prepares to submit a new ESSA-compliant school accountability plan to USED this year, you can be sure this will be one of the key education policy issues of 2017.

State Revenue Stagnant
Michigan received good and bad news this week when the state’s economic forecasters reported their revenue predictions for the coming years at the semi-annual Revenue Estimating Conference. The good news is that for the current fiscal year, the General Fund will contain $151.6 million more and the School Aid Fund $54.6 million more than expected. For FY 2018, however, the General Fund will be $84.4 million lighter than expected, and the School Aid Fund will see just a slight increase of $22.3 million. This means Governor Snyder will have less money to work with while developing his FY 2018 budget, which he will be presenting next month.

If at first you don’t succeed….
You may recall, despite much fanfare and high expectations, results from last year’s “school finance study” commissioned by the legislature did not lead to a collective rallying cry to increase K-12 funding by billions of dollars.  Well, this certainly didn’t satisfy the “we need more money” cries from the traditional education blob, so they’ve decided to take another stab at it.  This week, a follow-up initiative (the very official sounding “School Finance Research Collaborative”) was launched to re-examine how Michigan’s schools are funded and to see how much money it will really take to make sure that every single student in the state is fully prepared for jobs and success, regardless of where they live or what type of school they attend. The group is largely composed of traditional school district lobbyists and left-leaning interest groups. I think we can guess their conclusion, scheduled for January 2018, which will be “More Money.” And you can take that to the bank.

School Choice Support Remains Strong
Public support for school choice remains high, as 68% of parents across the country continue to support school choice policies, according to the National School Choice Poll released yesterday by the American Federation for Children. AFC’s third annual poll was conducted by Democratic polling firm Beck Research. “In the aftermath of the decisive 2016 elections, school choice remains a bipartisan issue with strong support among key demographics across the country,” said Kevin P. Chavous, board member of the American Federation for Children. “The results of this poll demonstrate that the public is ready to change the education status quo and allow children and families to customize their education to meet their unique learning needs,” he continued. We couldn’t agree more.

National School Choice Week Event in Detroit on January 27, 2017
Mark your calendars, folks!! GLEP and our friends at the Mackinac Center, MAPSA and others are hosting a major event during National School Choice Week. Our event, scheduled for 1:30 – 3:00 pm on Friday, January 27, 2017 at the Wright Museum for African American History in Detroit, will feature keynote speaker Dr. Steve Perry, founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Best-Selling Author, and Education Contributor for CNN and MSNBC. You will not want to miss this free event, so click here to RSVP.  Hope to see you there!!

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week

Monday, January 16

  • Martin Luther King Day

Tuesday, January 17

  • Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing, Senate HELP Committee, in Washington, D.C.
  • Governor Snyder “State of the State” address, in Lansing

Wednesday, January 18

  • Capitol Issues Forum with Ari Adler, Governor’s Press Secretary, in Lansing
  • Private School Options webcast from Fordham Institute

Thursday, January 19

Friday, January 20

  • MDE ESSA External Advisors Committee meeting, in Lansing
  • Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, in Washington, D.C.

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

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director