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Your Legislative Priorities, Where are They Now

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, April 6, 2016

At the beginning of every new legislative session, through input from members and approval by the Board of Directors, we create legislative priorities to help guide MASB’s advocacy efforts for the next two years. We’ll be starting the idea-gathering process for next session this fall—stay tuned for meetings in your area. In the meantime, here’s an update on the status of each of the 2015-2016 priorities.

Support mandatory training for all school board members, including public school academies.

During discussions of the early warning legislation last year and now the Detroit Public Schools reform package this year, board training has come up. Unfortunately, we have not yet seen proposals for across-the-state training for school board members. MASB has been in discussions with legislators about what the training would look like, when and how often it would occur, and what topics are the most important to cover. The Governor has expressed support for training in specific instances and it gets brought up in each budget season. We are hopeful that this conversation will continue in a positive direction with the Legislature.

Support a high-quality teacher and administrator evaluation law.

Senate Bill 103 was signed into law on Nov. 5, 2015 as Public Act 173 of 2015. It establishes a teacher and administrator evaluation law. MASB has created an overview of the law, as well as a frequently asked questions document to help you implement it in your district.

Expand the use of sinking funds.

House Bill 4388, introduced by Rep. Mike McCready (R-Bloomfield Hills), would expand the use of sinking funds to technology and school security. The bill has been reported out of the House Committee on Appropriations and is currently before the full House for consideration.

Support further cost containment in retirement and health care for districts.

This was a general priority, not specific to legislation. We have not seen opportunities to address this issue, positively or negatively, come up for serious debate yet this session.

Create state financial support for facilities and infrastructure, including technology.

As stories about Michigan’s infrastructure make state and national news, the issue of maintaining it has come to the forefront. MASB has been in conversations with various representatives about how to address funding at a state level to assist our schools in maintaining and updating their infrastructure. So far, no legislation has come out of those discussions.

Support legislation to end unfunded mandates and determine actual costs of legislation.

MASB testified in support of Senate Bills 388-390, which would require a fiscal note to be done on any legislation that expands or creates new requirements for local governments and schools. If there is a cost to comply with the legislation, a bill appropriating the funds to cover costs must follow the new policy. These bills were overwhelmingly supported by testimony in committee in November, but have been stuck in a workgroup to address concerns from state departments ever since.

Support funding for third grade reading intervention tools rather than retention only.

HB 4822, introduced by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township), addresses reading proficiency by third grade. The bill has undergone many changes since introduction and has addressed the main concerns raised by MASB, moving us to support the most recent version, HB 4822 (S-6). It has passed both chambers but is in conference committee to work out the differences. At this time, we don’t know when the conference committee will meet, but are hopefully it will be in mid-April.

Universal preschool for all four-year-olds.

MASB continues to support increased funding for the Great Start Readiness Program, but we have not seen any movement to expand that program to all four-year-olds.

Support legislation that will put public school academies and management companies on equal footing with traditional public schools on issues related to transparency, reporting and treatment of employees.

MASB continues to advocate for equal footing for all public schools. As new requirements of schools come up in legislation, we always look to make sure it covers ALL public schools. The major legislation we've seen so far this session, early warning and third grade reading, apply to both traditional and charter schools. We've also seen legislation introduced to reduce reporting requirements for traditional schools, which would be a time and money saver for our districts.

Protect the School Aid Fund and local revenues from state tax policy changes.

MASB continues to work with the other statewide education organizations to bring awareness to the cumulative effect of the individual tax changes the Legislature considers. Last session, more than $162 million was cut through tax policy changes to the revenue streams of the School Aid Fund and local districts. We have seen some attention paid to this issue, in bills to exempt data centers from sales and use taxes, language was included to reimburse the SAF for revenue lost under the tax change. This work will continue until we can have a conversation on the entire tax code instead of the individual changes.

Support a review of Proposal A with an adequacy study for school funding.

As part of the roads funding package that was passed at the end of 2014, an adequacy study was required to determine the actual cost to educate a child. The study was to be completed by the end of March, however, the company conducting the study requested and was granted an extension. The study is now due in early May.

Study the impact of moving the 18 mils to a statewide collection.

In early 2015, MASB commissioned a study to look at the impact of moving the 18 mils to a statewide collection. The study indicated that in order to even consider the switch, we would need a constitutional amendment to raise the amount of mils the state is allowed to collect. Moving the 18 mils to the state would violate the current cap. At this time, putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for this purpose would be an expensive undertaking and would not have a very good chance at passage.

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