6 Michigan education proposals that lawmakers punted to the fall | Bridge


Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature, began the year with an ambitious education agenda but were unable to send several impactful proposals through to the governor. Some of those measures — such as providing stipends to student teachers and increasing support for students with dyslexia — have widespread support. Others are more politically charged, partisan efforts: for example, measures that would ban transgender athletes from girls’ sports, restrict how students are taught about race, and threaten funding to districts that require masks and vaccines.

“It’s open season on the various culture-war education issues to be brought up in the fall,” said Matt Grossman, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.

Those issues will be competing for attention from lawmakers along with the pressures of campaign season and efforts to regulate abortion in Michigan after the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Lawmakers are campaigning hard after redistricting made races more competitive, putting Republicans in jeopardy of losing control of the Legislature. That could leave less time for lawmaking before Dec. 31, the end of the legislative session.

““Even people in safe districts are going to be spending a lot of time in the district because they all have new voters,” Grossman said.

Still, education policy will be a priority when lawmakers return in September, especially as schools struggle to ease the effects of learning losses during the pandemic, said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican from Clarklake.

Here are some of the measures pending in the Legislature:

Teacher reciprocity

A bill introduced in the Senate would allow experienced teachers from other states to teach in Michigan without taking the state’s licensure exam.

Proponents expected a hearing in the Senate last month, but the Committee on Education and Career Readiness paused its weekly meetings as lawmakers turned their attention to school aid budget negotiations.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Ed McBroom of Vulcan, wants to reduce barriers to full certification. That’s important as the state works to mitigate a worsening teacher shortage. But teachers union officials worry about watering down certification standards for teachers.

Teaching about racism

A deeply divided House passed a bill restricting lessons about race and prohibiting educators from teaching that “individuals bear collective guilt for historical wrongs committed by their race or gender.”

Knowing they were outnumbered by Republican supporters of the bill, Democrats refused to vote.

The Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee advanced the bill last month but it hasn’t been brought before the full Senate.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is likely to veto it if it reaches her desk.  

Theis has her own bill that more strictly bans the teaching of critical race theory, a framework mostly used in higher education that explores the lingering effects of slavery and centuries of racism. It also prohibits “anti-American” ideas about race, or material from the 1619 Project, a New York Times project and curriculum that ties the growth of the United States to slavery and oppression of Black Americans. Schools that violate the prohibition would lose 5% of their state funding.

Computer programming as a world language credit

A bill to allow computer programming courses to replace language requirements for graduation passed the House in May, with most Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats opposing. Now it’s teed up for a vote in the Senate.

The bill has the backing of business leaders who say the change would give students the flexibility to explore a skill relevant to future jobs.

The Michigan Language Association opposes the bill, saying that computer coding is a valuable skill but learning it shouldn’t come at the expense of learning a world language.

Changes to SAT requirement

A pair of bills de-emphasizing the SAT sailed through the Michigan House in March but have not been brought to the floor in the Senate.

One bill would eliminate the essay portion of the standardized test given to high school juniors. The other would end a requirement for schools to include SAT scores on transcripts sent to colleges. Proponents say the multiple-choice “writing and language” portion of the SAT sufficiently addresses writing ability.

States across the country are moving…

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