Debate continues over Michigan return-to-school bills

Much of bills address back room accounting operations

DETROIT – For months educators say they have been waiting for legislation to help them create a school year that will optimize learning in the most non-optimal of environments.

Just today, as Lansing passed an education bill package that was announced over the weekend, some educators say they are still waiting for help and the legislation is wholly inadequate in terms of bettering an already bad situation.

“I don’t think it really addresses anything that wasn’t already in place without this legislation,” said Dr. Randy Liepa, Superintendent of Wayne Regional Educational Service Agencies.

Much of the bills address back room accounting operations and don’t necessarily affect current district plans.

According to Liepa, what the bills manage to do is keep educator mired in paperwork, instead of mired in making education count, by mandating a 30-day cycle of accountability in terms of what students are learning, what teachers are teaching and who is and who is not showing up for any of it.

“We have some frustration with this. We feel it’s a variety of new requirements...there are new state reporting requirements, there are new assessments that are required and data to be collected around assessments, new ways to account students that I think is going to be burdensome for local school districts and very frankly none of that was needed,” said Liepa.

Paula Herbart, President of the Michigan Education Association also weighed in on the issue.

“Teachers are assessing and reassessing and benchmarking kids all over the place right, but this one standardized tests, this kind of benchmark testing, you could choose one of five or it can be local. What are we testing really in terms of COVID-19, whether or not there is security in their home, or that they feel safe, whether or not they’ve lost their mother or their grandparents, right? They might have been out of step with their learning because their other needs were not being met in the same way as they would have, had they been face to face last spring,” said Herbart.

What still has not been adequately addressed is the budget.

“We’re still looking at a $1.1 billion shortfall at the state level I think those numbers are getting a little bit better based on the reporting last week, but school districts are still looking at a significant shortfall in their funding for next year, we need to have that particular issue addressed, and that’s first and foremost what’s on our mind as we’re getting ready over the next few weeks,” said Liepa.

But Herbart, says Lansing has done some things right. And is at the very least keeping students heads above water by not damaging education in ways that can’t be recovered when COVID-19 is eventually behind us.

Education in Michigan

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