School districts would be able to free themselves from some burdensome state rules and regulations under a package of bills passed by the Michigan House on Oct. 11.

The bills, sponsored by Reps. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, and Tom Meyer, R-Bad Axe, would allow schools to negotiate exemptions from virtually any requirement the schools deem to be too restrictive in return for agreeing to adhere to a school improvement plan that increases student achievement. To apply for so-called "Educational Flexibility and Empowerment Contracts," districts would submit applications to the state superintendent of public instruction.

The bills are modeled after a current federal program that allows school districts to apply for waivers from federal regulations in return for adherence to performance-based contracts.

For text and analysis of the bills, visit

New Ritalin Rules Proposed

Public and charter school administrators and teachers would be prohibited from recommending the drug Ritalin for students under a bill approved unanimously by the House Education Committee in October.

The legislation, which now heads to the House floor, would bar teachers from diagnosing "Attention Deficit Disorder"-a controversial diagnosis often given to students with behavior problems. Teachers also would be prohibited from recommending that parents put their children on Ritalin, a psychotropic drug that alters brain activity and is thought to have a calming effect on children.

Under the legislation, teachers would be allowed to discuss behavior problems with parents, refer children for evaluation if they believe the child has a learning disability or emotional impairment, and recommend that a child be evaluated by a health-care provider.

The committee also approved a bill that would create a commission to investigate whether schools are pushing psychotropic medication for students who may not need it.

For text and analysis of the bills, visit

Bill would stretch school
construction dollars

In October, state Rep. Robert Gosselin, R-Troy, introduced three bills that would repeal prevailing wage requirements and union-only contract requirements for school construction. The bills were discussed at a House Employment Relations, Training, and Safety Committee hearing in mid-October.

At the hearing, supporters of the legislation said that allowing prevailing wage exemptions for school construction projects would leave schools with more money for teacher salaries and other classroom expenditures.

Charlie Owens, Michigan director for the National Federation of Independent Business, testified on the legislation at the hearing: "With more than a billion dollars of ongoing school construction projects, $100 million a year could be saved."

In 1997, Ohio exempted its schools from its prevailing wage law, saving schools an average of 10.5 percent in construction costs, according to the nonpartisan Ohio Legislative Budget Office.

Representatives from Michigan construction unions testified against the bills, saying the changes could reduce wages and benefits for construction workers.

The bills are awaiting action in the committee.

For text and analysis of the bills, visit

Also, see the commentary, "Michigan's prevailing wage law forces schools to waste money," by Dr. Gary Wolfram at

Consolidating school and local elections

School board elections would be consolidated with regular local elections under a package of bills introduced in the Michigan Senate in October.

Among other things, the bills would remove from school districts the power to administer and operate elections, and require that school elections be conducted by local units of government under the Michigan Election Law. The legislation also would require school districts and intermediate school districts to place an estimate of the cost of repaying bonds on the ballot when submitting a bond question to the electors.

Bill sponsors include Sens. Hammerstrom, R-Temperance; Steil, R-Grand Rapids; McManus, R-Traverse City; and Bennett, R-Canton. Supporters of the bill say the changes would increase voter turnout at school elections and save schools and cities money by consolidating election expenses.

For text and analysis of the bills, visit