Tax break for school giving
Senate Bill 382 would allow Michigan residents to deduct 50 percent of contributions made to public educational organizations such as foundations. Such foundations would have to be involved in helping a local school district or charter school, or continuing and adult education. The foundation would have to qualify for exemption from federal taxes as a 501(c)(3) organization in order for a taxpayer to claim the state tax exemption. The Senate Fiscal Agency estimates tax payers would benefit by as much as $25 million per year. The bill was passed out of the Senate Education Committee and is before the full Senate.

Labor Day issues for ISDs
House Bill 5977, introduced by Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, will allow Intermediate School Districts that provide services to a conventional school district to be exempt from a state-mandated post-Labor Day start to the school year. State law was changed in the fall of 2005 that requires all public schools to start classes after Labor Day, except in cases where a start date already was specified by a collective bargaining agreement that has yet to expire. Many ISDs were already under contract with local school districts that have school calendars calling for a pre-Labor Day start for the 2006-2007 school year. The legislation also would exempt schools that move to a year-round calendar from having to comply with the post-Labor Day regulation.

Minimum requirement for instructional time
Legislation approved by the Michigan Senate would require public schools to provide a minimum of 1,098 hours of instruction in each academic year, and eliminate a requirement for incremental increases in subsequent years. Current law has taken the minimums for instruction from 180 days and 1,098 hours in 2004-2005 to 189 days and 1,134 hours for 2005-2006, and will eventually increase to 190 days and 1,140 hours in 2006-2007. Senate Bill 95, introduced by Sen. Valde Garcia, would eliminate the incremental increases and allow school districts to offer a minimum of 1,098 hours of instruction in 180 school days. SB 95 passed in the Senate and was referred to the House Education Committee.

$10 million more for Detroit
House Bill 6042, introduced by Rep. Marsha Cheeks, D-Detroit, would give Detroit Public Schools an extra $10 million from the state school aid fund for the 2006-2007 school year in order for the district to establish a medical-themed high school. The school would be for students who want to pursue a career in the medical field, particularly nursing, medical billing and bookkeeping, and science and technology related to medicine. The school would offer a certification testing program so that graduates would be immediately employable. The bill was assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.

Steroids in high schools
The use of steroids in high schools has been addressed by two pieces of legislation from the Michigan House. House Bill 4118 would require public schools to include a policy indicating that the use of performance-enhancing drugs can affect a student-athlete’s eligibility to participate in interscholastic sports, and direct the Department of Community Health to distribute to schools a list of what qualifies as a performance-enhancing drug. Introduced by Rep. Daniel Acciavatti, HB 4118 unanimously passed in the House and passed with a single “no” vote in the Senate. House Bill 4594, which passed unanimously in the Senate and with a lone “no” vote in the House, would expand the state’s definition of a “drug-free school zone” to prohibit the possession of steroids within 1,000 feet of a school, and make the offense punishable by up to twice the maximums of a $25,000 fine and 10-year prison sentence for possession of other illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of a school. HB was introduced by Rep. Leslie Mortimer.

Freedom for religious schools
A package of bills introduced in the Michigan House would amend state law to exempt Bible colleges and other higher education institutions affiliated with churches from having to meet certain state regulations. House Bills 6014, 6015 and 6016 are before the House Higher Education Committee. Currently, state law addresses the ownership and oversight of such colleges by any ecclesiastical or religious order, society or corporation, but not a church.

Certification changes
House Bill 5279 would allow teachers certified in either elementary or secondary education to teach sixth grade. The change could help more middle school teachers become “Highly Qualified” under the federal No Child Left Behind act, because most middle school teachers have secondary teaching certificates that allow them to teach grades seven through 12. The bill is before the House of Representatives.

Full-day kindergarten
Senate bill 1306 would mandate that all public schools offer full-day kindergarten and that all children who turn 5 before December 1 be enrolled in kindergarten. The bill does not address details about funding, enforcement, or when the program would begin.

Classroom instruction dollars
Legislation recently introduced in the House of Representatives would require school districts to issue a report each year on what percentage of its general fund budget is spent on classroom instruction. House Bill 6216 indicates schools should use the definition of classroom instruction put forth by the National Center for Education Statistics. NCES considers money spent on classroom teachers and personnel, classroom materials, activities such as field trips, music, art and athletics, and tuition paid to out-of-state schools or private institutions for special needs students as counting toward instruction. Not included in the NCES definition is administration, operations and maintenance, food service, transportation, support personnel, media specialists, counselors and nurses. The bill is before the House Education Committee.

Tax exempt school stores
House Bill 6217 seeks to exempt resale thrift shops operated by non-profit private schools from real and personal property tax. The store must be operated by the non-profit entity that runs the school, and the proceeds from the sale of items must be used to benefit the students enrolled in the school. The bill was assigned to the House Tax Policy Committee.

Merit Scholarship
Senate Bill 1335 would replace the Michigan Merit Award Scholarship with a new plan to give students $4,000 while they pursue a post-secondary education. Currently, high school students can receive $2,500 toward college expenses if they score well on the MEAP. SB 1335 would give students $1,000 in each of their first two years of college, plus another $2,000 after completing two years, as long as the student maintains a 2.5 grade point average. The program would be available to students in associates and bachelor degree programs, as well as vocational training. The bill is assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.