Legislative Action

More time for reading course

New teachers will have longer to complete a required course in reading instruction under a new law passed in June by the Michigan Legislature and signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Senate Bill 70 extends by two years the beginning of a six-year "window" during which new teachers must complete a three-credit course in the diagnosis and remediation of reading disabilities. The law also would allow a person to complete the course as part of his or her teacher preparation training. The bill was introduced by Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, in January. It passed in the House on a 107-0 vote and in the Senate on a 36-0 vote.

Expand definition of vocational education

"Career and technical education" will be added to the definition of vocational education in the Michigan School Code following action by the Michigan Legislature. Introduced by Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon, on Feb. 8, Senate Bill 188 adds the following in the definition: "Education designed to provide career development and the knowledge and skills leading to entry-level technical employment or higher education in a technical field. Career and technical education programs include classroom and laboratory experiences and work-based instruction." The bill authorizes a variety of expenditures by intermediate school districts related to career education and establishes required procedures and regulations. It passed in the Senate, 36-0, and in the House, 102-5, and was given immediate effect. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the legislation on July 17.

‘Promise’ recipients outside of Michigan

High school students who live in Michigan but attend a high school outside the state would be eligible for "Michigan Promise Award" college scholarships under Senate Bill 570, introduced by Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, on June 6. The proposal passed the Senate, 35-0, on June 28, and was referred to the House Education Committee. Altogether, about 40 Michigan residents currently attend out-of-state schools, either private or parochial schools or schools on military bases, according to the Department of Treasury.

Keep programs within district boundaries

A school district could not operate a school or educational program outside its geographical boundaries unless it received written permission from the board of education of the district where the program is located under House Bill 4924, introduced by Rep. Tim Melton, D-Pontiac, on June 14. The measure passed in the House of Representatives, 84-23, on June 28, including an amendment that exempts school programs already in operation outside their home district. Public school academies, or charter schools, also would be exempted. An analysis of the bill states that many school districts operate educational programs outside their boundaries in conjunction with universities, businesses or other schools for mutual benefit. In one case in the Pontiac area, however, a school district announced plans unilaterally to open an alternative high school within another district’s boundaries.

Common calendar

Legislation introduced by Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, on May 25, would require all regular school districts within an Intermediate School District to adopt a common school calendar. Senate Bill 549 would make exceptions for existing year-round schools or programs, international baccalaureate academies and certain charter schools. If a collective bargaining agreement were in effect on the date the legislation was passed, that agreement would be take precedence until its conclusion. Schools still could not open before Labor Day in any year. The bill passed in the Senate on a 20-17 vote on June 27 and was referred to the House of Representatives Education Committee.

An hour a week of gym

Public schools would be required to provide at least 30 minutes of physical education twice a week to kindergarten through fifth-graders under Senate Bill 282, introduced by Sen. Samuel "Buzz" Thomas, D-Detroit, on Feb. 27. Participating in school athletics or in other extracurricular physical activities would no longer count toward the total. The bill was referred to the Senate Health Policy Committee.

Health insurance reform

A proposal to allow public employers, including school districts, to join with other districts to establish and maintain health insurance pools was defeated, 19-18, in the Michigan Senate in June. Senate Bill 418 (S-1) would have created the "Public Employees Health Benefit Act." It was introduced by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, in April. In addition to allowing districts to form insurance pools, the act also would have required current insurance carriers to provide the employers with claims and cost data for medical benefits and require the employer to release that data to carriers from which it sought bids for service. Although school districts already are authorized to form insurance pools, the act would have made it easier by relaxing some requirements. The Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill notes that it was prompted by continuing concern over high health care insurance costs in Michigan school districts.

Ten-year millage limit

Local government and school millage authorizations with a duration of more than 10 years would be prohibited under House Bill 4967, introduced in June by Rep. John Garfield, R-Rochester Hills. If approved, the bill would require that voters reauthorize all local and school property taxes at least once every 10 years. The measure was referred to the House Tax Policy Committee on June 21.