Health insurance pooling, MESSA data release get nod
Negotiations over the 2008 state budget brought about new
legislation aimed at making it easier for public school districts to form health insurance pools. The Michigan Senate and House of Representatives each passed legislation which would allow schools and local governments to form health insurance purchasing pools and prescribe standards and regulations for these. Senate Bill 418, originally introduced by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids, in April, also would require third party insurance administrators to release individual school district claims history data, including the Michigan Education Special Services Association, a third party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association. This information is said to be necessary to allow other insurance providers to bid competitively on a district’s health insurance purchases. The House had passed a version of the bill that did not require the release of claims data, but a conference committee adopted the Senate version of the bill in last-minute negotiations in September. The bill was signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Oct. 1.
School employee retirement
New school employees would become eligible for partial
post-retirement health insurance benefits after 10 years of service under
legislation adopted by the House and Senate as part of 2008 budget negotiations.
An individual would first be entitled to 30 percent of the post-retirement
health benefits after 10 years on the job and earn 3 percent for each additional
year of service. The lengths of service and eligibility requirements are more
stringent than under the previous benefit plan. The benefit would begin only
after age 60. It would also increase the premiums that new employees must pay if
they choose an enhanced retirement program with more benefits and would limit
the purchase of "service credits" that allow a school employee to retire early
with a full pension. Senate Bill 0546 passed the House in a 65-44 vote and the
Senate in a 21-17 vote, both on Oct. 1. Senate Bill 546 was originally
introduced by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, in May.
No money for extra ACT
A series of bills to change the Michigan Merit Exam and ACT
tests, given to all Michigan 11th graders, was introduced by Sen. Michael
Switalski, D-Roseville, in September. Senate Bills 804 through 810 and 813 would have: eliminated funding to develop computer-based "practice tests" for the MME and ACT; eliminated the social studies component of the MME; made the writing portion of the test optional and required students to pay for it; required students who re-take the ACT to pay for the second test. The bills were sent to both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Education Committee.
No end-of-course tests
The state would not be required to develop end-of-course
examinations as part of the new state high school curriculum mandate under
legislation introduced by Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Berrien County, on Sept. 24. The
original legislation called for the state to develop assessment tests which
public school districts or public school academies could use to determine if a
student earned credit in a particular course. Senate Bill 812 was referred to
the Senate Education Committee.
Opt out of math, science
Students who do well on state assessment tests would not have to take three years of high school math and science in order to qualify for the state "Promise Award" under legislation introduced by Sen. Deborah Cherry, D-Burton, on July 24. Senate Bill 646 would eliminate the math/science
requirement, scheduled to take effect in 2010. The bill was referred to the
Senate Education Committee.
Penalties extended to all school personnel
School volunteers, employees and contractual service
providers would receive stiffer penalties for criminal sexual conduct when
committed against a student under legislation approved by the Senate, 36-0, in
May. Senate Bill 386 was introduced by Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton. The extra penalties already apply to teachers. The bill was received in the House on May 17.
School districts that establish single-gender schools,
classes or programs for one gender would not have to offer a comparable program
for children of the other gender, although they still would have to offer a
comparable coeducational program under legislation introduced in the House of
Representatives this summer. Rep. Dave Hildebrand, R-Lowell, introduced House
Bill 5063 in July. He also introduced House Bill 5087, which proposes that the
single-gender programs offered could be at one grade level or age range for one
gender and a different grade level or age range for the other gender, if current research on student achievement or learning supported that decision. The bills were referred to the House Education Committee.
Increase teacher certification fees
Teachers, school psychologists, school counselors and
administrators would have to pay more for certification under House Bill 4591,
introduced by Rep. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Wayne County, on April 5. Certification
is required of Michigan public school teachers in almost all cases. Currently,
certification fees range from $125 to 175, and most would increase by $35. The
bill passed, 61-47. It was reported in the Senate in August and referred to the
Senate Appropriations Committee.
Plan to consolidate services
Intermediate school districts in Michigan must create a plan
to consolidate their constituent districts’ procurement, human resources,
busing, contracting activities and other noninstructional services under
legislation signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in September. Originally introduced as House Bill 4592, by Rep. Tim Melton, D-Pontiac, the bill does not require the local public school districts or intermediate districts to act on the plans or to seek competitive bids for the services. Intermediate districts that already have such a plan would not be required to create a new one.