School loan rates may go up

School districts that borrow from the School Loan Revolving Fund could see higher interest rates under Senate Bill 416, introduced by Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville, in March. The House and Senate both adopted the legislation, which will allow the state treasurer to set interest rates high enough to cover the department's debt service.

Under current law, when schools borrow from the fund, the interest rate they are charged is tied to the rate on state general obligation bonds, according to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis. However, the bonds that provide funding for the loan program are issued through the Michigan Municipal Bond Authority, and those interest rates don't necessarily equal general obligation bond rates.

Consequently, school districts pay less than the amount the state needs to cover debt service on the bonds, the analysis said, which could eventually deplete the fund.

The bill passed in the Senate, 37-0, and the House, 105-2.

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Mandate 'dating violence' curriculum

School districts would have to provide "dating violence" instruction to seventh- through twelfth-graders under the terms of House Bill 5021, introduced by Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, on May 27. They also would have to adopt dating violence reporting and response policies, including training for staff.

The state Department of Education would be required to develop a model policy and curriculum. The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.

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No school tax on fraternal lodges

The lodges of fraternal organizations would be exempt from paying local school operating millages under the terms of House Bill 4946, introduced May 14 by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

In general, state law already exempts principal residences, certain agricultural and forestry property, and supportive housing and industrial personal property from school operating millage levies.

The bill was referred to the House Tax Policy Committee.

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Roll back education mandates

School districts would be excused from certain regulations and mandates in exchange for meeting specific, measurable performance goals under legislation introduced by Rep. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, in May. House Bill 4979 would allow the state superintendent of public instruction and the district to enter an "education mandate rollback contract" of up to five years.

The bill does not specify which regulations could be waived and also does not outline performance standards, but does say that no agreement could reduce employees' wages or hours, or exempt the district from health and safety, teacher certification, ethics or certain financial requirements. The district would have to show adequate progress on state standardized tests.

The legislation was referred to the House Education Committee on May 20.

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