The Michigan Department of Education today issued a memo declaring that efforts taken by public schools to provide remote instruction during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak will not be counted toward state-mandated instruction hours.
The memo sends the wrong message to educators in different district and charter schools who are trying to help families navigate their learning needs in this trying time. If building closures extend beyond the currently required three weeks, this approach becomes especially problematic. State leaders should be striving for more flexible support, not effectively telling educators to pack it in for summer break. This appears to be Gov. Whitmer’s approach to making medical care more widely available during the emergency.
If MDE feels constrained by current state law, then this is an opportunity for the Legislature to intervene. More families may be seeking access to publicly funded cyber schools or district virtual programs as a way to provide some sort of continuation of learning while trying to navigate the current public health crisis.
In the short term, this does not require sending extra emergency dollars to districts. It could mean adding a count date to allow a share of funds to follow students who are seeking out online learning options, or perhaps even providing limited-use accounts to families who may need specific educational supports.
But a debate with longer-term policy implications looms just over the horizon. How can Michigan break down bureaucratic walls that limit innovative public education providers from implementing and sharing best practices? How can Michigan fund student learning that allows families to direct shares of dollars to different courses and other resources as they need them, rather than rely on a slow-moving bureaucracy?
The current crisis is exposing a weakness in the state’s rigid, top-down education infrastructure. The state would be better positioned to handle a situation like this if its public school system were more flexible. Lawmakers should listen to parents and educators who see that students will benefit from a nimbler system that puts their welfare first.
Permission to reprint this blog post in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author (or authors) and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy are properly cited. Permission to reprint any comments below is granted only for those comments written by Mackinac Center policy staff.
Get insightful commentary and the most reliable research on Michigan issues sent straight to your inbox.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
Please consider contributing to our work to advance a freer and more prosperous state.
Donate | About | Blog | Pressroom | Publications | Careers | Site Map | Email Signup | Contact