I hope everyone enjoyed the first day back at school! And if today wasn't your first day back, I hope your year is already off to a great start.
Here are a few education-related issues that I've been thinking about this evening:
TENTATIVE CONTRACT DEAL FOR DETROIT COMMUNITY DISTRICT TEACHERS
The Detroit Public Schools Community District ("DPSCD") has reached a tentative contract agreement with the bargaining representative of the district's teachers. It's important to remember that no contract will be effective until it is actually approved by the teachers -- not simply by the union. Teachers will begin voting on the proposed plan later this week.
Some people have expressed concern that the new contract, if approved, will only be in place for four months. While this contract term would certainly be short, there's no other option available under the new law passed by the Michigan Legislature this spring. As recently amended, § 12b(3) of the Revised School Code expressly states that transition manager Steve Rhodes "shall not negotiate or enter into any collective bargaining agreement that would bind the elected school board of the community district." The members of the new DPSCD school board will be elected in November, and will assume office on January 1, 2017. In other words, state law simply does not allow the negotiation of a contract that would extend beyond January 1.
BUSING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL & PRIVATE SCHOOL PUPILS?
Schools aren't the only institutions that returned from summer vacation today -- so did the Michigan Legislature. (The Senate returned today and the House of Representatives will return tomorrow.) Lawmakers introduced several new bills, most of which are pretty run-of-the-mill. But one stands out.
Senate Bill 1046, introduced by State Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Twp), would amend § 1321(1) of the Revised School Code to remove the subsection that requires school districts to provide transportation only for pupils "for whom the school district is eligible to receive state school aid for transportation." What does it mean? I suspect that Colbeck's motive is to force public school districts to provide busing for charter school and private school students who live within their geographic boundaries. It isn't entirely clear whether the poorly drafted bill would actually accomplish this objective, but it would certainly be a step in that direction. And while it might be permissible under a narrow exception in the Michigan Constitution, it would obviously increase costs for traditional public school districts around the state.
House Bill 4822 -- which would require public schools to retain third graders who do not score adequately on reading assessments and deploy "early literacy coaches" to teach existing reading teachers how to teach their pupils to read -- remains in conference committee, where it has been pending since March.
Florida has a similar third-grade retention law, with many similarities to Michigan's House Bill 4822. Eleven days ago, a Florida state judge ruled that local school districts cannot retain third-graders under the law simply because they refuse to participate in the state's reading assessments. The judicial ruling reveals substantial flaws in the third-grade-retention model, including the possibility that it runs afoul of a parent's probable constitutional right to opt his or her child out of state standardized testing. (At least one version of Michigan's bill allows the use of reading portfolios in lieu of standardized reading assessment scores. But who knows what the conference committee might do?)
I have previously explained why House Bill 4822 is a bad idea for Michigan. But our state lawmakers apparently remain committed to its passage. According to David Eggert of the Associated Press, a spokesperson for Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) has indicated that the conference committee "may be close to a compromise" on House Bill 4822. Expect to see final action on the third-grade retention bill before the end of the year, at which point it will die if it remains in committee.