In Legislative Update

Senate Committee Approves Bill to Allow Concealed Weapons in Schools

A Michigan Senate panel voted 4-1 last week to allow the concealed carry of weapons in what are now called “pistol free zones,” including schools, colleges and universities, daycare centers, hospitals, and places of worship. The committee voted before everyone was able to testify — including AFT Michigan. Clearly, the committee members did not care what educators and other concerned parents and community members had to say, as they already knew how they were going to vote.

The bill now will be considered by the full Senate – click here to urge your state senator to vote NO. 

Senate Bill 442, sponsored by Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville), would prohibit the open carry of firearms in pistol free zones, but allow concealed weapons permit holders to get an endorsement on their CPL license to carry in gun free zones, including K-12 public schools, daycare centers, community colleges and universities. While we support closing the “open-carry loophole,” AFT Michigan strongly opposes this bill. Schools must be places where students and staff are safe to learn, teach and work, and allowing people to carry weapons is dangerous and reckless.

Unless in the hands of trained law enforcement officers, guns do not belong in our schools. Period.

Amended Third Grade Reading Bill Passes Michigan House

House Bill 4822, introduced by Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township), attempts to improve literacy in early grades by requiring schools to assess and diagnose reading deficiencies, creating reading assistance programs for K-3 students, and requiring retention and intervention programs for students who are not reading at grade level by the end of the third grade. This bill is significantly improved from the bill Rep. Price introduced in 2013, which simply mandated retention for all third grade students not reading at grade level.

Among the changes included in the newest version of the bill:

  • The retention mandate will not take effect until the 2019-2020 school year, when that cohort of third graders has had access to additional early literacy supports for three full years.
  • A student will only be held back if they are a full grade level behind in reading.
  • Students who are proficient in other subject areas can only be retained in reading instruction, but can continue learning other subjects in fourth grade classrooms.
  • Parents, teachers, and school administrators will be able to work together to create reading improvement plans for struggling readers.
  • If a student scores as a full-grade level behind on the state tests, parents, teachers, and school administrators are able to promote students if a portfolio review, alternative assessment, or through a good cause exemption for English Language Learners and special education students, demonstrates preparedness for fourth grade.

AFT Michigan has long recommended early diagnosis and intervention for struggling readers, along with the employment of specialized early literacy coaches to work with students and early elementary teachers to improve teaching and learning in this vital area. We are very pleased to see these elements included in HB 4822. However, we continue to have concerns with the retention piece of the bill as well as concerns regarding appropriate funding and staffing for such programs.

The bill ultimately passed by a margin of 57-48, mostly along party lines with the following exceptions: Republican Reps. Goike, Heise, Hooker, McBroom, Potvin, and Sommerville voted no and Democratic Reps. Brinks, Santana, and Schor voted yes.

Michigan House Approves Educator Evaluation Bill

By a margin of 97-8, the Michigan House approved on Thursday an amended version of SB 103, which makes changes to the state’s current educator evaluation law.

In this version of the bill, 25 percent of teacher evaluations will be determined by student growth scores for the next three years, and 40 percent beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. Furthermore, only 50 percent of the growth portion of the evaluation (12.5 percent of the overall evaluation until 18-19, and 20 percent of the overall evaluation thereafter), may be based on the state assessments. Schools can use nationally-normed or locally-adopted assessments, student learning objectives, or progress of individualized education program goals.

For the remainder of the evaluation, local school districts will need to select or develop a research-based evaluation framework of professional practice. School districts will be required to train teachers in the evaluation model, provide written feedback to teachers within 30 days of observation, and ensure that administrators and observers are thoroughly trained in the evaluation model.

We expect the Senate to take up the bill within the next week.

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