Michigan Republicans announce $1.3B plan to help schools

By Scott McClallen | The Center Square 21 hrs ago

The plan would give $800 per student to K-12 schools for a total of $1.2 billion to create a distance learning plan and safety measures so students can return to the classroom.

Each teacher would receive a one-time $500 payment for hazard pay while intermediate school districts would get $80 million to enact distance learning plans and safety measures.

“The public health crisis affected each corner of our state differently, meaning our safety protocols shouldn’t be the same for every school,” Hornberger, a former public school teacher, said. “Safety standards will need to be different in Metro Detroit than they are in the [Upper Peninsula]. Experts from local health departments, not politicians, are best suited to determine these standards.”

School districts could start “whenever is best for them,” according to a GOP document.

The plan would redefine “attendance” from physically sitting in a classroom to “engaged in instruction;” would limit snow days use to two days per year moving forward; and would harness benchmark assessments to identify subjects in which students excel or need help.

The legislation will be referred to the House Education Committee this week, according to a news release.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said the plan would greatly help schools.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here for schools to help remove some of their concerns,” Shirkey told reporters. “Right now, they can’t plan for this coming school year because they have so many unknowns. This should help fill in some of those unknowns.”

Shirkey said he hoped for as much in-person learning as possible, but that areas would be allowed to plan for themselves. 

“I don’t think it should be the state determining that decision, it should be done at the local level, based on their own unique circumstances,” Shirkey said.

“I think we have an obligation to move quickly on this… [schools] need clarity sooner rather than later.”

Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the state charter school association, applauded the plan.

“As students return to the classroom this fall, we support the flexibility in this plan that will allow each school to meet the unique needs of its community and best provide for the safety and welfare of its students,” Quisenberry said in a statement.

“This plan will allow schools to safely meet the needs of students who want to be back in the classroom and those who aren’t yet ready to be back in the building.

Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center, also backed the plan.

“The rules and structure of our current public education system are too rigid, as witnessed by the initial responses to this spring’s school building closures,” DeGrow said in a statement.

“The time has come to give schools more room to maneuver in order to help ensure students continue to learn and grow, whether in a school building, online or some combination of the two.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week said she was “optimistic” students will be able to return to school in the fall if COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to trend downward.

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