The Michigan Legislature’s “lame duck” session begins this week, with the next three weeks of session leading up to the end of the year when all unpassed bills expire and a new legislature is seated in January with newly elected lawmakers.
Many expect this year’s lame duck to be relatively quiet (including public comments from both Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey), especially given the balance of power in the legislature didn’t shift between parties and further federal coronavirus relief remains stalled in Congress.
COVID-19 safety and economic recovery issues will certainly dominate the conversation, but MEA is also monitoring a variety of education related legislation that may be discussed as well, including:
- Evaluation and testing – MEA is continuing to advocate for reductions in the percentage of standardized testing mandated to be part of teacher evaluations (slated to increase to 40 percent this spring after a series of delays), as well as other changes to provide real protections for teachers against unfair and biased evaluation practices. Further, given the pandemic, we are advocating against conducting required M-STEP testing this year, as well as suspending the high stakes impacts of those tests results, like third grade reading retention – steps that were taken last spring and should be again in 2021. Outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declined to grant a federal testing waiver for 2021, but a new head of the Department of Education may change that guidance.
- Substitute teacher shortage – While the educator shortage was already a crisis, the pandemic has worsened the problem, especially when it comes to the shortage of substitute teachers. Rather than focus on real solutions like improving substitute pay, making school working conditions safer and eliminating hurdles for retirees who want to come back and sub, some lawmakers are pushing fixes that lower the requirements for substitutes and other quick fixes – such as allowing family members of students to sub or letting administrators use support staff to work as substitute teachers instead of their normal duties.
- Hazard pay fixes – As MEA and AFT Michigan laid out in a letter last month to lawmakers, there are language issues with the legislation for hazard pay that are leaving some in public education out of grants up to $500 for teachers and $250 for support staff (applications for which are due this Friday). These issues need to be addressed in lame duck so that everyone in the education community is recognized for their hard work to continue meeting the needs of students amidst the pandemic.
For more information, check out this list of legislation being tracked in Lame Duck by MEA lobbyists. To contact your lawmakers regarding any of these issues, you can look up their contact information here. Please stay tuned for updates as session continues through December.