Michigan’s House of Representatives has passed a three bill package that deals with the back-to-school issues in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan was hammered out between legislative leaders and the Whitmer administration and passed by the State Senate in a rare Saturday session.

Today, the State House weighed in and gave the bills their official stamp of approval, and sent them to Governor Whitmer for her signature.

  • HB 5911 passed 81-25.
  • HB 5912 passed 77-29.
  • HB 5913 passed 73-33.

Representatives Matt Hall (63rd) and Jim Haadsma (62nd) voted yes on all three.

  • While in-person education for K-5 students was recommended, school districts that opt for on-line learning only will not lose state aid.
  • Under the plan, school boards would be required to regularly review their reopening plans. School boards would have to publicly reevaluate their plans every month. This is intended to provide accountability and offer more of a voice to parents in deciding whether districts need to change their plan throughout the year.
  • The plan also includes $50 million in hazard pay for Michigan teachers. State Rep. Matt Hall (R) Marshall, said in his discussions with local teachers and officials, he has found that many teachers are having to spend money out of their own pockets to accommodate on-line learning.  Hall said, “The state is already receiving Cares funding from the Federal Government for COVID-19 related expenses, so I fully support the hazard pay for our teachers.”  Another $530 million will also go to schools to offset other COVID-19 related expenses.
  • The bills do not mandate requiring students to wear masks. That appears to be a concession by the Whitmer administration.
  • Three-quarters of funding for districts will be based on last year’s enrollment numbers. The other quarter upcoming school year will be a new headcount.  The legislation defines attendance so that students who are physically in class and those who participate virtually are both counted. The plan also would waive the requirement to have 180 days or 1,098 hours of school this year.
  • Funding for districts will also be tied to proof that schools are providing at least two two-way interactions a week between at least 75 percent of enrolled students and their teachers under the plan. And districts will have to show that those interactions are taking place.
  • Regardless of how schools are teaching kids this fall, they’ll have to test them to figure out where they stand academically. To qualify for state aid under the legislation, districts will have to administer one benchmark assessment within the first nine weeks of the school year, and then another time by the end of the year.

“What we’re doing today is a true testament of what we can do when we work together”, said House Speaker Lee Chatfield.  “I’d like to thank the legislature and the administration for coming together on this plan.   The education of our children in Michigan should not be a political issue.“

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