Senate Republicans oppose Democratic education changes with ‘MI Brighter Future Plan’ ⋆

Michigan Senate Republicans on Thursday held a press conference outlining their 2024 vision for education. 

That comes days before Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set on Wednesday to announce her Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget proposal. Last year, Whitmer signed a $24 billion School Aid budget for FY 2024, the largest in history.

The Republicans’ proposed “MI Brighter Future Plan” includes policies ensuring teachers are trained in phonics-based reading methods, offering bonuses to teachers for taking positions in schools where they would have a larger impact, and offering scholarships to families to help with extra education assistance and to help cover the cost of summer or after-school reading programs. 

Democratic-led Senate education panel votes to reform third-grade reading law

Republicans also included a number of proposals they had previously enacted: strengthening Michigan’s third-grade reading law, restoring A-F grading for evaluating schools and requiring student progress to be a part of teacher evaluations. Democrats reversed these policies in 2023. Democrats control the upper chamber 20-18 and maintain control of the House, which is temporarily split 54-54.

“As the Legislature continues to provide record funding for our schools, Michigan’s students continue to fall behind their peers in other states — ranking poorly in reading and math proficiency and near the bottom in high school graduation rates,” Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.) said in a statement. 

“Despite these troubling trends, Lansing Democrats have spent the past year sweeping these problems under the rug — lowering learning and accountability standards for students and their teachers. But there is a better path forward. Senate Republicans will not stand idly on the sideline as Michigan’s children are left behind,” Nesbitt said. 

Jeff Wiggins, Nesbitt’s press secretary and senior adviser, said the bills would be introduced and read into the Senate next week.

Michigan Republicans have continually blasted Democrats on education policy, blaming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and COVID shutdowns for pandemic learning loss, and arguing that many of the education policies passed in 2023 would stunt the state’s educational recovery. 

However, education advocates argue forcing students to repeat the third grade if they test more than one grade level behind in reading and writing does more harm than good for students. 

Teachers also pushed back on incorporating student performance into their evaluations saying their evaluations included group data from students they have yet to teach, and arguing it deterred teachers from taking in students with autism, or who may not speak English. 

In her 2024 State of the State address, Whitmer also pushed to expand education access, calling for funding for universal pre-K and two years of free community college for high school graduates. Those proposals are expected to be in the governor’s FY 2025 budget plan.

“We must support our kids from pre-K, through postsecondary, to prosperity,” Whitmer said. 

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authored by Kyle Davidson
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2024%2F02%2F01%2Fsenate-republicans-oppose-democratic-education-changes-with-mi-brighter-future-plan%2F

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