Monday, April 9, 2012

Michigan PTA Advocacy Update

Committee for Children’s Advocacy 5 Minute Legislative Update April 5, 2012
This update is for our units to use in their newsletters and to have available at their PTA meetings.  Please share with your members and community.
  • Zero Tolerance for Unwarranted Expulsions
  • K-12 Funding
  • Kindergarten Start Date Legislation
Zero Tolerance for Unwarranted Expulsions – Strategies and Alternatives
Last month, Mark Fancher, an attorney for ACLU Michigan, addressed Advocacy Day attendees on Michigan ’s zero tolerance expulsion practices.  He emphasized that school administrators are often expelling students, instead of using alternative solutions when possible.
Children are entitled to due process – a hearing is required, and, with the exception of firearms offenses, school districts can use discretion NOT to expel a child.  Families frequently do not know how to avoid an expulsion or understand how to apply for reinstatement after being expelled.  Additionally, administrators may not be aware of  what options are available to them.
We must advocate for change.
Michigan expanded its zero tolerance policies well beyond firearm possession.  Mandatory expulsion in Michigan includes deadly weapons, dangerous weapons, and harmful objects.  This has resulted in punishment for possession of such items as butter knives, paper clips, and toy guns according to the Student Advocacy Center of Michigan.
School administrators must explore alternatives to suspensions and expulsions.  Restorative practices work to repair the problem rather than punish offenders and have been used with success in many school districts.  Lansing and Kalamazoo are examples of school districts in Michigan that have used these practices.
We also must advocate for quality and convenient alternative education for those students who are expelled.  Children must be given every opportunity to succeed in school and benefit from a quality education.
Michigan PTA advocates for every child to receive a quality education – currently those who are expelled have few options to continue their education and graduate from high school.
You can learn more about restorative practices through the International Institute for Restorative Practices (
What can you do?
  • Talk to your school district administrators and school board about implementing restorative practices.
  • Talk with your legislators regarding your concerns with our zero tolerance laws.
  • Help to make sure that every child is treated fairly and justly; work to ensure that all children receive a quality education.
Michigan PTA passed a resolution in 2010 addressing these concerns:
Resolved, that the Michigan PTSA proposes that Michigan ’s mandatory expulsion guidelines be in alignment with the Federal guidelines for “zero tolerance,” and be it further
Resolved, that the Michigan PTSA recommends data on suspended and expelled students be gathered, in order to best develop effective policies in regards to student discipline, and be it further
Resolved, that the Michigan PTSA recommends that no student be expelled without placement in an alternative education program, and that convenient and quality alternative education be provided by the State of Michigan, and be it further
Resolved, that the Michigan PTSA believes that students’ education should be disrupted as little as possible, and that local school districts should implement alternatives to expulsion, and that there be statewide procedures and policies for addressing disciplinary problems.
K-12 Funding
The Governor has proposed his budget for K-12 education, and it doesn’t include any increase to K-12 education.  The proposed budget maintains the $470 per pupil decrease that schools received this year.
Governor Snyder asks to maintain funding for early childhood education, funding for at-risk students, and funding programs to improve academic achievement and reduce drop-out rates.  However, there is a decrease in funding to lowering class sizes in high-poverty schools.
Michigan PTA supports equitable funding for all school districts. 
There are additional areas of concern which will negatively impact education funding:
  • An increase in mandatory contributions to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System will increase costs to local school districts. 
  • Michigan PTA supports all day kindergarten.  However, Governor Snyder’s budget does not provide additional funding for implementation.  School districts will incur increased costs switching from ½ day to full day kindergarten.  We urge the Governor and the Legislature to provide additional funding to support this great initiative.
ACTION REQUIRED:  Over the next two months, contact your state senator and state representative to share your concerns.  Governor Snyder’s proposed incentives are important, however, K-12 schools need to have funding restored.  You have surely noticed the impact the cuts to education have had in your child’s school; relay your experiences to your legislators.  It is imperative that our legislators know we expect them to ensure that every child in Michigan has the opportunity for a quality education.  Their futures, and ours, depend on it.
Kindergarten Start Date Legislation
Michigan PTA responded to bills introduced to change the eligibility date to enter kindergarten.
Senate Bill 315 would move the eligibility date from December 1st to November 1st beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, requiring a child to be 5 years old by November 1st to start kindergarten.  Subsequently, in the 2013-2014 school year, the child would have to be 5 years old by October 1st; and, in the 2014-2015 school year, a child would have to be 5 years old by September 1st.  Senate Bill 316 addresses the appropriations side of the bill, adjusting the state funding to school districts to align with the new start date.
House Bill 4513 would move the eligibility date from December 1st to September 1st, requiring a child to be 5 years old by September 1st in order to start kindergarten that school year.  This bill permits the parent or guardian of a child who will turn 5 between September 2nd and December 1st to request a waiver to allow the child to enroll in school prior to his or her birthday.
While Michigan PTA supports ensuring that every child is ready to learn when starting kindergarten, there are consequences to this legislation that we would like addressed.  There will be a reduction in revenue to school districts, depending on the final legislation, and school districts would face challenges aligning staff to the smaller classes as they move through grades K-12.  What has not been discussed is how will the state use the savings that will result in fewer students?
Michigan PTA advocates for inclusion of the following provisions to the proposed legislation:
  • Phase-in over three years, as proposed in Senate Bill 315.  However, we would like to see the phase-in process begin in the 2013-2014 school year.  The phase-in would minimize the impact on school districts as the start date changes.  Waiting until 2013-2014 allows families who will be impacted time to make plans for other childcare and preschool arrangements.
  • Waiver request opportunity, with individual school districts determining the requirements for a waiver.  School districts should determine their process by how they will assess readiness. 
  • Apply the savings from implementation of this legislation to readiness programs for children impacted by the change in kindergarten start date.  Michigan PTA advocates for early childhood education; this is a perfect opportunity to begin funding quality pre-kindergarten.
Michigan PTA expects the legislature to consider the impact to our students when making changes to our public schools.  Michigan PTA supports improved educational outcomes for our students.  Having children prepared to learn when they start kindergarten enables students to meet rigorous educational standards.
Action:  Share your concerns with your legislators regarding the proposed legislation.

Michigan Parent Teacher Association
1390 Eisenhower Place
Ann Arbor, MI 48108 ♦ 734-975-9500