If you’ve been paying attention to the 2018‑2019 school appropriations bill that was sent through the Michigan Senate earlier this month – we fail to see who would pass up that opportunity – you might notice that there is new statutory language regulating partnership agreements between the State and certain school districts. These partnership agreements are designed to help struggling school districts through aid from the Michigan Department of Education (“MDE”). Amid the 281 pages comprising Senate Bill No. 863, Sections 21h (MCL 388.1621h) and 22p (proposed MCL 388.1622p) are particularly relevant to the topic.
Section 21h, which allocates $6 million for the 2018‑2019 fiscal year, controls the criteria for when a district is eligible for a partnership agreement. A district is eligible if at least one school in the district has been rated with an “F” or comparable performance rating, and it fulfills a set of requirements. The new language passed by the Senate requires the school to “craft academic goals that put[s] pupils on track to meet or exceed grade level proficiency,” in addition to the requirements in the current version of the law, to receive funding. The Senate’s language also would require an annual report in person by the department to the Legislature regarding the activities funded by the appropriated funds and how those activities impacted student achievement. In addition to the new in‑person requirement, districts working under partnership agreements would be compelled to participate in the report “to the extent possible.”
Section 21h also provides that the Superintendent of Public Instruction can waive “burdensome administrative rules” for a partnership district during the partnership agreement. While there’s a healthy helping of discretion outside a school district’s control there, the prospect of waiving those rules may come as a welcome relief to partnership districts in light of the new requirements.
New Section 22p allocates $400 million to eligible districts and public school academies with partnership agreements if, in addition to meeting other requirements, the district or academy includes 18‑month and 36‑month benchmarks to achieve “measurable academic outcomes.” These outcomes must “put pupils on track to meet or exceed grade level proficiency,” echoing the new language inserted into Section 21h. The catch is that the district or academy must also include accountability measures to be executed if it fails to achieve those outcomes, and the accountability measures include closure of the targeted school or reconstitution of the school – which comes with a host of oversight requirements.
Of course, nothing is set in stone at this point. The Michigan House will evaluate and undoubtedly give its own input on the appropriations bill. For now, we’ll have to sit tight and track the bill as it evolves.