Governor Speaks to School Returning in Fall, Legislative Republicans Announce Ideas Too

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, June 24, 2020

On June 17, 2020, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in-person school instruction may go forward in the fall with strict, mandatory health and safety protocols that will be defined in a “Return to School Roadmap.” We expect that Roadmap to be released on or around June 30, 2020 and it will align closely with the MI Safe Start Plan. Additionally, House and Senate Republicans released an outline of a plan of their own yesterday.

The Roadmap is being worked on by the Education Task Force and the Return to School Advisory Council. It is expected to set the minimum health and safety requirements but allow districts to choose to enact more aggressive ones in consultation with local public health officials. These minimum requirements will apply to all schools, including traditional public, charter, private and parochial.

The plan outline from House and Senate Republicans acknowledges that more resources are going to be necessary to open schools in the fall. It calls for $1.3 billion for schools to implement distance learning plans and health and safety measures to return safely to the classroom; a one-time payment for “front-line” teachers; and for ISDs to assist local districts.

It also calls on local health departments to work with schools to come up with a plan and requires face-to-face instruction for kindergarten through fifth grade. Further details are expected to be introduced in legislative form shortly and we will take a close look at them. We believe that the ideas they raise can be discussed along with the recommendations that will be coming from school, parent, community and health representatives on the Return to School Advisory Council. Look for the bill numbers and more information in Friday’s News From the Capitol.

The Governor also acknowledged that her top budget priority is to preserve school funding as the protocols necessary for a safe return to school will require additional expenditures. While this is a welcome sentiment, it is still unclear how it will be accomplished with the large shortfall the state currently faces.

For now, we are continuing to work with lawmakers and the Governor’s office to try and get a budget passed. The bottom line—without action from the federal government to provide more financial relief to schools, deep cuts will be necessary. We continue to urge you to contact your federal representatives about the need for additional school funding to protect against major cuts.

Also last week, the Governor issued Executive Order 2020-179, which extends the Open Meetings Act orders to allow school boards to continue to meet remotely through July 31, 2020. We have also heard that her office is working on a permanent law change to allow for remote participation and hope to work with them to update OMA. MASB has updated the frequently asked questions document to reflect the new Executive Order.

Your MASB Government Relations staff will continue to provide updates as they become available. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

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