House, Senate wrangle in search of a solution
We had a lot of them this winter.
Some districts were closed more than 20 times during this winter including during the 4-day state of emergency that saw governmental offices as well as private businesses close up shop due to the weather.
With schools required to provide 180 days (1098 hours) of instruction to students, not fulfilling this requirement could result in the forfeiture of a portion of the school’s state aid.
The first six days or the equivalent number of hours that students are not in the classroom due to snow days or other weather or natural emergencies are waived and included as hours of instruction. Superintendents can apply for a waiver that allows them to cancel three additional days of school under certain circumstances.
House Bill 4206 would amend the act and require the Department of Education, for 2018-2019 only, to count the four days that were included in the governor’s state of emergency earlier this year as days and hours of pupil instruction.
On Tuesday the State Senate unanimously approved a bill Tuesday to forgive the four snow days that occurred during a state-declared emergency and not require them to be made up, but a procedural snafu involving a conflict over compensation for hourly employees has delayed it and it was sent back to the House.
State Sen. Jon Bumstead on Tuesday voted in favor of legislation giving flexibility to schools who missed more than the nine allotted snow days during this winter’s harsh weather.
“I supported this bill to provide much-needed relief for schools due to this year’s extreme weather, but since none of the Democrats would support immediate effect on this legislation, it won’t actually help schools when they need it,” said Bumstead. “Every senator voted in favor of this legislation, but failure to approve immediate effect knowingly delays implementation to the end of our legislative term and effectively denies schools the forgiveness of snow days.”
“It’s really disappointing that such a simple bill aimed at helping our schools had to become a victim of political games,” Bumstead said. “I know some districts that have had upward of 20 snow days, and some districts will already be going well into the summer. This bill would have simply eliminated some of the burden on teachers, students and parents this summer.”
Today the House passed the bill including immediate effect and now it will be sent back to the Senate for another vote, possibly as soon as tomorrow (Thursday). Local State Representative Scott Van Singel was one of two Republicans who voted against the bill that passed by a 56-53 margin.
“My concerns were with the total number of days that students had missed,” said Representative VanSingel. “ The state currently allows six days and schools can apply for a waiver for an additional 3 days- a total of nine. Most schools greatly exceeded that total this year and were requesting additional relief. The bill offered relief for the days which were declared "state emergency days" While I understand that these were some of the coldest days Michigan has seen in years and not suitable for attending school, the overall problem is that the students have missed as many as 3-4 weeks of education in many districts.
“Forgiving additional days does nothing to help the students catch up. While I understand most students and educators do not want the school year to stretch into the middle of the summer, at some point we have to draw a line and stick with a minimum number of instructional days if we truly value education. I understand I was in the minority with this vote, but I have a passion for education and no one was able to explain to me how this bill would further student success and opportunity.”
“it would have been much easier to follow the caucus and vote yes, however, I do believe that this is bad policy and sets a bad precedent for future snow days
“It is already May 1 and we continue to wait for a resolution, if any, from our legislators,” said Dr Lori Tubergen Clark, NCRESA Superintendent.“Meanwhile, our families are understandably moving forward with summer plans.
“Currently, we are planning for no resolution from Lansing and scheduling the required make up days from the extreme weather we experienced this winter. We needed instructional time with our students prior to Michigan’s high stakes testing in April and snow days took weeks of instructional time away. With few air conditioned school buildings, pushing students later and later into the summer reaches a point of diminished returns.”