Michigan school leaders: We need answers from Lansing now to open

There’s growing frustration among Michigan school leaders over the lack of guidance from the Legislature and the governor on how to provide education during the ongoing pandemic. (Bridge file photo)

Frustrated by inaction in Lansing and with the opening of school just weeks away, Michigan education leaders Thursday gave legislators an ultimatum: Cut a deal with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to make schools safe and financially sound during the pandemic, or we’ll ask the governor to take action on her own.

Four state education associations penned a group statement aimed at Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders Thursday, expressing a growing anxiety in schools across the state over still-undetermined safety and attendance protocols and uncertain budgets.

“Staff at our … districts and individual school buildings across the state are still hard at work every day making plans to continue the essential service of educating our 1.5 million students, and they need answers and direction,” the letter said. “Planning for the fall is already difficult enough in these unprecedented times, but without a budget nor any clear idea of how many pupils will be enrolled sets school districts up for failure.”

The Senate was expected to take up a House-passed package of bills laying out how schools can reopen during the pandemic this week. But both chambers, which are led by Republicans, were sent home after one senator tested positive for the coronavirus.

While negotiations between GOP leaders and Whitmer continue, no action will be taken until at least next week.

School districts face a state-mandated deadline of Aug. 15 to develop reopening plans. That’s difficult when it’s still unclear whether the state will require school districts to provide an option of face-to-face instruction (a current provision in one of the GOP bills), or how schools will be funded if most or all of their students are homebound in September like they were this spring.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, could not be reached for comment.

The statement, sent by the Michigan Association of Superintendents & Administrators, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, asked the Legislature for the following:

  • State per-pupil funding for school districts based on last year’s enrollment figures.
  • To revise downward or eliminate the current 75-percent attendance threshold for school days to count as a day of instruction.
  • Allow school districts to use “nontraditional instructional methods,” such as remote learning, to continue education in case schools aren’t deemed safe.

Peter Spadafore, deputy executive director for external relations at the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, said schools are running out of time to make decisions. “They need answers now – yesterday” Spadafore said. “We’re building an airplane while we’re flying and we have no idea on our budget. We need that guidance.”

Spadafore said the education associations prefer an agreement worked out between the Legislature and the governor, “because that means all parties agree on it and it’s long term.” 

If the sides aren’t able to reach an agreement, the education associations will ask Whitmer for an executive order that resolves attendance and funding issues, or request State Superintendent Michael Rice to adjust pupil attendance accounting rules on his own, according to the statement.

Spadafore said he remains hopeful a deal between GOP legislative leaders and the Democratic governor can be reached.

“Even if we had a deal announced [and not yet signed], we could articulate ]that deal] to our membership, that would provide certainty,” Spadafore said. “Our plans are due on the 15th. Something has to give.”

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middle of the mit
Thu, 08/06/2020 - 7:33pm

I am tired of the teachers thinking they can control every aspect of a childs life! Since when did these elitists get the idea that OUR children are THEIR children!

They aren't their parents! WE are! WE know better what OUR CHILDREN NEED!

Go back to your elitist hideout with your Soros check and let US( United States Patriots!) decide with OUR MONEY how OUR CHILDREN will be educated! IN school education IS the most important thing in the World! It allows our children to interact with other children and teachers and staff so that they have proper socials skills so that they can some day grow up like me and demand that everyone live up to Law and proper Order!

Those that chose in home schooling are of course exempt from this. These people know how to educate and have the time and resources to do so!

Down with the Liberal elites!

Nick Ciaramitaro
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 6:11pm

These comments come from school administrators and school board members, not from teachers.

Fri, 08/07/2020 - 9:46pm

Check out this plague rat. You are speaking like a cult member. Get help.

middle of the mit
Sun, 08/16/2020 - 11:50pm

To all that replied.............you should know where I stand.

To those that don't........it was snark.

I am just trying to find what Bridge deems acceptable.

A Yooper
Sat, 08/08/2020 - 11:17am


Fri, 08/07/2020 - 7:55am

If only the Republican-gerrymandered legislative leadership would remember that those Michigan students they are leaving in a bind were once fetuses. Remember how important and precious they were in a woman’s womb? But now............? Get to work. Craft a supportive, safe plan to allow schools to ready themselves responsibly for these born, precious, former-fetuses.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 12:59pm

I know. Why are children so expendable once they are born?

Enough Already!
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:23pm

If you still don't know, keep them closed. It's the 11th hour. People need to plan their lives. Kids may or may not survive well, but if they infect their parents, those kids can become orphans. Let parents be parents to their children. Don't make their children wards of the state.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 9:05pm

Kids are at 0% risk from coronavirus.
Their parents are at near 0% risk from coronavirus (they are much more likely to die in a car accident).
The working age people in this country are all MUCH more likely to die in a car accident than from coronavirus.
I don't see anyone saying we should shut the economy down due to car accidents.
The only people at statistically significant risk are the very elderly (who are at significant risk of dying from their age alone, the average lifespan is around 79 years in this country) and these people MUST be protected - We should be focusing on protecting them. This has nothing to do with schools.
There is a tiny number of people (as compared to the ~330 million people in this country) who are also at risk due to their serious underlying health conditions, and those people MUST ALSO be protected.
Instead, I see panic about kids and coronavirus and forcing shutdown on the entire population... It's like these policitians do not have a basic understanding of things like science, statistics, etc... Very confusing.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 3:53pm

The risk to children is definitely not zero and the risk to children infecting parents is definitely not zero. There are documented cases of both of those things happening. And it's also not just a risk to those with underlying conditions.

How many school children have grandparents as after-school babysitters or have grandparents living with them? How many teachers or other school staff are older or are caregivers for older parents?

The politicians who are ignoring the science are now the ones experiencing the most problems. Look at Texas, Georgia, and Florida and how much of their reopening they had to scale back because of large outbreaks.

Enough Already!
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 2:23pm

If you still don't know, keep them closed. It's the 11th hour. People need to plan their lives. Kids may or may not survive well, but if they infect their parents, those kids can become orphans. Let parents be parents to their children. Don't make their children wards of the state.

A Yooper
Sat, 08/08/2020 - 11:22am

You always plan for the worst case scenario, period. Thus you can always reduce the levels of protection as MEDICAL evidence dictates.

Kat Pecora
Mon, 08/10/2020 - 8:40am

Where is the Michigan Department of Education? We have a state superintendent of schools. What are they doing? Shouldn’t guidance be coming from them?

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 12:55pm

We don't have the science or the money to reopen schools.