While attention has focused on school reform bills moving through Michigan's lame duck legislature, Farmington Public Schools Supt. Susan Zurvalec says other proposed legislation could have a serious impact on the district:
HB 6022, 6024, 6025 - Eliminating personal property tax
"The tax is really not a good tax," Zurvalec said, but school officials want to see full replacement of the revenue generated by taxing business furnishings and equipment. The current proposal would replace 80 percent.
Zurvalec said the loss of that revenue would force the district to raise its millages for bonded debt payments. The owner of a home with a $100,000 taxable value would end up paying an additional $22 a year. "Our local residents are really footing the bill for this personal property tax reduction for businesses," she said.
HB 5776 - Parental consent for ineffective teachers
Under new teacher tenure laws, beginning in 2015-2016, districts will have to notify parents if their students are being placed in a class with a teacher rated ineffective in his or her most recent year-end evaluation. Zurvalec said this "ridiculous" bill requires the district to also obtain parental consent to place the child in the class.
Farmington Schools teachers rated ineffective, she said, are either fired or may submit a resignation if they are probationary. To dismiss an ineffective-rated tenured teacher, the district is required by law to file charges for termination, she said.
SB 770-773 - School Bond Loan Fund
Farmington Schools has never used this fund to guarantee its voter-approved bonds, Zurvalec said, but some districts need it. These bills would limit the amount of money dedicated in the loan fund, so that no school district could borrow money from it for the next 40 years, Zurvalec said.
SB 620 - Parent Trigger
Allowing parents to petition to take over a school that has performed in the bottom 5 percent for three consecutive years raises concerns for Zurvalec and others in education, because it doesn't provide for "due process" for taking over taxpayer-owned property. "We're very concerned about this bill," she said. "There's nothing in it that would improve or reform the instruction students would receive."
Zurvalec said the bill is "model legislation" created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit organization that proposes legislation based on the ideals of "free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level", according to the ALEC website.
HB 6005, SB 1358 - Educational Achievement Authority (EAA)
Zurvalec and other Michigan administrators have been outspoken in their opposition to proposals that would create a state-wide school district whose leadership would report to the Governor. The original version of the bill would allow the EAA to create schools that could effectively discriminate against students, Zurvalec said, and required school districts to keep empty buildings "school ready" for four years and, if asked, turn them over to charter schools.
Negotiations continue, and Zurvalec said there may be an agreement to limit the EAA to just the state's lowest achieving schools. An EAA is already in place for Detroit's 15 lowest achieving schools.
Look for Part 2 of this report on the local impact of bills in the lame duck session on our site later today.