Education Bill before MI Lawmakers

State Senator Tom Casperson and Representative Ed McBroom introduced legislation this month to provide more flexibility in the high school graduation requirements for students who choose to take career and technical education (CTE) classes.

“Throughout the last year we have heard over and over about the need for this education reform from parents, students, teachers, administrators, and members of the business community,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “We know that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for all students who have different interests and goals. We need to get our children not only college ready, but career ready.”

A number of meetings were held in the Upper Peninsula with educators to help write the legislation to ensure that the bills maintain a rigorous statewide education standard while providing an individualized option for students to pursue educational choices that best suit the student and allow him or her to become career ready. The bills will not only better address the needs of students but also provide technically trained young people to replace an aging workforce that is commonplace among many manufacturers across the U.P.

“I’ve heard differing perspectives on how to change the curriculum requirements from educators, students and parents. However, the bottom line is that there is overwhelming agreement on the need to get it done,” said McBroom, R-Vulcan. “I appreciate the comments and insight everyone shared at the public meetings to help make this legislation stronger for our children and their future. There’s no doubt that some fine tuning will still take place to the bills as they go through the legislative process and I welcome continued input and dialogue as we move forward on this important policy.”

Escanaba High School Principal Douglas Leisenring welcomed the legislation and the opportunity the bills bring with them to discuss the adjustments to the curriculum.

“While I feel the Michigan Merit Curriculum has been a benefit for local students, the biggest challenge with the Merit Curriculum has been providing technical education opportunities for students who are not interested in attending a traditional four-year college,” said Leisenring. “We need more flexibility with the Merit Curriculum to adequately prepare our students with an aptitude for technical and vocational education for a career after high school.”

Proposed curriculum changes in the legislation include allowing students to take technical math instead of Algebra II; physics and chemistry requirements are removed; foreign language requirements are removed; and a half credit each of health education and physical education is required(however, the PE credit can be earned through participation in an extra-curricular physical activity). If students choose to forego these credits, they can take career and technical courses or participate in a work study component for credit.

Manufacturers and employers in the U.P. and around the state have routinely told Casperson and McBroom that one of their biggest concerns is a pending labor shortage due to an aging workforce that is close to retirement and a lack of young people obtaining the necessary technical skills to qualify for these well-paying, personally rewarding jobs.

“This plan will allow students greater flexibility to take classes and electives that interest them and fit their skills,” McBroom said. “The meetings and following discussions have shown there is no desire by anyone to set up education tracks that force or restrict students’ choices or opportunities, but simply get students to be career ready for rewarding employment.”

The lawmakers expect to continue meeting with local and state stakeholders as the House and Senate Education committees consider the legislation.