House bills increase curriculum flexibility

A two-bill legislative package unveiled today would modify the Michigan Merit Curriculum so high school students have the flexibility to explore career and vocational training education options.

State Reps. Ed McBroom, Joel Johnson, Aric Nesbitt, Peter Pettalia and Dale Zorn today hosted a news conference at the Jackson Academy for Manufacturing Careers/Jackson Area Career Center to make the announcement with education leaders, job providers, labor and business groups, and Democrat lawmakers that support the plan.

“To fill local manufacturers’ job demands, JAMA’s Academy for Manufacturing Careers partnered with The Enterprise Group of Jackson to administer a nationally recognized apprenticeship program,” said Annette Norris, AMC’s director. “Career and technical education programs best prepare students to fill the entry-level skilled positions.”

The academy was started in 2005 to provide skilled trades-related technical instruction and apprenticeship training programs to meet the workforce needs of manufacturers across south-central Michigan.

McBroom said the academy was an excellent of example for the necessity of Michigan’s education system to help prepare students for the workforce with a head start on training.

“High school students will be more successful in school and in life if they have classes and experiences that interest them,” said McBroom, R-Vulcan. “The effort to improve education in Michigan through a state curriculum that forces all students on the same learning path is a disservice to our children’s future and the diverse needs of society and our workforce.”

McBroom’s legislation allows high school graduation requirements to include two additional math credits as an alternative to Algebra II; agri-science and anatomy as additional science options, and U.S. History is added; a half credit each of health education and physical education is required, although the PE credit can be earned through participation in school-approved extra-curricular physical activity, such as athletics.

His bill also promotes increased availability of the arts and emphasizes foreign language courses prior to high school grades, when students may be more adept at learning them.

Johnson’s measure will allow for a higher degree of local control by opening the opportunity for a personalized curriculum developed by the student, parents, teacher and school district that meets the student’s individual goals and specific needs.

“Our education system must include a variety of learning opportunities, but it should be parents and the students in cooperation with our local educators who determine which option will meet their aptitudes and aspirations,” said Johnson, R-Clare. “There’s no way the state can be the best judge for individuals, nor should it be trying.”

Personalized curriculums are currently allowed on a very limited basis and this bill eliminates existing caps and provides additional areas for credit approval to meet state high school diploma requirements, such as vocational technical or career education courses.

“I believe these bills contain much needed reform to move us away from a one-size-fits-all education system,” said Nesbitt, R-Lawton. “By offering our students the opportunity to develop vital vocational skills, we are making an investment that will strengthen Michigan’s workforce, ensure that parents and students are provided options to maximize educational opportunities, and create an environment where our talented youth choose to stay here and raise a family.”

The lawmakers were joined by Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Home Builders Association, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Restaurant Association, Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, Michigan State Employees Association and Operating Engineers Local 324.

Pettalia said he was encouraged by the range of support the legislation has garnered. “The showing today of people who have stepped forward to support flexibility in our high school curriculum is proof this issue is universally important across the board,” said Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. “These are all stakeholders who have an interest in a successful Michigan future, but there is no larger stakeholder we must be concerned about serving than those not necessarily before us today – our children and students.”

The measures are now before the House Education Committee for consideration.