Bill allowing for year-round school passes Michigan House & Senate

The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow at-risk school districts to opt for year-round classes.

House Bill 4295 received 105 votes for and only 4 against. State Representative Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) was the lone U.P. lawmaker to vote “no.” The same bill made it’s way through the Senate last Thursday by a count of 36-1, with one member excused. State Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) was one of those who voted for the measure.

The bill, which is sponsored by State Representative Joe Haveman (R-Holland), would set aside $2 million in grants for at-risk school districts to implement year-round instructional programs in school buildings for at least three years, beginning next fall. Districts would have to apply by May 1st and would be notified no later than June 1st.

The bill spells out several criteria that will be reviewed during the application process, starting with districts with lower fund balances as a percent of revenues. According to Munetrix, a rating system that judges districts’ financial health from 0 to 10 – 0 being low risk 10 being high risk, Iron Mountain is the most at risk district in the U.P. with a score of 7. Menominee, North Dickinson, Rudyard, and the Tahquamenon Area Schools all have a score of 6. These ratings are all based off of the 2012-2013 school year.

The other criterion pertains to districts that have at least one school that has been identified as either a “priority school” or a “focus school.” A “priority school” is a school in the bottom 5% of a state-wide ranking of schools based on student achievement that comes out every August. A “focus school” is a school in the bottom 10% of that same list, that has an especially large achievement gap between its top 30% of students and its bottom 30%.

The 2012-2013 lists of priority schools and focus schools are the most recent lists available online from the Michigan Department of Education.

Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy and Three Lakes Academy are the only Upper Peninsula schools on the 2012-2013 priority list.

Gwinn High School, Houghton High School, Houghton Middle School, Houghton Elementary School, Lake-Linden Hubbell Elementary School, Emerald Elementary School in Manistique, North Star Academy in Marquette Township, Ontonagon Elementary School, Washington Elementary in Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry Middle School and Newberry Elementary School are all on the 2012-2013 focus school list.

The grant money is designed to go to both rural and urban districts. The most money that any one district can receive is $250,000. The bill says that grant payment will go toward building upgrades and other costs of preparing for year-round programs.

The bill now moves to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk for his signature.