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Financial stability comes to school districts in the age of COVID-19

Not everybody agrees on the amount of stability it brings.

From Lansing Yesterday — Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation that should add some financial stability to school districts in the age of COVID-19. Though, not everybody agrees on the amount of stability it brings.


HOW SCHOOLS WILL BENEFIT


The bills base 75 percent 2020-2021 funding on 2019-2020 enrollment levels; $50 million dollars be distributed amongst the state’s teachers in the form of hazard pay; the state will spend $18 million on student safety and benchmarks to assess how they are doing with whichever form of learning their parents chose;


OBJECTIONS


The package doesn’t include any state school funding for the fiscal year that begins in just six short weeks. Michigan is projected to face a multi-billion dollar budget deficit thanks to the coronavirus and the damage done to the economy. The bill also waives the required 1,098 hours / 180 days of classroom learning required by the state but it still requires teachers to provide the equivalent amount of education. The bill requires certain students to be tested to see what benchmarks they hit - that caused several lawmakers to vote “no” on the bills, saying it was just another standardized test.


WHAT SCHOOLS ARE REQUIRED TO DO


Those benchmarks mentioned above — schools will have to test K-8 students within the first 9 weeks of school and then again at some point later in the year. Aside from submitting a general ‘return to learn’ plan (we talked about Romeo’s in an episode of A Common Divide - listen here), schools are now required to provide a little more detail - they’ll have to show the state how the online model is made to be comparable to that of the in-person model; districts will also have to prove how they’ve made calculations for students with disabilities to make sure they don’t fall behind. The bill also says students who learn virtually must still have two-way access to their teachers. Finally, the districts are required to work with local health departments to create guidelines using local data.


A PROBLEM FOR MACOMB COUNTY SCHOOLS


That last note in the above paragraph, explaining how schools are required to base their plans using local coronavirus data? Macomb County continues to be one of the state’s hottest spots. The 7-day rolling average in Macomb in all categories dominates that of its neighbors and of the state at-large.



But, according to the Romeo School District, roughly 80 percent of surveyed parents want their kids in the classroom. While the Romeo Education Association, representing the district’s teachers says over 90 percent of teachers have said they don’t feel safe in the classroom (though some teachers refuted that, that was discussed in an episode of A Common Divide - listen here). How does one take all of these viewpoints and data points that are swirling around and make it all make sense? Tough questions or not, all school districts, Romeo included, have until October 1 to submit their answers to the state.

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