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COLUMN: Margaret O'Brien's report from Lansing: Cyber Education; Budget

by
From Kalamazoo to the Capitol
From Kalamazoo to the Capitol

From Kalamazoo to the Capitol

by Margaret O'Brien

Cyber Education

Last week, we voted to approve Senate Bill 619 and House Bill 5392, both dealing with cyber education. There are currently two cyber schools operating in Michigan, the Michigan Connections Academy (MCA), authorized by Ferris State University, and the Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA), authorized by Grand Valley State University. Upon opening, the two schools had applications from approximately 4,500 students. The two schools claim waiting lists adding up to more than 5,000 students. SB 619 would allow for the graduated expansion of cyber schools for both charters and traditional schools. There would be additional reporting requirements to ensure Michigan’s cyber education model works well for students. 

The House also passed House Bill 5392, which I sponsored, changing the seat time waiver procedure from statute by allowing local school districts, intermediate school districts and public school academies more flexibility as they work to meet the ever changing needs of education.

HB 5392 allows cyber and hybrid education models in the traditional schools to operate under existing rules without having to seek a seat time waiver. The programs must meet hour and day requirements as set forth in the pupil auditing manual. Second, the bill allows for seat time waivers to automatically be renewed annually as long as the school is in compliance with the waiver and the pupil auditing manual. The state superintendent currently has the authority over all cyber and hybrid education models and seat time waiver requests. The changes will allow for better planning and more consistency as education continues to changes. The state superintendent will continue to have authority to revoke seat time waivers and cyber programs if they are not in compliance with state regulations.

These bills share many similarities with SB 619 and ensure Michigan students have strong education options. Education as we know it is undergoing great reform and expansion, and we have to keep Michigan's public policies ahead of the curve. This legislation is in keeping with the philosophy that education can be provided any time, anyway, anywhere, and any place. School districts need to be unshackled by outdated statutory requirements and be granted greater authority to innovate in pursuit of quality education for their students.

Budget

This week, the House voted out their proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The state is in the unusual position of having collected more revenue than budgeted. While the temptations are high to spend these funds, we must recognize that Michigan taxpayers still have over 40 billion dollars of unfunded debt and an inadequate savings account. The House budget proposes to put extra funds toward debt payments and increases our state’s emergency savings account. Simply, we are budgeting just like each Michigan family budgets.

I continue to advocate for responsible budgeting, as I understand this is your money. Hardworking Michigan families have been demanding fiscal responsibility and conservative spending. It is important to we carefully consider how hardworking taxpayer money is spent.

The House budgets do differ from the Senate passed budgets, so the budgets will now be considered in a conference committee. This means that negotiations will occur, and differences worked out. Any budget agreements will have to pass both the Senate and House and the Governor will need to approve.

Margaret O'Brien

State Representative 61st District

Toll Free Number 877-347-8061

To receive monthly newsletters, please email margaretobrien@house.mi.gov and write “newsletter” in the subject title

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