Outman supports bipartisan Return to Learn plan

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Outman on Saturday voted for a bipartisan plan to help ensure the safety of Michigan students as learning resumes this fall.

“Education and student safety aren’t partisan matters,” said Outman, R-Six Lakes. “As we quickly approach the beginning of a new school year, we need to be cognizant of the challenges teachers, students and parents will be facing and ensure that health and safety continue to be of the utmost importance.”

The impact of COVID-19 varies over time and across geography. Under the Return to Learn plan, school districts must develop health and safety guidelines for all in-person instruction.

The guidelines must be based on local data and developed in consultation with county health departments. They should also help inform staff, parents and the community as to how and why certain instruction models are selected.

“A one-size-fits-all approach is not the right answer — we need to let local districts make decisions that best meet the specific needs of students in their communities.”

The Return to Learn plan gives districts flexibility on the total number of mandated instructional days and hours as long as a full school year’s worth of instruction is provided. The bills also require regular two-way interaction between students and teachers, regardless of how they are offering classes. This is intended to ensure students enrolled in distance learning options receive the benefit of personal attention.

Under this legislation, funding will be determined using a blend of the 2019-2020 school year pupil count and the 2020-2021 school year pupil count. The blended formula will help ensure stability in funding levels.

“This plan provides schools with the information they need to begin the new school year,” Outman said. “Teachers and administrators have shown concerns about how much funding to expect from the state, and this plan provides them with the financial stability they need during these unpredictable times.”

The bills also require benchmark testing to be conducted in the classroom, online or at home. Test results will be shared with parents, so they understand their child’s learning needs, and they will be used by each school district to establish academic goals.

“Parents are rightfully concerned about the safety of their children, and teachers are rightfully concerned about the risks associated with returning to the classroom,” Outman said. “Safely providing students with an education remains a top priority. This bipartisan package allows schools to do what’s best to meet their own specific needs.”

The bills now head to the House of Representatives, where they are expected to receive final approval and be sent to the governor for her signature.

###