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Career Tech Bills Receive First Senate Hearing

February 27, 2018

The House’s skilled trades package received Thursday its first Senate hearing, where it faced the same type of criticism it took in the House.

The lightening rod of the five-bill package (HB 5139-HB 5142 and HB 5145) continues to be a provision that allows licensed professionals, who are not certified teachers, to teach career-tech courses in their areas of expertise. 

However, the chair of the Senate Economic Development and International Investment Committee expressed general support for that bill and the others in the package, although no vote on the bills was taken. 

“These are part of a bigger picture on filling our talent gap in the State of Michigan,” said Committee Chair Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth). “We know in at least a couple of the bills we’ll be looking at making amendments by substitutions, working with the bill sponsors.” 

Horn also said the package was complimentary to the Marshall Plan that Gov. Rick Snyder  unveiled Thursday and that it would also go along with some additional Senate bills. He said his goal was to get them all to the Governor’s desk in about three weeks. When the package moved out of the House in December it received a mixed bag of support. 

Matt Wesolek, representing Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), sponsor of HB 5141, the key bill and most contentious piece in the package, opened Thursday’s testimony by saying he’s expecting the bill will be amended, but the bill’s primary purpose will remain intact. 

“Overall, the legislation will ensure stronger training programs for our kids and improve the ability of our schools to recruit and retain CTE (Career Technical Education) instructors, while also assuring that those CTE instructors participate in reasonable and practical development,” he said. 

Dan Rogers, director of the Center for Science and Industry, in Hudson, testified that the state’s current requirements have been a roadblock to putting experienced CTE instructors in the classroom. He asserted that HB 5141 is what is needed to change that situation. 

“HB 5141 would allow more flexibility to the process,” Rogers said. “It would create a better pool of candidates and subject matter in the field in which they have achieved expertise. It supports professional development and instruction and lesson planning. It will also create long-term employees.” 

“Speaking the language of the industry will create better partnerships and bring more value to the advisory committee meetings,” Rogers added. “Creating instructors who have relevant experience will help get students more engaged and interested in the high-demand jobs in the skilled trades.” 

However, Bob Kefgen, assistant director for government relations for the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals, said his group supported some of the bills but spoke in opposition to the core bills (HB 5141 and HB 5142) of the package. 

“The vast majority of schools are doing much of this important work already,” Kefgen said. “That’s why HB 5145, which gives teachers professional development and credit for the work they’re already doing has our support. Likewise, MASSP supports HB 5139 because we believe it sets an achievable standard for districts that don’t already have programs in place and gives them a clear roadmap for providing meaningful career development instruction.” 

“We are concerned that HB 5140 – as it is currently drafted – creates a number of new recording and documentation requirements,” Kefgen continued. “It would also require that an employer interested in reaching out to students would have to contact each local district individually.” 

Kefgen pointed out that such a situation would be problematic, considering that there are about 900 school districts in the state and 130 in Wayne County alone. He also said that MASSP supported the version of HB 5140 that came out of the House committee, but it was changed on the House floor.” 

Then Kefgen spoke out against HB 5141 and HB 5142. 

“Putting a body in a classroom is not going to be sufficient to get students the education they need,” Kefgen said. “A larger candidate pool is not the same as a qualified candidate pool. Auto body repair, cosmetology, welding, healthcare, and home-building all require practitioners to hold a state or industry license or certification and keep up their skills in those areas with appropriate education or work experience. Likewise, teaching is a profession that requires specialized training. 

“We do not believe HB 5141 and HB 5142, as currently written, provide sufficient safeguards to ensure that our students are being taught by qualified professionals,” Kefgen concluded. 

But Kefgen also mentioned that the legislation should at least include sunsets, which could allow the new less-qualified instructors to only teach short-term to fill the immediate need, but not necessarily result in them teaching long-term, unless they acquired more teaching development. 

Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford) asked Kefgen if the addition of sunsets would be enough to get MASSP to support the package. 

“It would depend on the content,” Kefgen said. “But, yes, I think we could get to a point of supporting this legislation.”

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