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Senator Mike Shirkey

Seeking Your Input on Dept. of Ed. LGBTQ Plans

Dear Friend,

This past week we received some constituent feedback on “draft guidelines” written by Michigan’s Board of Education for the State Department of Education. We would like to hear your thoughts on their plan.

The recommendations were released in a document as a guide to schools. They are publicly available in full on the MDE website.

MI Dept of Education

Here are some key excerpts:

• The SBE and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) are committed to reducing the impact of high-risk factors… to meet the needs of all students.”

• "As such, the SBE encourages districts to:

     o “Support the formation of extracurricular student-led clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances or Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in middle and high schools, in accordance with local policies.
     o “Schools are encouraged to have relevant and age-appropriate content throughout the curriculum, in areas such as social studies… and health education, including sex education.
     o “Designate a building-level staff member who is conversant in issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression… This person may assume a leadership role…., work closely with the district Title IX Coordinator, and be a liaison to MDE.”

• Gender identity—a person’s deeply held internal sense or psychological knowledge of their own gender, regardless of the biological sex they were assigned at birth.”

• “School staff should address students by their chosen name and pronouns that correspond to their gender identity, regardless of whether there has been a legal name change.”

• “Transgender and GNC [Gender Nonconforming] students have the right to decide when, with whom, and to what extent to share private information. When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or GNC student, school staff should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s assigned sex at birth, unless the student or parent/guardian has specified otherwise.”

• “...Locker room usage should be determined on a case-by-case basis... honoring the student’s gender identity and expression.”

Contact the MI Dept of Education

The Department of Education released a statement to clarify that the proposed recommendations are not requirements and are only suggestions. Our office has heard some concern despite this, since schools sometimes follow the board’s recommendations as though they carry the influence of law. The department’s own website reads, “Board members lead the way in improving public education through recommendations and actions that have resulted in key legislative changes.”

We are so thankful for committed teachers who pour enormous care into every student. Yet families play the ultimate leading role for their own children, which is why we hope to hear from you.

Email us your views. You can also comment directly to the Department of Education until April 11th.

Serving with and for you,

Mike Shirkey

Long Term Solutions for DPS – Not There Yet

Everyone can agree the Detroit Public School system is in severe financial trouble, and this week the legislature provided short-term funding to the keep the doors open for rest of the school year so students can continue to study.

The big issue still to be decided: a long term solution. While many of my Senate colleagues worked on and put forth additional legislation for consideration to help provide a permanent solution, and while we recognize the good faith effort that went into the plan, in the end many were not convinced that the proposed solution had a good enough chance to solve the problem and justify even more spending.

For that reason, I voted "no.”

The measure did win enough support to pass on the Senate floor, and it has been sent to the House for further deliberation. It is our hope that in working with House members, sufficient modifications and changes will result in legislation that saves taxpayer dollars in the long run.

Much needed improvements include:

- Real academic reforms for the area’s school system
- Recognition of the function of charter schools (which currently enroll about half of the students in the area)
- Accountability standards for any new governance commissions
- Creation of a model where governance is truly local

Students across Michigan deserve the opportunity to a sound education. This latest effort, in its current form, simply would not provide that.

Other schools in Michigan operate every day with the understanding that they must follow a budget and pay off debt while delivering a quality education for the good of the students and families they serve. Let’s promote this same kind of service in any potential DPS legislation.

The long-term package includes Senate Bills 710, 711, and 819 through 822, available on the Michigan legislature website. Read more here: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2016/03/24/mich-senate-oks-emergency-aid-dps/82207150/

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Senator Mike Shirkey
320 Farnum Bldg.
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Visit my website at: www.senatormikeshirkey.com