Whitmer Signs ‘Return To Learn’ Education Bills Into Law

Posted Aug 20, 2020

(WWJ) Legislation that gives Michigan school districts more flexibility with classes, including allowing for virtual instruction, has been signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.  

The bipartisan package of “Return To Learn” bills were approved by the state Senate last weekend and the House on Monday.  

The governor’s office says the legislation will give districts some wiggle room concerning number of school days, instructional hours and student count, which is tied to state funding.

Depending on the district, fall classes will be taking place in-person, online or a hybrid with some students in schools with others working remotely.  

“Over the past week, we have taken crucial steps to help Michigan schools and families navigate the new school year. Alongside this bipartisan agreement, I announced nearly $65 million in federal funding to help give students, parents, educators, and support staff the resources they need to provide the best and most safe education possible,” said Whitmer, in a media release.

“These bills will help schools implement their comprehensive safety plans going into the 2020-21 school year. I am proud of this bipartisan package and will continue working with everyone who wants to ensure our schools are safe during COVID-19,” she added. “These are great steps, but we will need a comprehensive bipartisan plan and funding from the federal government. It is time the Republicans in Congress to do their part to protect families and students across the country.”  

The legislation also outlines the new COVID-19 learning plan which is intended to provide districts with the maximum flexibility to adapt their programs to properly and safely respond to the pandemic. Districts must submit their plans, which should include educational goals and a description of how instruction will be delivered.  
Under each plan, schools are required to describe how instruction will be delivered, giving school districts the ability to provide instruction in-person at school or a different location, online, digitally, or any other remote means of learning. Districts are also required to describe how instruction for core academic areas provided under the learning plan will expose each student to standards comparable to in-person instruction and a description of how student progress will be graded or reported. 
Under the new laws, the districts must also describe how they will ensure students with disabilities will be provided with equitable access to instruction accommodation as well as describe how students will be provided with equitable access to technology and internet if instruction is virtual.  
The governor’s office says the legislation ensures that students are engaged in learning by requiring consistent two-way interactions between students and teachers. As districts develop their plans they are required to work with their local health departments and employees to develop district wide guidelines and key metrics from local data. COVID-19 learning plans must be submitted to its ISD or authorizing body by October 1, 2020.  
House Bills 5911, 5912, and 5913 were tie-barred and sponsored by Representative Gregory Markkanen, Representative Andrea Schroeder, and Representative Annette Glenn.