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Michigan parents' group pushes for laws supporting teachers

A Michigan parents' group wants to increase positive attitudes toward teachers, and is asking lawmakers to help.

A group of Michigan parents wants to see state lawmakers supporting teachers in the classroom and giving parents the time they need to be involved. The group wants to see parents work together with the teachers who are with their kids every day, and they want laws that support this mission.

The Michigan Parent Alliance for Safe Schools (MiPASS) is a statewide non-partisan group of parents and stakeholders. On March 10, they launched a statewide letter Michigan residents can send to their state representatives. The letter urges lawmakers to “stop dividing people, start working with teachers, and parents, and put our children’s learning and safety first,” according to MiPASS organizer Emily Mellits.

The letter is aimed at legislators. It asks them to restore civility toward teachers and school personnel. MiPASS thinks recent politics have deteriorated public trust in teachers. They think politicians focus too much on the “loudest voices” without considering the impact their proposals would have on teachers and the families they serve.

Kathleen Lucas, a MiPASS organizer, said, “We want to let teachers teach. We want to reduce hurdles for these teachers.” She said time spent on state-mandated administrative work could be time spent on kids.

Parents in the group are worried the current teacher shortage will get worse if bills such as House Bill 5722 get passed. The bill proposes that school districts make all of the year's learning materials available to parents by the first day of school. Bill sponsors said the bill was introduced to enhance parents' rights and increase transparency.

But Lucas said the bill isn’t realistic. She said most teachers don’t determine the year’s learning materials by the first day of school. Lucas said, “A fair number of current teachers who have stuck it out through all of this: the stress and the struggle...they say that House Bill 5722 becoming law would be their final straw where they do finally walk away from the profession.”

Representative Gary Eisen (R-St. Clair Township) is the bill sponsor. Eisen did not respond to an interview request.

Staffing shortages have caused a number of schools to close or go virtual this school year, which Lucas said is not good for student learning. She says she worries that even after the pandemic, there won’t be enough teachers to provide the quality education Michigan parents want for their children.

Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.
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