State Senate considers abandoning Common Core Standards, and some local educators agree

From the Huron Daily Tribune

Sen. Phil Pavlov

Sen. Phil Pavlov

LANSING — The state Senate Education Committee heard testimony this week on a bill that would wipe away the Common Core Standards in Michigan, which in the long run, would cut back the amount of time students spend taking standardized tests.

Common Core Standards is an educational initiative that details what students in grades kindergarten through 12th should know in English language arts and math by a certain grade level.

Senate Bill 826 would ultimately, “terminate all plans, programs, activities, efforts and expenditures relating to the implementation of the educational initiative commonly referred to as the common core standards.”

Following a Senate Education Committee meeting earlier this week, Committee Chairman Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, issued a statement on Common Core and the need for Senate Bill 826.

“It’s absolutely wrong the way Common Core was imposed on the states,” Pavlov stated. “States and local school districts — not the federal government — should be in charge of education policy.”

If the bill were to pass, the state academic content standards would be changed to the same academic standards that were in effect in Massachusetts during the 2008-09 school year.

“The Massachusetts Standards have been proven effective for educating students,” Pavlov stated. “These standards use education practices familiar to parents, are internationally benchmarked and competitive, are developmentally appropriate and are not politically biased.”

From a local perspective, a few superintendents said last year’s testing was overkill for their students.

“The initial idea I think was a good one,” said Harbor Beach Superintendent Lawrence Kroswek. “… The idea was everybody should be teaching the same thing, the same way at the same time.”

“They were testing students for the wrong reasons,” he added. “It was about testing students to evaluate teachers. You test a student to use the results to help improve instruction.”

Last year, juniors at Harbor Beach High School were busy — 11 hours of testing busy.

“There were (elementary school) children that were just plain tired of testing and they just gave up,” Kroswek said.

Even though the students were pushed to the limits with tests, the district still did well and Kroswek credited the success to his staff.

“We’re fortunate to have a very strong staff,” he said. “Our teachers are very good at prioritizing at each grade level and very good at helping with the transition from grade level to grade level.”

Bad Axe and Caseville Superintendents, Greg Newland and Ken Ewald, respectively, both said the amount of testing done was an “overkill” for students.

“I wish that this would become more of a local controlled decision when it comes to assessment and curriculum,” Newland said. “We obviously need to have an assessment that the school can look at student data, such as, what are individual needs and system needs.”

Ewald’s outlook was much like Newland’s — a local look.

“Somehow we need to focus in on what we should be teaching our children in the Thumb and not a national outlook,” Ewald explained. “I definitely believe that right now, the testing is overkill. I think the testing we do is taking too much time away from their teaching time in the classroom.”

Ewald said the curriculum should expose children to subjects that surround them. For example, a district in Houston, Texas, and a district in Pigeon, Michigan, should have curriculums that reach more of its students’ needs versus a curriculum with a national perspective.

“A constant change in the statewide curriculum is not good for the education process,” he added.

Student Privacy Act

Sen. Phil Pavlov

Sen. Phil Pavlov

Student privacy is a growing area of concern as education delivery moves more and more into a digital realm and the ability to collect, store and share vast amounts of data becomes easier every day. Student data is among some of the most sensitive information that should be protected. In our new digital era, schools outsource their basic functions more than ever – everything from books and tests and attendance records to academic programs and actual student work.

FERPA (the federal student privacy law) is antiquated. It deals mainly with safeguards related to basic demographic information. Congress is working on bills, but has not yet updated FERPA to address 21st century concerns about student data. In light of the shortcomings in federal law, some states have begun to create their own more robust privacy policies. Here in Michigan, I’ve introduced Senate Bill 33.

Parents have a right to know what information about their children is being collected by school districts or state agencies. They especially have a right to know if their children’s information is being shared with third parties, and for what purpose. My bill would establish a very basic, common sense requirement for school districts and state departments who collect information on students to set adequate policies about their collection and storage of student data, and to ensure appropriate disclosure to parents who request it. The bill would also prohibit departments and school districts from selling or otherwise providing personally identifiable student data to for-profit entities.

This bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee, and I expect the full Senate to take it up soon.

Pavlov: Deadline to protest nuke dump is next Tuesday

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Phil Pavlov on Monday reminded residents that next Tuesday, Sept. 1 is the deadline for submitting public comments to a Canadian agency to protest the construction of a nuclear dump that could damage the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“Thousands of ordinary citizens have demanded an end to this project by signing the petition at www.ProtectLakeHuron.com, and our U.S. senators have echoed my call to President Obama to step in,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “I am urging my constituents and anyone else who hasn’t had their voice heard to submit comments. This is your last opportunity to have an impact on this decision.”

Pavlov said residents can submit comments on the proposed nuclear waste facility by mail to:

National Programs
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
22nd Floor, 160 Elgin St., Ottawa, ON K1A 0H3

Comments also can be submitted by email to ceaa.conditions.acee@ceaa-acee.gc.ca.

A Canadian company has proposed building a nuclear waste facility in Kincardine, Ontario, less than a mile from the shores of Lake Huron. In June 2014 the Michigan Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Pavlov and other state lawmakers calling on President Obama to invoke international provisions to stop the construction of the site.

More than 100 Michigan communities have passed local resolutions in opposition to the proposal, and Michigan’s two U.S. senators recently said they soon will be introducing legislation similar to Pavlov’s.

Pavlov stressed the importance of everyday residents speaking out.

“It is important that leaders here in the U.S. and in Canada have taken action against this site,” Pavlov said. “But the comments that folks send to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will be considered before a final decision is made on whether to proceed with the facility. So it is critical that people speak up by submitting comments.”

Canadian Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq will take into account the comments regarding the site when deciding whether to approve it. Aglukkaq is expected to announce her decision in December.

Letter to LARA/DHHS regarding Planned Parenthood Investigation

August 10, 2015

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Director Mike Zimmer
P.O. Box 30004
Lansing, MI 48909

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Director Nick Lyon
Capitol View Building
201 Townsend Street
Lansing, Michigan 48913

Dear Directors Zimmer and Lyon:

Thank you for your response, dated August 4, 2015, to my initial letter of July 20, 2015, requesting an investigation into the practices of Planned Parenthood’s Michigan affiliates.

As I am sure you are aware, there now have been five publicly released videos in which Planned Parenthood executives can be seen discussing the possible skirting of laws and regulations regarding the sale of aborted fetuses. Specifically, the fifth video contains an apparent admission by a senior Planned Parenthood official that the organization illegally alters abortion methods to obtain parts for sale and uses accounting gimmicks and shifting “line items” to hide the illegal sale of body parts as part of a “diversification of the revenue stream.”

The videos depict potential illegal activity in Texas, Colorado and California, but warrant attention from regulating agencies in every state. Michigan residents deserve to know whether such atrocities are being committed in our own state. As the regulating bodies for Michigan, what assurances can your departments give that illegal practices are not occurring here?

For instance, to the extent possible, I would appreciate receiving this and other information you would deem relevant to the main inquiry:

  • What are the inspection protocols and practices?
  • Are the inspections you mention based on the call for an investigation or are they ongoing?
  • Approximately how many inspections have been completed and what were the results? Please provide the date of the most recent inspection at each facility and how the specific concerns raised in this letter were addressed in that inspection.
  • Are inspections scheduled or unscheduled?
  • Have any affiliates received money for fetal tissue?

If more oversight mechanisms would benefit your respective departments in providing assurances, I would also be interested in hearing your recommendations for those.

Again, thank you for your prompt response.

Respectfully,

Phil Pavlov
State Senator
District 25

Pavlov Statement on Fifth Planned Parenthood Video

The following is a statement from Senator Phil Pavlov:

“The latest undercover video of Planned Parenthood officials and clinic staff laughing as they sort through the remains of ‘cadavers’ – infants who have died at their hands- is gut-wrenching.

“It also contains an apparent admission by a senior Planned Parenthood official that the organization illegally alters abortion methods to obtain parts for sale and uses accounting gimmicks and shifting ‘line items’ to hide the illegal sale of body parts as part of a ‘diversification of the revenue stream.’

“These undercover videos have depicted likely illegal activity in Texas, Colorado and California, but warrant attention from regulating agencies in every state. Michigan residents deserve to know whether these atrocities are being committed in our own state.

“The request I issued to the Michigan Departments of Health and Human Services and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to exercise the state’s proper oversight powers to ensure legal and human rights violations are not happening at Planned Parenthood facilities in Michigan – and if they are, that the women and infants being victimized receive justice – becomes more relevant and appropriate with each new video, and I am anxious to review their findings.”

Letter Regarding Planned Parenthood

July 20, 2015

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services
Director Nick Lyon
Capitol View Building
201 Townsend Street
Lansing, Michigan 48913

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Director Mike Zimmer
P.O. Box 30004
Lansing, MI 48909

Directors Lyon and Zimmer:

On Tuesday, July 14, 2015, a video surfaced featuring Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services Deborah Nucatola revealing Planned Parenthood’s apparently widespread practice of selling the remains of babies they’ve aborted.

In the video, Dr. Nucatola also claims that Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country are having discussions about the most effective way to deliver body parts for reimbursement.

“But I will tell you behind closed doors these conversations are happening with the affiliates,” she states.

The sale of body parts-including fetal body parts-is illegal under federal law.

The Planned Parenthood executive is further seen discussing the willingness of Planned Parenthood abortion providers to change and tailor abortion procedures so they can better obtain babies’ hearts, lungs, livers, and the “lower extremities” requested by their buyers, including the possibility of performing illegal “partial birth” abortions.

“The (partial birth abortion ban) is law, and laws are up to interpretation,” says Planned Parenthood’s Nucatola. “So if I say on day one, ‘I do not intend to do this,’ what ultimately happens doesn’t matter.”

Both state and federal law prohibit partial birth abortion.

Given these apparent admissions, I am writing to ask that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs launch a formal investigation into Planned Parenthood’s Michigan affiliates to determine if and to what extent any Michigan facilities have participated in the horrifying sale of babies’ body parts and/or have modified their procedures to maximize their ability to provide babies’ body parts for reimbursement, including whether any have conducted illegal partial birth abortions.

I look forward to the results of your formal investigation.

Phil Pavlov
State Senator
25th District

CC: The Hon. Arlan Meekhof, Senate Majority Leader
The Hon. Kevin Cotter, Speaker of the House
Dick Posthumus, Senior Advisor to the Governor

Michigan schools need local control – as printed in the Huron Daily June 18, 2015

There’s a raging debate in Lansing, about how much to regulate our local schools — specifically how schools evaluate their teachers and administrators.

The New York Times has decided to weigh in on the issue. They are critical of Michigan’s local control tradition, and of my work to ensure some balance in the laws we write about these evaluations.

They and others argue that local control is a quaint, outdated notion that does more harm than good. They point to unrealistic reports from the University of Michigan that say our local school boards and superintendents must be told what to do by bureaucrats in Lansing.

Since when is local control a bad idea? And what is the alternative?

Some in Ann Arbor and New York think the alternative is rigid state and federal control over pretty much every education decision — from evaluations in this case, to curriculum and tests and even school lunches.

Critics think a perfectly crafted law, with micromanagement from Lansing or Washington, can regulate every school district into what they consider model behavior. I’ll be direct: poorly performing and financially bankrupt districts in other parts of Michigan are already breaking laws. Why would this be different?

They hold up examples of other states, like New York and Tennessee, that have strict statewide evaluation systems. Yet, those states are rife with legal and logistical problems, are constantly changing and fixing their systems, and fighting off costly lawsuits. Why would Michigan want to replicate their mistakes?

When the New York Times weighs in, you can be sure powerful interests are at work. They don’t know our students and teachers in the Thumb. They’re motivated by money and power, not what’s best for our children.

Their ideas would also be very, very expensive. When fully implemented, the U of M report would cost taxpayers $150 million – every year. That’s a lot of money sucked out of classrooms all across Michigan and sent directly to vendors and bureaucrats.

I believe our schools are perfectly capable of this work, and should be allowed to make the decisions that work best for them. Many are already performing admirably, and getting great results for students by ensuring they have the best teacher possible in every classroom and a strong principal in every building. The fact is, our local schools are already coming up with ways to provide critical and thoughtful feedback, and they’re helping good educators become great educators.

I strongly believe we should hold schools accountable for outcomes. Are students being given every opportunity for learning? Are the results good? These are the questions we need to answer, rather than micromanaging local personnel decisions in ways that burden our schools with unnecessary costs and regulations.

There is a reason Michigan has relied on the idea of local control of schools and not state control or, God forbid, New York Times control.  For generations, local leadership has served Michigan’s children well.

We face new challenges now, and our students are being pushed to learn more than ever. We all need to raise our expectations and our effectiveness.

I support local control, and school leaders like the Michigan Association of School Administrators and Elementary and Middle School Principals support my bill. We need to empower and entrust local educators so they can continue to give our kids a great education.

State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Twp, is chair of the Senate Education Committee and represents the 25th District in Lansing.

Too risky to bury nuclear waste near Great Lakes

As seen in the Detroit News:

A recent Detroit News editorial “Burial is the best option for nuclear waste,” argued that the gains of burying seven million cubic feet of radioactive waste less than a mile from Lake Huron outweigh the potential risks.

Both sides agree that nations must responsibly care for the waste they produce, particularly when that waste is radioactive. Michigan law provides protections in banning any radioactive waste facility from being located within ten miles of a Great Lake, but U.S. federal policy has failed in this regard by not completing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Unfortunately, Canadian policy regarding this site is far worse. It fails to account for the dump’s impact on the health of the Great Lakes basin, it infringes on the rights of a neighboring country, and it has been politically motivated to place the site in Kincardine, Ontario, rather than in a more suitable location far from the Great Lakes.

Canada is also failing to adhere to its own standards for nuclear waste storage set in 1986, when the Canadian government opposed a potential nuclear site in Maine within 25 miles of the border because it presented a threat to the welfare of Canadians.

Is any manmade facility meant to store nuclear waste for thousands of years mistake-proof? The obvious answer is no.

Why would anyone conclude that the best possible place to bury this nuclear waste is Kincardine, within a half mile of the world’s greatest source of fresh water?

Thankfully, Canada has delayed their decision on whether to proceed with this plan until after their federal election in October.

I hope this delay means Canada is seriously considering the risks associated with this project and the strong public opinion against it from their American neighbors and their own residents.

State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair,

25th District

Caution is required

As published in the Windsor Star

Re: We must dispose of nuclear waste here, Star editorial, May 30.

This Windsor Star editorial argues that the apparent gains of burying seven million cubic feet of radioactive waste less than a mile from the shore of Lake Huron outweigh the potential risks.

However, when those risks involve putting the world’s largest supply of fresh water in peril, we must proceed with the utmost caution to protect the millions of Canadian and American citizens who depend on the safety of that water.

Both sides agree that nations must responsibly care for the waste they produce, particularly when that waste is radioactive. U.S. federal policy has failed in this regard in not completing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Unfortunately, Canadian policy regarding this site has been far worse. It fails to account for the dump’s impact on the health of the Great Lakes basin, it infringes on the rights of a neighboring country, and it has been politically motivated to place the site in Kincardine, Ontario, rather than in a more suitable location far from the Great Lakes.

Canada is also failing to adhere to its own governmental standards for nuclear waste storage set in 1986, when Canada’s secretary of state for external affairs opposed a potential nuclear site in Maine within 25 miles of the border because it presented a threat to the welfare of Canadians.

Some insist that this site location is the best possible one.

They must answer this question. Is any manmade facility meant to store nuclear waste for thousands of years mistake proof? The obvious answer is no.

The next obvious question is why would anyone then conclude that the best possible place to bury this nuclear waste is Kincardine, within a half mile of the world’s greatest source of fresh water?

PHIL PAVLOV, State Senator, 25th District, Lansing, Mich.

Open Letter to Michigan Parents

Dear Parents,

Stoni Ann Blair and Stephen Gage Berry were precious children with limitless potential, and their senseless deaths at the hands of their mother have shocked and saddened the entire state of Michigan.

Mitchelle Blair, the Detroit woman accused of killing Stoni and Stephen and then hiding their bodies, is a murderer who deserves, at best, to spend the rest of her life in prison.

This tragic situation is not, and never was, however, a homeschooling problem.

That’s why I am so dismayed by the introduction of a new bill in the state House of Representatives to exploit Stoni and Stephen’s tragic deaths as an excuse to impose new regulations on loving, committed, and law-abiding Michigan families.

Let’s be clear-this legislation would not have stopped Ms. Blair from killing her children. Blair was willing to break every law on the books, and routinely and effectively lied for years to hide her crimes.

Instead, the new bill is a transparent attempt by some in Lansing to bully, threaten, and intimidate parents who choose not to send their children to traditional public schools. The legislation would force every homeschooling family to register with local officials and to open their homes twice yearly for police inspections, to prove that they have not murdered their own children.

Parents have rights. Parents deserve choices. And parents deserve so much better from Lansing.

As the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee I wanted to write you today to assure you that this anti-parent legislation will not see the light of day in my Committee.

Parents who choose homeschooling as the best education option for their children lovingly pour themselves into their kids, and they get great results. Homeschooled children are among the most successful in the state, go on to attend colleges and universities, get and keep great jobs, and help lead our communities.

Every child learns differently, and no one understands the needs of a child like his or her parents. That’s why when it comes to making education decisions for their children, or for choosing the kind of education that will work best, Lansing should trust parents, not bully them.

Sincerely,

Senator Phil Pavlov
Chairman, Senate Education Committee