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Whitmer signs teacher certification, collective bargaining bills into law

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Out-of-state teachers can now have their certifications recognized in Michigan.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill Wednesday accepting equivalent certificates from other states, countries, and federally recognized tribes.

Another bill in the package that became law allows out-of-state school counselors to receive a temporary license to practice in Michigan.

The bills aim to address staff shortages by making it easier for teachers and counselors to continue working after moving to Michigan.

Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) co-sponsored the package. She said having more teachers makes for smaller class sizes and a better learning environment.

“Anything that we can do to increase the number of teachers here in the state is a net positive and a win, not just for the faculty and the potential faculty but also for the students and their families,” Geiss said.

Conversely, supporters say not having enough teachers puts professional and emotional stress on educators.

State RepresentativeJaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), who was a teacher before seeking public office, said she would have to sometimes teach two classes at once because of staffing issues.

“Allowing teachers and support staff with other different certifications the ability to be from out of state and work in our schools, we’re just allowing more people to have the opportunity to make our schools better, Churches said.

The bills received near-full support on their way through the Legislature, with Republicans and Democrats both coming behind the legislation.

Jeremiah Ward is the spokesperson for House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp).

“People who have proven themselves qualified teachers should be able to teach in Michigan without jumping through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops,” Ward said.

Other educator-related bills signed Wednesday, however, did not receive the same level of support.

Whitmer also signed legislation to let public school workers deduct union dues from their paychecks, prevent wage freezes during negotiations, and expand topics on the table for bargaining.

It would also affect which criteria factor into filling a vacancy.

Republicans derided the package as giving unions too much power in the classroom.

“As they hand out favors and power to their union boss allies, Michigan Democrats are continuing to undermine public education and put the needs of students last,” Hall said in a statement.

But Democratic supporters of the legislation say amplifying teachers’ voices at the bargaining table helps make the education system run better.

Churches sponsored the bill concerning union due collection.

“People have tried in the past to take away the strength of the teachers’ collective voice and teachers speak on behalf of students, and they want what’s best for kids. So, if they’re using their voice, it’s just going to be strengthening education as a whole,” Churches said.

Her bill would undo changes made in 2012.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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