UP Catholic 07 15 2016 E Edition Page 4

4 July 15, 2016 THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY www.upcatholic.org Dewitt Church Goods Inc. Restore the beauty of your tabernacle. Call today! Toll Free 1-866-950-3378 Protecting the health and safety of all Michigan students I n a recent weekly general audi- ence, Pope Francis spoke about children as the joy of the family and of society. As a state, Mich- igan benefits from recognizing and preserving the important role chil- dren play in community life. At the end of June, the Michigan Legislature approved and Governor Rick Snyder signed into law next years spending plan for K-12 schools, community colleges, and institutions of higher education. The budget includes $2.5 million to re- imburse non-public schools for com- plying with annual health and safety mandates required by the state. These funds will help to ensure that every student in Michigan, regardless of where they attend school, are educated in the best environment possible. Each year, school administrators, teachers, and staff at public and non-public schools complete these mandates. A 2014 report from the Michigan Department of Education identified more than 40 requirements placed upon non-public schools, which include practicing fire and lockdown drills, conducting back- fround checks of employees and staff, and maintaining student immuni- zation records. Public schools have long received reimbursement from the state through the per pupil foun- dation allowance for the time and costs to complete these mandates. Yet non-public schools do not receive similar compensation for completing the same activities. Now, due to an appropriation in the recently signed education budget, non-public schools will have the op- portunity to apply for reimbursement. The $2.5 million in funding stems from Michigans general fund and recognizes the importance of health and safety in non-public schools. While this funding does not cover the full cost that Michigans almost 600 non-public schools incur, it is a step in the right direction of fairness. States like Ohio, Louisiana, and New York significantly reimburse non-pub- lic schools in their state budgets, recognizing that all children deserve to be cared for and supported. In years past, the State of Michigan recognized the value of protecting non-public school students, providing funds for crossing guards, nursing services, and speech therapy. In 2015, ifteen non-public schools received over $600,000 in grant funding through the Competitive School Safety Grant Program, along with 56 public school districts, 11 charter schools, and five sheriff departments. This grant program assists schools with technological and safety im- provements for their buildings. Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, Director of the Michigan State Police, called the program an important way to create a more secure learning environment, recognizing that the safety of our stu- dents and educators is of paramount importance. This grant has also been included in the 2016-2017 state bud- fet, along with funding for public and non-public schools to test plumbing ixtures and infrastructure for lead. Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) supports the Legislatures efforts to recognize the critical role non-public schools play in educat- ing Michigans children. MCC is especially thankful to legislative leadership in the House and Senate who worked to include the funding in the state budget, including House K-12 Appropriations Chair Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), House Appropriations Chair Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant), Senate K-12 Appropriations Chair Geoff Hansen (R-Hart), Senate Appropriations Chair David Hilden- brand (R-Lowell), and Senate Major- ity Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven). MCC is also appreciative of Governor Snyders decision to sign the education budget into law with the funding for non-public schools included. If children are truly the joy of the family and of society, as Pope Francis says, Michigan Catholic Conference encourages legislators and school ad- vocacy groups, public and non-public alike, to collaborate for the best inter- est of all Michigans children, regard- less of where they attend school. The Word from Lansing is a regu- lar column for Catholic news outlets and is written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) President and CEO Paul A. Long. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. THE WORD FROM LANSING Paul A. Long IF CHILDREN ARE TRULY THE "JOY OF THE FAMILY AND OF SOCIETY," AS POPE FRANCIS SAYS, MICHIGAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE ENCOURAGES LEGISLATORS AND SCHOOL ADVOCACY GROUPS, PUBLIC AND NON-PUBLIC ALIKE, TO COLLABORATE FOR THE BEST INTEREST OF ALL MICHIGAN'S CHILDREN, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY ATTEND SCHOOL. Traveling in the U.P.? Find parish summer Mass times at: www.dioceseofmarquette.org/SummerMassTimes

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