Michigan House Democrats are blocking school safety and mental health legislation, leaving a bipartisan bill package crafted by a legislative task force to languish in committee for more than a year.

State Rep. Jamie Greene, R-Richmond, vice chair of the House Education Committee, this week attempted to set a hearing for House Bills 4088-4100 through a process that requires a majority of members to take up the legislation without approval from the committee chair, Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth.

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The bills were crafted by a bipartisan school safety task force following a shooting at Oxford High School in 2021. They would establish dedicated staff for school safety and mental health at every school district, implement regular reviews of each school’s safety plan, ensure tips submitted through the OK2SAY system are directed to the proper authorities, standardize training and communication for responding to school emergencies, and more.

The bills were referred to the House Education Committee on Feb. 14, 2023, where they’ve remained without a scheduled hearing as the committee instead pursued legislation to limit parental choice and repeal accountability measures for schools.

“The people we represent want us to do something to improve the safety of Michigan schools,” Greene said. “We have a well-thought-out, bipartisan plan with broad support and the chair of our committee will not hold a hearing to get the ball rolling. It’s disheartening that one committee chair can be the sole roadblock for such important changes that the people of Michigan want to see put into law.”

Greene offered a solution this week when she sent a letter seeking support from Democrats on the committee to call a hearing, a move that requires two Democrats to join the five Republican members to make it happen.

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Greene notified the House clerk and set the meeting for 8 a.m. next Tuesday, “an hour before our traditional meeting time so we don’t interfere with Chair Koleszar’s potential meeting and agenda.”

“We are beyond disappointed and frustrated that these bills have not yet received a public hearing, so we are taking it upon ourselves as members of the Education committee to finally give this legislation the hearing it deserves,” the letter read. “While we only need two additional members to sign on, we would like to see unanimous support for a hearing on the School Safety Package.”

No Democrats signed up to force the meeting, opting instead to hold fast to the party’s political agenda.

“I had hope that the Democrats on the Education Committee would put student safety above party politics,” Greene said. “It’s disappointing that people elected to represent their communities won’t stand up for what they know is right.”

The House committee’s most recent work this week centered on House Bill 5025, aimed at repealing the Educational Instruction Access Act, which prohibits local governments from blocking charter schools and others from using discarded public school buildings.

The bill was adopted in 2017 to prevent public schools from choking off competition from other public school options, such a charter schools.

HB 5025 is backed by Michigan’s education establishment including the Michigan Education Association teachers union, state superintendents and school boards association, and local district officials. It’s opposed by school choice advocates including the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools, Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Midwesterner left an email message with Koleszar seeking comment on the school safety legislation, but did not receive a response.