By Jessica Mathews & Jon King /

An education committee chaired by a local lawmaker has been granted subpoena power to obtain state records and files by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Along party lines, the Senate on Wednesday adopted a resolution granting subpoena power to the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee. It's been more than 15 years since legislative education committees have been granted such powers.

However, Committee Chair Lana Theis said the move is a natural progression from recent committee hearings, where lawmakers heard from students, athletes, parents, educators, administrators and government officials on the impact of what the Brighton Township Republican called “forced virtual learning” and the need to return students to in-person education. “Through no fault of their own, too many students are struggling academically, falling behind or, in some cases, have stopped participating in school altogether because of educational decisions made by the administration and education elites over the past year.”

The Senate Oversight Committee was also granted subpoena power through the new resolution. Along with the adoption of Senate Resolution 23, Theis and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey submitted the committee’s first request – not a subpoena- to the state Department of Education for certain data and documents related to the teacher student data link (TSDL) — information that has been required by law to be collected, maintained and processed over the past decade.

A press release from Theis says the committee is seeking that data to analyze student academic growth and decline, compare student outcomes on a classroom-by-classroom basis and project outcomes for students based upon their test data, for the purposes of designing individualized plans to help every student recover from learning loss over the past year, as well as to inform other policymaking decisions. The department has until March 9th to provide the requested information to the committee.

Theis told The Detroit News that while she has no plans for future subpoenas, she believes having that authority is a “good idea” based on her assessment that students statewide are losing interest in school as Michigan's education system “is under a level of strain that it hasn't seen before.”

The top Democrat on the education committee, State Senator Dayna Polehanki of Livonia, opposed granting the subpoena power, saying that the GOP’s majority hadn’t made clear exactly what their intentions are in using subpoenas.

Monday was the date that Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had set for districts to offer some form of face-to-face learning, with 97% on track to accomplish that.