State Senator Lana Theis discussed the ongoing impact that the coronavirus outbreak has had on schools and education during WHMI’s Covid-19 Radio Town Hall on Wednesday.

The Brighton Township Republican is Chair of the Senate Education Committee. During the town hall, she reiterated her frustration at the Michigan Department of Education for not allowing online teaching hours during the shutdown to count toward required annual instructional time. State education officials cited the issue of equity as their chief reason for the decision, saying that not all students have access to online resources and it would fundamentally unfair to allow some students the ability to advance their education while others could not. Theis, however, referred to that as falling to the lowest common denominator, and didn’t think that’s where the state should be. She said she disagreed with the notion that “if we can’t do it equally for everybody, we shouldn’t provide it for anybody,” and said for those who don’t have that access; officials need to step up and find ways to address that issue.

Theis was asked about plans to have schools make up for lost time or just waive the time lost. She said it’s being discussed, but straight out cancelling the rest of the year doesn’t sit well with her. She said her personal preference is to let the districts decide on what the rest of this year looks like. She said in the short term, they are going to have to provide them a few options for getting the students educated. She added, “But for us to say, well, we can’t do it right now, so therefore we should do nothing—let’s just ignore the next 6 months of education and come back in fall-that doesn’t seem like a good answer to me.”

When asked if teachers were going to continue to get paid, Theis noted that they are funded and under contract. She said there may be issues with employees like janitors, but as legislators, they cannot change existing contracts. A listener asked if the Senator would support waiving the MSTEP assessment exam. Theis said she would, with no way to test the students as of now. She added her support for also waiving 3rd grade retention, because you “can’t retain a child who hasn’t had the opportunity to be taught.”