Dear Friend,
Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates, things to do this month and other community information.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Education?
One life lesson that has always stuck with me is that if you want to know what a person or organization values, don’t look at their mission statement — look at where they direct their resources. Although the 100th Legislature is still getting started, my time serving on the House Appropriations Committee has been particularly illuminating in discovering our state’s true values over the last several years.
For years, the legislative majority has told us they’re committed to improving education in our state; but as a recent study from Michigan State University made clear, funding for Michigan’s schools has declined faster than any other state in our nation. Time and time again, past legislative leadership has ignored the wealth of research available to create comprehensive, long-term solutions in favor of chasing an easy but non-existent silver bullet.
We already know what works: clearly articulated learning goals or targets; immediate, good quality feedback; targeted interventions like smaller groupings and specialized instruction; opportunities for student self-reflection; strong relationships between students and adults within the school; and a sense of belonging both in and out of the classroom.
So the question isn’t really whether we know how to solve the problems our schools face, it’s whether we as a state value education enough to do what’s necessary to support our students. As we anticipate Gov. Whitmer’s proposed budget, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to finally fund a sustainable, successful education system in Michigan.
Legislative Update
Recently, I co-sponsored a bill to honor fallen U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason Freiwald, which was approved unanimously by the Michigan House yesterday.
The bill would designate a portion of M-53 in Macomb County as the Chief Petty Officer Jason Freiwald Memorial Highway. Freiwald, a U.S. Navy SEAL, suffered wounds during combat operations with heavily armed militants in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2008. He died on Sept. 12, 2008 at the age of 30.
As a music teacher in Armada, I had the distinct honor of having Jason and his siblings as students from kindergarten to sixth grade. I can honestly say that even at that young age, there was no sweeter, more giving child or devoted family. Although losing Jason has been tragic to the community that knew and loved him, especially his parents and brothers that also bravely served their country, I’m proud to stand with my colleagues to memorialize his service and sacrifice.
House Bill 4061 now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Constituent Listening Tour
Join me on Saturday, March 2 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Montrose-Jennings Library in Montrose for the first stop of my constituent listening tour. Come sit down and have a chat with me — ask questions, make suggestions, get answers. See you there!
Informational PFAS Town Hall
On Friday, March 8 from 6-8 p.m., I will join my colleagues, state Reps. John D. Cherry, Sheldon Neeley and Tim Sneller, as a special guest for an informational PFAS town hall. The event will be held in the Regional Technology Center of Mott Community College, 1401 E. Court St. in Flint, just south of Robert T. Longway Blvd. Come learn about the spread of PFAS and what to do if you live in a contaminated area. Presentations will be given by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Environmental Quality and the Genesee County Health Department.
State Seeks Help to Reach Those Due Unemployment Insurance Fraud Refunds
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, together with Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), is requesting the public’s help in reaching roughly 500 Michigan residents who are still owed refunds related to unemployment insurance fraud determinations made between 2013 and 2015.
Since the comprehensive review in 2018, more than $20.8 million has been refunded to nearly 40,000 residents who had their fraud determinations reversed. However, state records show about 500 residents have yet to claim their refunds.
“We are making sure we explore every avenue to return funds to each person owed monies resulting from unemployment insurance fraud determinations between 2013 and 2015,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an appeal to Michiganders. “And that means reaching out to our fellow Michiganders to help us in this statewide search for those who have not yet claimed their refund.”
“We want to make certain that any state residents who were entitled to receive reimbursements are able to access those funds,” Attorney General Nessel said. “That is why we are coming together to ask the public to assist us in that process.”
“We would like to reach these approximately 500 individuals and hope that anyone who believes they are due a refund contacts us as soon as possible,” Michelle Beebe, Unemployment Insurance Agency Senior Deputy Director said.
The UIA has established an Unemployment Insurance Refunds website for those who believe they are entitled to a refund. Claimants may also log into MiWAM (Michigan Web Account Manager) to inquire whether they have a refund pending and to update their contact information and get the refund process started.
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
State Rep. Sheryl Y. Kennedy, Ph.D.
48th House District