AAA® to Play Key Role in Michigan Education Reforms

Posted on: Fri, 01/19/2024

By: Kendal Enz

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently signed two education bills that assign the American Arbitration Association® (AAA) a pivotal role in dispute resolution within education-related reforms.

Senate Bills 395 and 396 were enacted to establish a fairer teacher evaluation system, ensuring due process, eliminating arbitrary use of state summative data and providing a pathway for educators to improve. According to a press release from the Executive Office of the Governor, this move is expected to lead to more personalized and effective teaching practices, freeing up time for school administrators to support new and developing teachers.

Under the new law, school districts must provide individualized development plans for teachers who receive two consecutive “needing support” ratings in their year-end performance evaluations. These plans, developed in collaboration with the teachers by appropriate administrative personnel, aim to guide and support teachers in enhancing their professional skills. Should a teacher receive two such ratings, they may dispute them by using the grievance procedure outlined in their collective bargaining agreement or employment contract. In cases where no such mechanism exists, the teacher has the option to request binding arbitration through the AAA. This process, governed by AAA rules, ensures that the arbitrator selected can issue any necessary remedy, as stated in an article written by Miller Canfield for JD Supra.

“The AAA is proud to be the provider of dispute resolution services in this legislation, a great example of labor and management working collaboratively,” said Bridget M. McCormack, president and CEO of the AAA. “With nearly 100 years of service resolving contract disputes fairly, efficiently and effectively, we are ready to go whenever needed. We know that effective dispute resolution produces better outcomes for everyone, and we have the expertise to guarantee that.”

The initial plan designated the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) for arbitration services. However, Kentwood Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Polston, alongside other Michigan education administrators, advocated for the AAA due to its reputation as a longstanding, neutral and efficient organization for arbitration. Polston highlighted the AAA's track record of providing arbitration services to the district over several years.

“AAA has been able to move much quicker [than MERC] and has a great reputation in the field,” Polston said. “In previous collective bargaining agreements, and through support of this element of the legislation, both the union and administration have agreed it is a good entity for resolving conflicts.”

With the introduction of Senate Bills 395 and 396, Michigan is taking steps to refine its educational system, particularly in the area of teacher evaluations. The American Arbitration Association is set to play a key role in handling disputes under these new regulations. This development highlights Michigan's efforts to integrate impartial and effectual arbitration processes into educational reforms. The partnership between the state government, educational leaders, and the AAA is aimed at fostering a more balanced and practical approach to managing educational challenges. These legislative changes, along with the AAA's involvement, are expected to contribute positively to the overall quality and fairness of Michigan's educational landscape.