News Story

Michigan bills would count recess as teaching time

Teachers of K-5 students could count 30 minutes of recess toward teaching time

A half hour of recess time per day would count as instructional time if a two-bill package were enacted into law.

There is a two-bill package for the change in both chambers: House Bills 5081-5082 and Senate Bills 534-535. All were introduced Oct. 3.

Recess can be counted as instructional time under a Michigan Department of Education administrative rule. The bills would elevate the rule to state law.

The schools can already count a limited amount of non-instructional activities, such as professional development, toward instructional time. But adding recess to the allowances should be a concern, said Molly Macek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center.

“With fewer dollars being spent directly on student learning, and in light of the latest M-STEP scores, lawmakers should consider the impact of this legislation on student outcomes, especially reading and math,” Macek told Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Students in Michigan performed below pre-pandemic levels on the most recent M-STEP.

Third graders were the most harmed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 shutdown. Results show 59% of third graders were partially or not proficient in English. Fifty-six percent of students in grades third through eighth were partially or not proficient in English, according to MI School Data.

The administrative rule now in place requires a certified teacher to be outside with students for recess to qualify as instructional time. The bills would strike that requirement.

A school must have at least five instructional hours for a 30-minute recess to qualify. If the school has fewer than five hours of instructional time, recess could be one-tenth of that time. The bills would require that recess be offered to all students from kindergarten to fifth grade.

School officials would not be able to withhold recess for disciplinary reasons. Only a student who posed “an immediate threat” could be held out of recess, and only if “the district has made all reasonable efforts, to the greatest extent practicable, to resolve the threat,” according to House Bill 5081.

Rep. Graham Filler, R-St. Johns, sponsored House Bill 5081, and Rep. Kelly Breen, D-Novi, sponsored House Bill 5082. Neither Filler nor Breen responded to an email seeking comment.

Sen. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, sponsored Senate Bill 534, and Kristen McDonald Rivet, D-Bay City, sponsored Senate Bill 535.

McDonald Rivet said she will share her rationale for the recess legislation when she testifies in committee. Bellino did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.