Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yesterday in the Michigan State Senate & House - A Report for October 28th, 2009

Yesterday afternoon the State Senate Appropriations Committee moved SR 88 to the Senate floor for “concurrence”. SR 88 is a resolution to begin the process of overriding Governor Granholm’s veto of Sec. 20j funds in the 2009-10 K-12 School Aid budget.
Testimony was given by many different superintendents, including our own, I believe. Superintendents from Troy, Livonia, Birmingham, Farmington, and Royal Oak also gave testimony. The MEA publication, “Capital Chaos”, reported that the superintendents reported the cuts they have made in their budgets and the additional cuts they must make if the legislature fails to restore funding.

Mike Shibler, Superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools, testified that the 20j funds cost the non 20j schools $35/student. He supports restoring the 20j funds but not at a cost to non 20j districts.

The message to the Appropriations Committee also included the very important request for a stable form of funding for the public schools.

The resolution passed by a vote of 10 – 5.

The House Ethics and Elections Committee today approved three bills that would amend campaign finance law. The legislation would affect public employee payroll deductions for donations to union political action committees (PAC). Now, the measures go to the full House for consideration. MEA supports the bills.

House Bill 4245 allows public employees to contribute to a union PAC by payroll deduction if the union fully compensates the public body for the use of any resources.

House Bill 4284 eliminates the requirement that labor organizations and others obtain annual consent for contributions from individuals who give on an automatic basis, such as through payroll deduction. Written consent would still be required, but not every year.

House Bill 4997 does the same thing as House Bills 4245 and 4284 but also affects communications to elect or defeat a candidate, including automated telephone calls. Automated calls and other electronic communications would have to clearly state the name and address or telephone number of the person paying for the communication. Further, telephone communications could not take place before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Capital Chaos - MEA Publication about Funding Crisis

***Capital Chaos is published by Linda Myers, Campaign Consultant for Government Affairs at the MEA

News of the Day
Governor Holds Round Table Discussions on Budget

Governor Granholm visited West Michigan last Friday to meet with superintendents, school board members and school staff looking for solutions to the education funding crisis.

The Governor met with members of the school communities in the Muskegon and Kent ISDs encouraging them to support her ideas for a short-term fix and long-term changes to how schools are funded. As she sees it, tax reform is key to avoiding any further budget dramas like we’re seeing now.

After the Governor explained the state’s financial crisis and her reasons for cutting an additional $127 from state aid, on top of the $165 already cut, she heard the impact the cuts will have on education—in addition to the budget slashing schools have already endured.

She heard of the potential elimination of 600 jobs in Kent County and 225 teaching jobs in Ottawa County. Kent City has already eliminated guidance counselors and day custodians. In Whitehall, this new round of cuts could mean cutting programs in fine arts and eliminating athletics and extra-curricular. The message was clear—schools are no longer cutting the number of programs—they’re cutting education quality.

John Mierz, a Whitehall teacher and MEA member, was invited to participate in the discussion. He told the Governor that it’s impossible for districts and staff to do any long-term planning when there’s such funding uncertainty.

Arch Lewis, MEA Research Consultant and a participant in the discussion agreed. “We need a long-term systemic. It’s obvious Prop A isn’t working. We need to get money to schools that will be a permanent revenue source.”

For the short term, the Legislature has 30 days to implement immediate solutions like freezing schedule increases in personal tax exemptions, or having special interest groups pay a percentage of their tax exemptions as a way of closing tax loopholes.

The Governor ended both discussions with the same challenge. “We have to mobilize like we’ve never mobilized before and fix this problem. Contact your legislator and tell them to vote for the needs of public education. Kids only have this moment. The Legislature must be convinced. Are you willing to help me?”

Emergency meetings deal with school funding crisis

In an emergency meeting on Monday, the State Board of Education urged the Governor and the Legislature to immediately find money to reduce the cuts in school funding. Meanwhile, the governor held another round-table discussion in Rochester.

Local MEA leaders and staff attended the meeting. They supplied stories about the cuts in their local districts and its effect on the classroom and students. Oakland County superintendents spoke of cost cutting measures they have been making over the past several years.

Sen. Mike Bishop (R) Rochester, Rep. Tom McMillin (R) Rochester Hills, and Rep. Kim Meltzer (R) Clinton Township were in attendance at the meeting.

Leon Drolet, former State Representative, organized a group of anti-tax proponents to demonstrate outside the Rochester Public Schools Administration building during the roundtable discussion. He had his huge pink pig parked in the parking lot to denote pork barrel spending.

At the urging of the Governor, contact your legislator today. Phone, email, or text legislators and tell them we must save public education. Urge them to look for revenue by reforming our antiquated tax structure and fixing our broken school funding system. For our economic survival, education must be a priority.

Senator Michael Bishop, Senate Majority
Senator Nancy Cassis - Senator for the northern part of our school district
Representative Hugh Crawford, Legislator from Novi and represents parts of Walled Lake
Governor Granholm -
Follow this link:,1607,7-168-21995-65331--,00.html

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Late this afternoon, Gov. Granholm announced AN ADDITIONAL cut of $127 per-pupil for this year. She based this cut on a report from the Department of Treasury which shows another short fall in expected revenues. This cut is in addition to the $165 per-student reduction that Governor Granholm signed into effect on Monday. This cut is in addition to the 20j funds that the Governor cut for our district, which amounted to over $4.5 million dollars.

Current law requires that the Treasurer notify the Governor if the actual revenue collections are less than the estimated revenue on which the budget is based. In that case, the Governor is required to notify the Legislature that payments to school districts will be reduced on a per pupil basis in 30 days unless the Legislature adopts a solution to the revenue shortfall.

In an email this afternoon from one of our MEA lobbyists, Senator Mike Bishop, Republican leader of the Senate, is reported to have said that the budget that was given to Governor Granholm was balanced and that she didn't need to make the cuts. Senator Bishop goes as far as to say that there is an excess in the School Aid Fund. However, the MEA reports that Senator Bishop is basing his figures on the Revenue Estimating Conference in May of 2009. This Revenue Estimation has already proven to be higher than actual revenues collected. In addition, revenues in the state have continued to fall well below predictions since that time.

I wrote our Senator, Nancy Cassis, and heard back from her almost immediately. She told me she supports our school receiving 20j funds, but she will not support tax increases. If you've read the Oakland Press you know that the Governor is traveling around the state talking to Superintendents. She was in Livingston County today and is making phone calls to superintendents as well. She wants revenue increases.

We need to keep the pressure on to get our government to end this deadlock which will only result in the dismantling of education as we know it. Please write or call our Senators and Governor. Please remember to do it from your home email accounts and phones. Their emails and phone numbers are listed below.

Senator Michael Bishop, Senate Majority Leader

Senator Nancy Cassis - Senator for the northern part of our school district

Representative Hugh Crawford, Legislator from Novi and represents parts of Walled Lake

Governor Granholm - Follow this link:,1607,7-168-21995-65331--,00.html

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Morning AFTER the $4.7 Million Cut

By now you have all heard about the cut of "20j" monies that Governor Granholm cut with her veto yesterday. The 20j funds are monies given to districts whose per-pupil finance amount was greater than the State's allotment when school financing switched from local millages to Proposal A. In Walled Lake that is $4.7 MILLION dollars.

I have heard very little from the MEA since then. I did get an email from their MEA PAC chairperson who stated that this move by the governor demonstrated that school finance needed to be revamped. I received a call from Kerry Birmingham, the "press secretary" for the MEA, in the afternoon asking if I would speak to a reporter from the Free Press. Kerry told me that the MEA's message is that school finance needs to be reformed. She told me that the MEA is not bashing the Governor. In fact, I read that the Governor held a news conference in the afternoon yesterday with MEA lobbyists standing around her.

Still, I have heard very little from the MEA. Perhaps they are trying to determine which avenue to go; but I think there is something else going on, and that was potentially confirmed with newspaper reporting this morning. I believe Governor Granholm is trying to pressure the Legislature to add revenue to the state picture. She is not asking for a straight tax increase, but there are several measures she has suggested that would help plug the holes in the state finances. Senator Bishop (Republican) has sworn that taxes will not be raised and warned Governor Granhom not to veto anything else. However, further cuts are looming for education as the sales tax revenues continue to drop.

I feel like Governor Granholm and Senator Bishop are playing the old game of "chicken" with schools like Walled Lake right smack dab in the middle of the road. I can only suggest that you write Governor Granhom and that you write Senator Bishop. Write your own representatives in State government. (Remember, PLEASE DO IT FROM YOUR HOME EMAIL ACCOUNTS!)


Senator Michael Bishop, Senate Majority Leader

Senator Nancy Cassis - Senator for the northern part of our school district

Representative Hugh Crawford, Legislator from Novi and represents parts of Walled Lake

Governor Granholm - Follow this link:,1607,7-168-21995-65331--,00.html

Iris Salters, President of the MEA

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Totals form the $165 per student cut.....

A LOSS OF $2,599,646

Friday, October 9th - Legislature Passes Budget with $165 per pupil cut!

From MEA VOTES - the online newsletter from the MEA
Late Thursday night, the state House and Senate passed the K-12 budget for 2009-10 with a $165 per pupil cut, a smaller reduction than the initial proposal of $218 per pupil.
The budget also continues to fund several key programs, including early childhood and at-risk programs, but that doesn't mean those programs are off the hook. Lawmakers gave school districts the option of cutting them at the local level and using the money allocated to them somewhere else. And the reality is, the size of the per pupil cuts may make it necessary for local districts to cut some of the very programs that make them most successful.
In a press statement, MEA President Iris K. Salters praised the thousands of public school supporters whose vocal opposition to education cuts prevented the worst from coming to pass. "But the lack of a full investment in public schools is disturbing, especially since the vast majority of our legislators ran for office touting the importance of education to our economic recovery," Salters said.
She called on the Legislature to begin work now on addressing anticipated shortfalls in next year's budget by updating Michigan's antiquated tax structure and implementing tax reforms to stabilize funding for schools.
"It's time to invest in our state. It's time to invest in our schools. MEA is proud to have been part of leading that charge during this budget debate and we're proud to commit today to continuing that fight because of our solemn belief that the key to our economic future is preparing our students for the jobs Michigan needs."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Report From the MEA on Legislative Budget Issues

Granholm will use veto power on budget.
Yesterday afternoon, Gov. Granholm declared she would use her veto power on the 2010 budget that the House and Senate sent her this morning. She said she would use her veto power to shape a budget that “diversifies the economy, educates students and protects people at risk.”

Early this morning, the Senate approved a continuation budget that ended a brief government shutdown. But the House couldn’t get the votes for the proposed $218-per-pupil-cut in the School Aid budget—despite an agreement between leaders of both Chambers to do so.


What’s Next?
The MEA believes that the only way to avoid drastic cuts is through added revenue. The question is where that money will come from. MEA reports that a recent EPIC/MRA poll showed that an overwhelming majority—77 percent-- of Michigan residents responding, said, “Don’t cut education.” Rather, they support a budget that is a combination of cuts and new revenue sources.

The unfortunate possibility is that a revenue source may be the Michigan Health Benefits Program (HB 5345) as proposed by Speaker Andy Dillon. The MEA’s fight against this threat to our health care, our bargaining rights and our union is still out there as legislators look for ways to avoid drastic cuts to education.

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. CALL OR EMAIL (from home, please). Thank Lisa Brown for her support of education and tell her you support her in the continued fights to settle the budget!

District 37 – Farmington & Farmington Hills – Vicki Barnett
District 38 – Novi, Walled Lake City, Wixom – Hugh Crawford
District 39 – West Bloomfield Twp., Commerce Twp. -Lisa Brown
District 43 – West Bloomfield – Gail Haines
District 44 – White Lake Township – Eileen Kowall

October 2nd, 2009 - Report of the Electives Committee

The History Behind the Electives Committee -
Last Spring (2009)a group of electives teachers asked to meet with Chriss Golden after registration had been completed. They were alarmed by how the shift to the 6 hour day, in tandem with the increased and more stringent graduation requirements initiated by the State of Michigan, had caused a drop in the number of students registering for elective classes. Elective teachers were losing several sections of their offerings, and some had even been shifted to different schools. Because of the incremental increase of requirements over 2009-2009 and 2009-2010, they anticipated that even fewer students would be able to sign up for electives in the 2010-2011 school year. Chriss asked Daryl Szymanski and me to also attend this meeting as the vice-president and president elect of the WLEA.

The electives people, Daryl, myself, and Cyndi Austin (our uniserve director) met again in July and worked on the survey that was sent to all secondary staff (high school and middle school) of the WLEA. Our intent was to determine the membership's view of the effect of the 6 hour day. I sent the results of that survey to secondary teachers last week.

We also asked Dr. Hamilton to gather registration data for us comparing electives student numbers and teacher FTE from the 2008-2009 school year (a 7 period day schedule) and for this year (2009-2010). The data showed an average drop of over 13% for the combined electives FTE. Physical education classes dropped the most, and Foreign Language showed little, if any change. Other areas that showed a decrease in FTE included Business, Music/Performing Arts, Art, and Industrial Arts.

In discussing this information, the Electives group that was meeting together saw that a return to the 7 hour day would alleviate the registration problems for electives classes, but were mindful that the load of teaching 6 classes out of 7 the previous 2 years had been unpopular and problematic for many teachers, particularly the core teachers. So, the committee decided to ask to meet with Dr. Hamilton to talk about possible solutions.

The October 2nd Committee Report -
Daryl Szymanski, Mary Rashid, David Deluca, and I met with Dr. Hamilton. We briefly went over the survey and the numbers as he had those before our meeting. He knows the issue!

The first suggestion put on the table, was immediately pushed off the table. That being, a return to the 7 hour day, with core teachers teaching 5 out of 7, and electives teaching 6 out of 7. Dr. Hamilton told us that would cost 1 million to 2 million dollars and considering the state budget mess, couldn't be done.

We then talked about the possibility of core teachers teaching academic classes for 5 out of 7 hours, but perhaps there was a sixth hour assignment that would be beneficial to students, and yet not add any preparation to the academic day. We also talked about caps on class sizes, similar to the language previously in the contract that expired with the demise of the 7 hour day last spring. After lots of ideas being floated, the following actions were taken:

1) Dr. Hamilton is sending out a Metro Bureau Search to all districts in this area asking 5 questions regarding their experience with the increasing academic requirements from the state and maintaining student opportunity to take electives.
2) Mary said that Judy knows of a program being done in Grosse Pointe that may give us an idea. Judy, could you send a bit of this information to me and I will contact the EA president in Grosse Pointe.
3) I did not say this at the meeting, yesterday afternoon, Cyndi Austin sent out a questionnaire to all MEA Eastern Zone leaders, asking them questions similar to the inquiries in the Metro Bureau Search.

We also talked about deadlines looming for decision making, as scheduling will need to be set, probably in December. This is of grave concern to me.

How to proceed? I am going to talk with Cyndi regarding some issues, but I believe we need to look at
1) finding an acceptable use for a 6th hour for core teachers that does not require an additional prep
2) is there any other way of accomplishing this AND giving more time for students to take electives.
3) We need to bring high school core teachers into our group SOON and will be pursuing this later today and on Monday.
4) I will need to take this to the Bargaining Committee as well, probably as we add core teachers.