Friday, January 29, 2010

Memo from State Budget Director Bob Emerson

THIS IS THE ACTUAL LETTER FROM BOB EMERSON regarding changing ALL MEA members' retirement benefits----
Dear Fellow Employee:

I'm sure it is no surprise to you when I report that state government is facing economic challenges we've not experienced since the Great Depression.

In the 10 years from 2001 through this year, Michigan will have lost one million jobs, much of that job loss due to the profound changes that have reverberated throughout the auto industry. Three out of four automotive jobs in our state are gone. This stark reality has affected our budget in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. Today, we are operating state government on revenues that are at a 45-year low when adjusted for inflation.

Since 2003, we have had to address billion dollar deficits, many times with your help. State employees have contributed some $650 million to resolving our budget problems, which has gone a long way in helping us resolve the challenges we have faced over time. Despite your sacrifice, we are once again facing a billion dollar plus deficit.

In less than two weeks, the fiscal year 2011 executive budget recommendation will be presented for the coming year, and that budget will recommend a number of solutions to resolve the state's structural deficit. Those recommendations will include a public employee retirement program to cut costs by offering both positive and negative
incentives to approximately 7,000 state employees and 39,000 public school employees eligible for retirement.

The budget recommendation will require legislative approval in time for employees to submit a retirement application between April 15 and May 15, 2010. Here are some of the details about the plan that will be formally unveiled in the budget recommendation.

State Employees Retirement System

State employees who are members of the defined benefit (DB) plan will experience the following changes effective October 1, 2010:

•To ensure that the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) is fiscally sound, a 3 percent employee contribution will be reinstated.
•Earned service credit capped at 30 years. Employees continuing in state service beyond 30 years will be moved to a defined contribution (DC) plan for any additional years of service accrued after September 30, 2010, excluding what is purchased by the employee.
•Elimination of state-subsidized retiree vision and dental coverage for state employees retiring after September 30, 2010. Retirees will be able to purchase this coverage for a monthly fee through the plan.
•Increased retirement multiplier of 1.6 percent for eligible employees who retire between July 1 and October 1, 2010. Details on eligibility will be included in the fiscal year 2011 executive budget recommendation.\
•Phased retirement option for retiring employees age 60 or older. Phased-in retirement will be allowed for up to three years, enabling employees to collect their DB plan retirement with a workload of no more than 20 hours per week for a previously full-time employee. This option is available to the employees at management discretion.

Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System
Public school employees who are members of the Michigan Public School
Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) will be subject to the following
changes effective October 1, 2010.

•To ensure MPSERS is financially sound, employee contributions to the plan will increase by 3 percent for all employees except those in the MIP Plus program whose contribution was increased in 2008. MIP Plus members' contribution will increase by 0.9 percent.
•Elimination of subsidized retiree vision and dental coverage for school employees retiring with an effective date after October 1, 2010. Retirees will be able to purchase this coverage for a monthly fee through the plan.
•The retirement multiplier will be increased from 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent for employees who retire with an effective date between July 1and September 1, 2010, which will be paid by the applicable school districts.
•A new, more cost-effective hybrid retirement plan for new employeeshired on or after October 1, 2010, will be created. New employees will participate in both a base defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan.
•Phased retirement option for retiring employees age 60 or older. Phased-in retirement will be allowed for up to three years, enabling employees to collect their DB plan retirement with a workload of no more than 20 hours per week for a previously full-time employee. This option is available to the employees at the discretion of the school districts.
We know that this program will pose some very difficult choices for many state employees, who will be faced with a decision to retire sooner than they may have originally planned. We also know that for employees who are not eligible to retire, this plan will mean additional sacrifice. It is that reality that made our choices to resolving the budget deficit
all the more difficult.

This plan is part of a four-part reform plan for state government that can be found at . When the executive budget is presented on February 11, additional information about the retirement incentive plan will be posted on the Office of Retirement Services Web site at .


Bob Emerson
Budget Director

Thursday, January 21, 2010

High School Scheduling Blog

I have begun a new blog strictly for information regarding the HIGH SCHOOL SCHEDULE. It can be found at:

Senator Mike Bishop to Balance the Budget on Teachers' Backs!

Many of you wrote me yesterday to share what you had read and I, of course, have read it as well........Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop wants to balance the state's budget on the backs of teachers, professors, and state and local government workers.

He wants all these groups to take a 5 percent pay cut this year and remain at that level for the next THREE years. He also wants public employees to pay 20 percent of their health care premiums unless they participate in a health savings account or wellness program. In that case, they would only have to cover 15 percent of their premiums. He says this could eliminate a $1.6 billion budget deficit and save schools and local governments millions of dollars.

THIS MOVE WOULD REQUIRE A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to go to voters in August. It would require a 2/3rds vote in both the House and the Senate to put it on the ballot. If the 2/3rds vote could not be met at this level, then a ballot drive could be attempted to put it on the ballot, but would probably mean it would appear later in the year if the ballot drive is successful.

THIS WOULD EFFECTIVELY END YOUR BARGAINING RIGHTS! Local units would have NO CONTROL over these measures if passed.

The MEA is advocating that the financial crisis for our state government calls for real reforms--including an end to wasteful tax giveaways and a modernized, fair system for funding Michigan's priorities. A Better Michigan Future's Comeback Plan (the MEA is 1 of 30 groups that advocate this plan) consists of just four reforms that can help end our decade-long budget mess and move Michigan forward.

Audit Government Contracts -- Reduce wasteful spending by conducting performance audits on $16 billion worth of government contracts with an eye toward efficiencies -- ensuring Michigan taxpayers are getting the most value for their dollar.

Close Tax Loopholes & Giveaways -- Eliminate tax incentives and loopholes for companies failing to create and retain jobs, while requiring yearly performance reviews for all remaining tax credits and incentives.

Modernize the State's Sales Tax -- Our current sales tax is based on the old economy; we must expand the sales tax to include services and luxury items to ensure stable revenue into the future.

Implement a Graduated Income Tax -- Michigan is one of only seven states with a flat-rate tax. We must modernize our tax code to ensure fairness and equity, while offering a tax cut to 90 percent of Michigan families.

Please write or call your state legistors, especially SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BISHOP!!!

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop
Phone: 517-373-2417
Fax: 517-373-2694

Governor Jennifer Granholm
517-373-3400 Phone 517-335-6863 Fax
to write Gov. Granholm, please go to the website


WRITE YOUR Legislators to Restore 20J Funding

Dr. Hamilton, Superintendent of the Walled Lake Schools, has sent out a letter and has contacted the WLEA to say he has been informed that there is a possibility that 20J funds could be restored to our schools!

On February 11th, Governor Granholm presents her School Aid Budget and she has the power to put 20J funds back into the budget. As well, the legislature could act to restore 20J funding. This funding would be worth MILLIONS to our district. Dr. Hamilton, in his letter to Walled Lake School employees, has said that without this funding class sizes will need to be raised to 28 in Kindergarten, 29 in grades 1-2, 31 in grades 3-5, and 33-35 in grades 6 - 12.

Please write or call your legislator AND the governor! Use your cell phones at work and use your home email accounts, please! Here are the addresses you need!

Governor Jennifer Granholm
517-373-3400 Phone 517-335-6863 Fax
to write Gov. Granholm, please go to the website

Speaker of the House Andy Dillon
Phone: 517-373-0857
Fax: 517-373-5976

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop
Phone: 517-373-2417
Fax: 517-373-2694

State Senator Nancy Cassis
Phone: 517-373-1758
Fax: 517-373-0938

State Senator Gilda Jacobs
Phone: 517-373-7888
Fax: 517-373- 2983

State Representative Vicki Barnett
Phone: 517-373-1793
Fax: 517-373-8501

State Representative Lisa Brown
Phone: 517-373-1799
Fax: 517-373-8361

State Representative Hugh Crawford
Phone: 517-373-0827
Fax: 517-373-5873

State Representative Eileen Kowall
Phone: 517-373-2616
Fax: 517-373-5843

Monday, January 11, 2010

Online classes - the Flex Schedule

Since September I have been reporting on the E2020 program which was used as the curriculum for summer school in Walled Lake. There have also been classes of E2020 occurring outside of the regular schedule at one high school and during the day in another high school.

WALLED LAKE SCHOOLS is offering the 2 hour per day online classes beginning next year. It is called FLEX TIME SCHEDULE. This is not something the district has to bargain with the unions because it has been allowed by the State Superintendent and the State of Michigan.

What is E2020? E2020 is a company that provides ONLINE LEARNING and sells it to districts. There are many companies that provide this service, but Walled Lake bought licenses to use this company’s programming.

In the meantime, last year the State Superintendent (Mike Flannegan – formerly a superintendent in Farmington) raised the SEAT WAIVER for public schools. This means that school districts can get money for students who are NOT ACTUALLY SITTING IN A WALLED LAKE CLASSROOM WITH A WALLED LAKE TEACHER for up to 2 hours per day. There was also a component of Supt. Flannegan’s plan that allowed school districts to join together to allow students to take their entire day through online classes. Genessee Intermediate Schools and Oakland Schools have joined together and this component of the online learning is available through “Gen-net”, the online learning program for Genessee county schools. Oakland County schools also has joined with “Gen-net”.

Obviously, collecting state money for students who don’t actually need a teacher in front of them saves a school district money because they do not need as many teachers. However, this is an ominous development depending on whether students choose to sign up for these classes.

WALLED LAKE SCHOOLS is offering the 2 hour per day online classes beginning next year. It is called FLEX TIME SCHEDULE. There are over 40 classes students can choose from. This will be available for students in grades 9 through 12; students will sign up for either 1st and 2nd hour online classes and report to school hours 4 through 6, or they will attend school hours 1 through 4 and take online classes hours 5 and 6. They are required to leave the building during their online class time. They will NOT be sitting at a computer in the school building.

There will be .8 FTE or Walled Lake teacher assignment allotted to be Mentors or Teachers of Record for these students. The exact responsibilities of their job and the number of students they may mentor is subject to bargaining and is currently in this process. The WLEA has been told that these mentor teachers will be housed at Central High School. They will, among other things, follow up on all of the students’ progress to be sure they are logging on and completing modules in a timely fashion. The students can come into Central and get help from the mentor teachers if they feel the need, but will then go to their respective high schools for the rest of the day. They might be asked to take benchmark tests.

The school district is not sure how many students will sign up for these classes, but hope that 100 per high school will take advantage of the Flex Schedule.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Developments for the RTTT Legislation

The following is a link to the MEA's press release regarding new developments in talks with the state superintendent and the governor about details of the RTTT legislation.

I continue to maintain my stance that I will not sign the Memorandum of Understanding, nor a letter of intent. The MEA leaders continue to bargain with the state's leaders regarding the RTTT legislation and promise new details on Monday.

In the meantime, Walled Lake's Board of Education voted not to sign the Memorandum of Understanding at their Special Board Meeting last night. Schools boards in Brighton, Hartland, and South Lyon took similar action in the last 24 hours.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Refused to Sign the MOU for the RTTT

In the past month I have written on my blog regarding the Race to the Top legislation, “affectionately” known as RTTT. This legislation was required by the Federal government in order for Michigan to even have the ability to apply for the RTTT funds. As a part of the approval process for Michigan’s application to the Federal government for these funds, the State Superintendent is asking all districts to sign a “MOU”, Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU is to be signed by the major “stakeholders” in a school district, including the superintendent, the school board, and the local bargaining association presidents (in Walled Lake that is me). NOTE: Only 13-15 states will qualify for these funds at the end of the application process.

The Michigan Department of Education is requiring local MOU’s of the RTTT plans to be signed and returned by Thursday, January 7th. However, the legislative plan itself is not even in final form! The MEA president, Iris Salters, has asked for an extension of that deadline until the final plan is available for reading, but at this point the extension has been denied.
As a result, I am being asked to sign Walled Lake’s MOU without seeing the final plan. As you can imagine, signing an open contract without final details being available is not something I can do. I HAVE TOLD OUR SUPERINTENDENT I WILL NOT SIGN THE WALLED LAKE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING.

The MEA’s legal counsel sent a 12 page document to local presidents outlining what is in the current version of the RTTT legislation. One of the more ominous inclusions is language requiring a “rigorous, transparent and fair performance evaluation system” for all teachers and school administrators. Shorthand for this new section would be “merit pay”. This new section (1249) requires that an evaluation process be established as a way to measure student growth, and then used to evaluate teacher job performance “using multiple rating categories that take student growth data into account as a significant factor”. These measures could also be used to “inform decisions on ….promotion, retention, and development…..grant tenure…..removing ineffective teachers and administrators.”

There is also language in this legislation that outlines intervention models for failing schools. The legislation gives a “State School Reform/Redesign Officer” a choice of 4 intervention models. Under these models a building principal and at least half of the staff could be replaced; the school could be shut down and restarted under the management of a charter school operation; and, any contractual seniority system or other contractual work rules “that impede the reform process shall NOT apply to the school.” Thus, any bargaining contract for employees can be set aside.

Lu Battaglieri, the Executive Director of the MEA has informed local presidents that their signature ultimately counts for only 10 points out of 100’s of points allotted per application. So, a local president’s refusal to sign, in all likelihood, will not cause a local school district to lose RTTT money. However, I find it important to protect our hard earned bargaining rights and stand up for the notion that I will not sign a document that is not in final form. I hope that the membership will support my decision.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

REGARDING The RTTT Legislation- from the MEA

MEA Voice Online -- Dec. 22, 2009
Various school reforms make the cut in 'Race to the Top' legislation
Five-bill package passed by Legislature on Saturday puts Michigan in competitive position for additional federal funds
It took marathon sessions this past weekend, but state legislators passed legislation required for Michigan's entry in the "Race to the Top" (RTTT) competition. Passage of these bills clears the way for Michigan to attempt to win millions in additional education funding from the federal government.

It took hard lobbying by MEA members and staff to turn the various RTTT-related proposals around from their original forms, many of which could have been very detrimental to both students and school employees.

The main points of the five-bill package include:

Allowing student test scores to be used as one factor in teacher evaluations. The evaluation process and what other factors should be taken into account are still a subject of bargaining at the local level. The language to implement this in the School Code was lifted from the federal guidelines for RTTT.

Taking over the state's lowest-performing schools and placing them under a reform officer from the Department of Education. See below for more on this provision and the collective bargaining issues surrounding it.

Expanding alternative certification for teachers to fast-track them into classrooms. MEA worked to ensure that these alternative paths maintained high standards for teachers entering the profession, including requiring a 3.0 GPA for admission into a fast-track program.

Allowing approximately 30 new charter schools to open--subject to greater oversight and accountability. High-quality charters could become Schools of Excellence, in turn allowing a new charter to open in their place. Also on the charter school front, 10 additional Schools of Excellence can be opened in the next five years to be run by high-performing charter operators from across the country. MEA stood by our long-standing position of controlled growth of charters in exchange for greater transparency and accountability.

Opening two cyber schools designed primarily for high school dropouts. Student population would range from 400 to 1,000 students each. MEA helped close significant loopholes in this bill that could have allowed unlimited cyber schools with unlimited enrollment and very little accountability for providing a quality education to the students attending them.

Increasing the mandatory attendance -- or dropout -- age from 16 to 18. This policy will begin with this year's sixth-grade class. While MEA believes this change is a good one, it is only a first step. Districts now need to begin the work of keeping students engaged during these extra two years to ensure all students are successful in making it through to graduation. To assist in this process, greater personalization of the rigorous high school curriculum also passed as part of the package.

There are several components of this package of bills that are supportive of MEA members and their rights. For example, the Legislature passed a "Teacher Bill of Rights" to address the need for adequate classroom supplies and books. If teachers don't have what they need to educate students, they can call a state hotline. If the district doesn't provide the supplies and books, the Department of Education will deduct the expense from the district's state aid payments.

Even though bills had been introduced to change teacher tenure, they did not make it into the final package. The argument that the current School Code adequately addressed the requirements of RTTT won out.

In a major victory in the battle against privatization, legislation now requires a school district to get competitive bids before privatizing school support services. This can prevent situations like Durand where the district accepted concessions from the ESP and then turned around and privatized custodians at the very same meeting.

On the other hand, the most disappointing aspect of the final legislation affects members in so-called 'failing schools.' According to the new bill, a 'failing school' is one whose students fall into the bottom 5 percent of proficiency in math and language arts. Under a state takeover of a "failing school," the appointed school reform officer can impose some contract provisions on employees -- with this assault on collective bargaining rights, educators in these buildings are stripped of their voice in helping students.

MEA and AFT-Michigan worked together to help legislators meet every necessary aspect of RTTT. In a joint statement released Saturday, MEA President Iris K. Salters and AFT-Michigan President David Hecker expressed their displeasure with this provision of the law, which had been fended off in negotiations until its re-insertion in the bills at the last minute.

"The overreaching of the Legislature with regard to the collective bargaining rights of employees in struggling schools taken over by a state school reform officer is simply a step too far--and one not needed for RTTT," they said in the statement.

Thorough analysis of all these bills and their implications will be completed by MEA staff during the holiday break and shared with MEA local leaders to help guide them as Michigan takes the next step in competing for RTTT funds -- State Superintendent Mike Flanagan's submission of a state plan to the U.S. Department of Education. That plan is what will implement the various reforms passed by the Legislature -- understanding how that plan is structured is critical to making decisions about RTTT at the local level. MEA is among several statewide school organizations advising members to wait until more details are available before signing on to any local RTTT plans.