Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Bit of Good News from the House of Representatives

The paradox at the state capital continues!

This evening Dave Stafford, one of the MEA lobbyists, sent out a communication which indicated that the Michigan House of Representatives had passed its version of the 2010-2011 state school aid bill, SB1163. This bill also includes appropriations for the current school year, 2009-2010.

The House's version of the bill restores $65.00 per pupil of the $165.00 per pupil funding cut from 2009-2010. Their version of the bill appears to restore all or most of the cuts from this year in next year's funding.

The bill must now go to a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of SB1163.

The not so good news: As has been reported in the papers and in yesterday's blog, revenues for the State Aid Fund are well above what was expected, while revenues for the general fund were considerably less than projected. Dave Stafford reports that efforts are mounting in the Legislature and the governor's office to raid the school aid fund to balance the other budgets. At this time it appears as if they plan to transfer the entire state aid for community colleges from the general fund to the school aid fund. This would totally eat up all of the increased school aid revenue. Thus, the cuts made to education would continue for years to come.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


5 percent pay cut proposal headed to full Senate

The Senate Reforms and Restructuring Committee today passed Senate Joint Resolution U, a proposed constitutional amendment to cut the pay of all public employees in the state by 5 percent. The proposal would also mandate a three-year wage freeze.
THIS WOULD BE A CUT ON TOP of the 3% TAX voted into law last week. This could mean a TOTAL OF 8% CUT in WAGES!!! FOR 3 years!!!

This is the path a constitutional amendment would follow to become law:
If Senate Joint Resolution U receives a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House as required, it will go on the August primary ballot for voters to decide. If approved by voters, it would be implemented Oct. 1.

This is paradoxal as just yesterday it was announced that state sales taxes are rising and would cause the State School Aid Fund to have over $200 million more than anticipated. At the same time, Senator Bishop (the Senate Majority Leader) was talking of giving that very same money to municipalities. Other Senate leaders were talking of taking the new funds from the State School Aid Fund and moving it to the General Fund to cover shortages there. I believe this 5% wage cut proposal is PART of that plan. What better way to save school districts money, while raiding SCHOOL FUNDS. Again, taxing the school employees.

As I have thought about this more this evening, the fact that a group of legislators can propose legislating away the rights of employees to negotiate and contract with their employers smacks at the most sacredly held components of a democracy. If a government can obliterate thousands of public employee contracts today, is it not obliterating the very foundation of the constitution of our country?

Senate leaders may try to pass the measure soon, so your URGENT help is needed to defeat this proposal. Please contact your state senator TODAY and tell them to vote NO. Please do this from your home emails or phones!

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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

MEA Voice Online

MEA Voice Online -- May 18, 2010
All titles and blue print below are active links to more information - JUST CLICK!
FAQs about new retirement law
Are you eligible for the recently passed retirement incentive? When will the 3 percent "school employee tax" start to hit your paycheck? What does this mean for new employees starting this fall? Get the answers to some frequently asked questions about the retirement legislation passed last week by the Legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Enough is Enough!
Attend a local rally next Monday to protest attacks, demand funding
If you hadn't had enough of the attacks on school employees before last week's retirement vote, you probably have now! Make your voice heard -- attend one of more than 40 local rallies taking place across the state on the evening of Monday, May 24. To stop lawmakers from continuing to balance the budget on your back, we must demand adequate, equitable, stable funding for public education.
In this election year, it's critical that we show our strength in numbers to politicians who will soon hit the campaign trail claiming to be pro-education -- it's time to make them keep their promises. Be part of the thousands of MEA members who will mobilize on Monday to attend local rallies. And mark your calendar now to attend a massive statewide rally at the Capitol on June 24 -- more details will be coming soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

EDITED FRIDAY AM - Legislature expected to vote on pension reform tonight

Good Morning - This red "piece" is an edit of my post from last night regarding the House and Senate action on the "Retirement Bill". IT WAS PASSED BY THE HOUSE AND SENATE, BUT WILL NEED TO GO TO THE GOVERNOR FOR A SIGNATURE! Here is a portion of a press release from Iris Salters, MEA President, this morning:
"The retirement legislation passed this morning by Michigan Senate and House lawmakers is an ill-conceived plan that will not deliver savings to cash-strapped school districts. The meager ‘incentive’ included in the bill will fail to entice anyone not already planning to retire to do so. In fact, it will cost school districts far more money than any estimated savings because the numbers of potential retirees who might take advantage is grossly exaggerated."

Me again: If you were planning to retire in the next year or two, the 1.6 multiplier, as well as the 1.55 multiplier for the "80" rule, is a good deal. And, if a number of people take it, it will mean more jobs for people who are not of retirement age.
However-----using myself as a demonstration ----I have 31 years in as an educator. If I work 3 more years, I will earn more at the 1.5 multiplier in 3 years than I would if I retired today with the 1.6 multiplier. I had planned to work 3 more years anyway. I will earn approximately 40% more in salary over those 3 years, so this is NOT an incentive for me.
Those of us still working will have to pay 3% of our salaries to the state. It does NOT go into an individual account for each of us.
Please read the details below from last night to find out more about the lack of a guarantee for medical benefits in retirement and the "hybrid" retirement plan for future educators.


  • This legislation has an increased multiplier for retirees - GOOD!
  • This legislation has serious implications for those who do NOT retire!
  • The Senate has made it clear they do not want to guarantee retiree health benefits in the future!!!

    Lawmakers have apparently reached a deal on a retirement plan that would hurt thousands of school employees.

    At this time, MEA members are urged to IMMEDIATELY contact their state legislators to urge them to vote NO on Senate Bill 1227. Please also tell them to vote NO on House Bill 4073, legislation that would create an insurance trust.

    A vote is expected late tonight or during the night, according to legislative sources and media reports.

    The "compromise" includes:

    A 1.6 percent multiplier (up from the standard 1.5 percent) for those currently eligible to retire, if they retire this summer.

    A 1.55 percent multiplier for those who are not currently eligible but who meet the rule of 80 -- that is, their age and years of service total 80 -- if they retire this summer.

    All who do not retire will pay an extra 3 percent of salary above what they currently pay toward retirement and this money will be put in a trust set up by House Bill 4073.

    House Bill 4073 will be amended to indicate that NO ONE IS GUARANTEED HEALTH BENEFITS IN RETIREMENT.

    Employees hired after July 1 will be placed in an inferior "hybrid" retirement plan proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

    Here's why your legislators should vote NO on the conference report for Senate Bill 1227 and on House Bill 4073:

    This plan attempts to balance the school aid budget on the backs of employees. There will still be massive cuts in state aid to schools next year.

    The continued erosion of the number of employees participating in the system because of outsourcing and privatization and the exclusion of charter school employees will continue to drive up the contribution rate in future years.

    The proposal places future employees in a vastly inferior retirement plan and forces them to pay almost 10 percent of their salary to that plan.

    All school employees will be required to pay a tax of 3 percent, which totals almost $2,600 a year for experienced teachers.

    PLEASE ACT NOW! Don't wait! Your legislators need to hear from you.

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, May 10, 2010

Race to the TOP - The Second Application

As reported by Iris Salters, President of the MEA, this afternoon.

The Michigan Education Association today issued a letter of support to the state’s second Race to the Top application, signing on to a plan that has the potential to improve the quality of education for every student in Michigan.

“This second application process was markedly different from the first, “said MEA President Iris K. Salters. “The outcome reflects a much more collaborative, useful plan for schools to implement, should they so choose.”
\Local school districts and local education associations will make their own decisions about whether or not to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), but MEA is recommending that its local units give careful consideration to supporting this application.

“Many of the concerns we had with the first application have been addressed because we, along with other professional organizations, were able to participate in the crafting of the RTTT plan,” Salters said. “This meant that the voices of the dedicated employees who work in our schools—and know best what our students need—were heard and valued.”

This collaboration resulted in a much stronger application, which will place Michigan in a more competitive position in this second round.

“Still, we must remember that although any federal funding awarded through Race to the Top will help our schools in these tough economic times, it will not solve our long-term budget problems,” Salters said. “It is imperative that Michigan lawmakers work to fix the fundamental flaws in the way public education is funded in order to ensure the highest quality education for every student.”

Local associations have until May 20 to decide whether to sign off on the state’s Race to the Top application.

You may review the Race to the Top Phase 2 Application on the Michigan Department of Education’s Web site at We will need to review the obligations a school district must meet should it receive any funds because some of those obligations may impact our local contract.

A Non-Report on Retirement

Sad to say, the legislature nor the conference committee met on Friday. Nor from any reports, have they reconvened today. Hopefully tomorrow.

I have read over the weekend at least two different columnists who are blaming the lack of action on the Democrats. They are being accused of doing the will of the MEA. One of the items that the Republicans seem to find most offensive is that the Democrats want money put into a trust that will be used to guarantee future health care for retirees. The Democratic plan also includes a requirement that private companies who employee workers in the public schools (i.e., bus drivers, custodians), must pay into the MPSERS fund for their employees. Quite frankly, a huge monetary gap is being created in the retirement fund because the amount of money being paid into the fund becomes smaller with every group that is privatized.

The Republicans are talking about a 1.6 multiplier and a 1.55 multiplier for additional employees with the "80 and out" provision previously proposed by the House Democrats. So, perhaps they are coming closer. Perhaps tomorrow we will find out.

Regardless, a "full time" legislature that meets 3 days a week and earns full health benefits after 6 years of service, AND then lobs criticism at teachers for wanting a guarantee of health care in their retirement, seems to be a group that is fraught with hypocrisy and untruths. But do they care???

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SB1227 News from Tuesday ON Wednesday

I have been waiting today to see if I would receive any updates on the talks between the House and the Senate regarding SB1227. I have heard nothing at this point.

Yesterday the MEA Lobbyist reported that the Senate adjourned before noon because they didn't feel anything was going to happen........ The conference committee was to meet today at 9:30 AM. (Governor Granholm's "final" deadline was Tuesday, although she planned to have an active role in Wednesday's talks. I know...what is a deadline then?). The new deadline may be June 30th.

In Tuesday's talks, Senator Jud Gilbert (R) was proposing a 1.55 multiplier, while the House's offer was a 1.6 multiplier. The House also wants the employees' 3 percent contribution to go to a health care trust, which would guarantee coverage for retirees. Matt Marsden, Senator Bishop's spokesman, says that would create a $40 billion liability for the state. House Speaker Andy Dillon disputes those figures.

Senator Bishop is calling the House's retirement plan an "entitlement", not a reform and talks about it being like "blowing up a Christmas tree".

Monday, May 3, 2010

More News on "Retirement Legislation"

More News on the “Retirement” Legislation

Wednesday and Thursday of last week were spent in negotiations between House and Senate members of the Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the two versions of SB 1227. As of late Thursday everyone had gone home, although another meeting of the Conference Committee could happen today (Monday, May 3rd).

The committee has missed Governor Granholm’s deadline for making a decision on the retirement issues, leaving potential retirees not knowing what to do. The Governor’s press secretary, Liz Boyd, released a statement last Thursday questioning whether the legislature was truly interested in doing real reforms.

In the last proposals made on Thursday, the Senate made a “final” offer that included a 1.55 multiplier, while the House Democrats were pushing for a 1.6 multiplier with a guarantee for healthcare for all who had paid into the system. The House believes their plan will save money over a one year period and send dollars to the local school districts and that by having MPSER members pay 3 percent more into the trust fund would address the concerns of an “unfunded mandate” being touted by the Senate Republicans.

CALL AND OR WRITE THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS LISTED BELOW! By CLICKING on their names, you will be taken to the Legislative Contact site offered by the MEA. You can write them from that site or get their phone numbers.

DO IT TODAY!!!! Tell these legislators to PASS THE HOUSE VERSION OF SB 1227! Or as it is called by the House, H-9.

Members of the conference committee include
Rep. Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing),
Rep. Martin Griffin (D-Jackson),
Rep. James Bolger (R-Marshall),
Sen. Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids),
Sen. Judson Gilbert (R-Algonac), and
Sen. Deborah Cherry (D-Burton).

Please use your home emails to contact the legislators!