Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday's Det News Editorial Attacks Teacher Pay....AGAIN!

My thoughts about the Nov. 21st Detroit News Editorial - (Links to the article can be found in the next post below this one)

Yesterday’s Detroit News Opinion section once again attacked teachers. I have to tell you I don’t understand why we as teachers are constantly under attack. But this particular editorial was particularly sickening to me as it presented half truths and non truths as fact.

It also quoted Michael Van Beek as an education researcher. For those of you who don’t know, Michael Van Beek writes for the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy. It is decisively anti-teacher. Michael Van Beek is highly critical of teacher pay and teacher health benefits. He wants teachers to pay at least 20% toward their health benefits because that’s what the “private sector” does. I wonder if that is really true. As an educational researcher, Michael Van Beek “analyzed” the WLEA’s contract and published it to his Mackinaw Center site. First of all, in his write up, he stated that our WLEA had over 20 steps……..not true. Also, at the end of the pdf copy of our contract, on his site, a document was attached that was from the support staff’s contract. It was a tentative agreement regarding their new contract which had lawyer initials on it. How do you suppose he got that? And did Mr. Van Beek think that was part of our contract, really?

Back to the editorial…….The premise of the editorial was that teachers could save their salaries by accepting a merit pay system. Quite frankly, in all the educational research I have found and received from the MEA, nothing exists that links merit pay to student achievement. Practically speaking, if you think about this concept of merit pay and teacher pay, you can probably come up with many of the problems it involves on your own. While teachers in the classroom and their educational practices are of paramount importance, can you always control ALL of the factors that influence student learning? How many of those factors fall outside of your sphere of influence? How would student growth be determined? By Benchmark tests, by MEAP tests, by what??? Is it fair to judge your effectiveness on student scores alone? Should your pay be judged on a student’s one day of performance? If the MEAP is used in the fall, are you really the teacher whose “work” is being reflected in the students’ scores, or is it last year’s teacher? If you teach music or art or anything but English or Math, should your pay be calculated on a student’s scores on the MEAP?

This concept of Merit Pay is now being required by the Race to the Top law that was passed through our legislature last year so the Michigan Education Department could apply for Federal Race to the Top Funds. (Michigan did not qualify.) However, it does not have to be the whole determination of a teacher’s pay. At this time each individual district can bargain what student growth is and how much it needs to be and how much “pay” will be used as “merit”. But for the Detroit News to say that it is the answer to the economy of Michigan is beyond my understanding.

As teachers we are responsible for the training and education of all future citizens of the world. Everyone wants the children of today to be responsible, capable adults willing and able to make their way as successful human beings and members of society. Is there no greater goal in the world? AND YET, this article criticizes teachers who earn $83,000 a year and a handful (300) who earn over $100,000. I think that is a pretty low salary for the people who are expected to educate and prepare children for the future. AND as I type this, I sit in front of the TV and watch Brett Favre moaning that he has to go home for the season since the Vikings won’t make it to the playoffs. How many teacher salaries does he make all on his own? And, since the Vikings aren’t going to the playoffs, perhaps he should not earn as much this year. AND perhaps, since he doesn’t work but 3 months of the year (I mean….holy moly….they had to go south to beg him to come play this year), perhaps they should divide his pay by 3. And…..since he…..I’m going to stop now…..

Please read one WALLED LAKE TEACHER'S response below (besides my own!) to this Editorial!!!

Lisa's Response to the DET NEWS and YOU CAN WRITE TOO!!!!!

Below you will find Lisa Ellis's response to the Detroit News Editorial on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010.
Thank you, Lisa, for allowing me to share this with the members!

If you want to read the editorial, please CLICK HERE!

If you would like to respond to this editorial yourself by emailing the Detroit News at

Here's Lisa's letter:

My heart sank, again, Sunday morning as I read the Detroit News Editorial about teachers. Once again, it has been pointed out that Michigan must balance the budget by cutting the wages and benefits of teachers to better align with the private sector. My husband is a firefighter (his department is also facing cuts) and I have been a teacher for 33 years. I’m the daughter and great niece of teachers as well. I have a Master’s Degree and am certified in 2 areas of special education. My husband and I have both worked second jobs at various times of our careers to pay for college for our 3 children – although I receive a paycheck year round, it is because I have my salary spread out that way. For most of my career, I did not receive any of my pay during months that I did not work. I arrive at work an hour before my work day begins, and usually stay another hour after my work day ends. I attend and help with many evening functions that our students and parents benefit from. Like my colleagues, I attend trainings, bring work home, and spend hundreds of dollars each year on supplies that will help my students learn.

You compare our benefits and wages to the private sector, but I cannot think of any other profession where the employees work far beyond the work day without compensation, where they attend meetings and conferences, science fairs, literacy nights, ice-cream socials, dances and concerts, and tutoring. It takes hours each week to prepare lessons that stimulate thinking, allow for differentiated instruction, and align with the district and state curriculum expectations.

Being a teacher has been tremendously gratifying. I love the moment that a 5 year old reads his first word and the pride on the face of a 6 year old who has just written a story that she has shared with her classmates. I am passionate about helping my special education students achieve their goals and I feel full of hope for every child that walks into my classroom. I work really hard at what I do, and I’m very good at it – the fact that my job is exciting, fun and rewarding is icing on the cake. I am proud of who I am and what I do for a living, and so it hurts my heart to be blamed for budget problems, for earning the wage I do, and for my benefits. When I hire a plumber or a house painter or when I go to my eye doctor or my car mechanic I go to the best person I can, and when they give me the bill, I pay it knowing that I got what I paid for. I do not begrudge those people for how they earn their living – they’ve learned their skill and have a right to charge me for it. Teaching is not volunteer work, although most teachers also do engage in volunteer work. This is how we support our families.

I’d love to show you my classroom – you keep trying to make it about the budget, but teaching isn’t about the money. It’s about the children.

Lisa Ellis
Walled Lake School District

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kuipers Proposes Bills to Change Tenure Law and Control

ALERT! - I received this from MEA's Lobbyist, Dave Stafford, yesterday evening. It concerns legislation that was proposed by Sen. Kuipers from Holland. These two bills will have the effect to 1) change your protections under the tenure law, and 2) grossly change the state's new teacher evaluation requirements under the RTTT law by requiring that student growth account for at least 50% of a teacher's evaluation. There are indications from the MEA Economist, Ruth Beier, that these two bills will be TIE-BARRED to the amendments needed to guarantee Michigan gets it share of the EduJob Funds (see yesterdays blogpost)!

**Lansing Office - 517-373-6920 or 877-KUIPERS
Tell him to take care of business and pass funding for schools, which the legislature previously screwed up, and leave teacher evaluation up to people who know what they are talking about!

From Dave Stafford, MEA Lobbyist -
Two bills were introduced in the Michigan Senate today and taken up in the Senate Education Committee today to severely restrict the tenure rights of Michigan teachers and remove many of the due process provisions that currently protect them on the one hand, and to create artificial mandates regarding the standards on which they are to be evaluated.

SB 1581 proposes several changes to the Michigan Teacher Tenure Act:
* In her/his last year of probation the teacher is not deemed to complete probation unless s/he receives a rating of "effective" from the administration.
* The bill removes language that says failure to evaluate the teacher in her/his last year of probation is evidence that s/he is successful and replaces it with language that says failure to evaluate is NOT evidence that s/he is successful.
* Regardless of whether a teacher in her/his last year of probation is notified 60 days before the end of the school year that s/he will be terminated, the teacher shall not be employed in the following year unless s/he receive a rating of "effective" under the evaluation system called for in SB 1582 (below).
* For teachers WHO ARE ON TENURE the bill provides that they will go back to serve a four year probationary period if they receive "ineffective" ratings under the evaluation system called for in SB 1582 (below). THESE TEACHERS WOULD BE DEEMED TO BE PROBATIONARY FOR ALL PURPOSES UNDER THE TENURE ACT, INCLUDING DISCIPLINE AND DISCHARGE. SB 1582 proposes to amend Sec. 1249 of the School Code dealing with evaluations to make several changes:

* Add language that each teacher and school administrator be evaluated by a system that "rates the teacher as either effective' or 'ineffective'".
* It takes out language that says the evaluation will use multiple rating categories that take into account student growth "as a significant factor" and replace it with a provision, "in a way that ensures that at least 50% of the annual evaluation is based on student growth."
* It proposes that state assessments must be used unless there is no state assessment in which case local assessments may be used to measure student growth. * The bill proposes that the evaluation system appeal process provides for an appeal to either the district superintendent or to the ISD superintendent (or their designee).

It appears that the Senate will try to move these bills this week in order to be ready to push for their passage as part of the final negotiations on the re-appropriation of the Federal EduJobs funding that was partially vetoed by Gov. Granholm last month.

ME AGAIN - This is even more outrageous......the Legislature meets on today, November 10th and then takes a two week recess. They return on Tuesday November 30th and are scheduled to meet Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (11/30, 12/1 & 12/2) for sure.

**Lansing Office - 517-373-6920 or 877-KUIPERS
Tell him to take care of business and pass funding for schools, which the legislature previously screwed up, and leave teacher evaluation up to people who know what they are talking about!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Legislature has to FIX EduJob Funding Fiasco

Good Morning Fellow WLEA Members –
I don’t know about you, but I believe I have a post-election exhaustion or let –down or malaise……not quite sure what to call it. In fact, I don’t even want to talk about it! Right now, anyway. However, there are a few things that should be moving ahead in the next 7 or 8 weeks and we need to keep our eyes and ears open!

About a week ago, I attended an MEA Training session called “Tough Times Bargaining BOOT CAMP”. Although we are not in a tough times bargaining at this point, there are TWO issues confronting us in the near future! Today I will tell you about the issues effecting school funding!

Edu Job Money (Obama Bucks – Federal Ed Jobs Program)
Michigan submitted their application for “FEDERAL ED JOBS PROGRAM” (commonly called “Obama Bucks” or “Edu Jobs Fund”) in September. States could choose to distribute the funds according to Title I populations or according to the state’s “primary funding formula.” Michigan checked the box to say they would use their “primary funding formula”. This formula is basically a 2x (2 times) funding formula. Meaning essentially that districts under a certain per pupil funding level would receive twice as much as districts above that same per pupil funding level. Walled Lake is above the cut off point for 2X funding.

On October 1st, the Michigan legislature, using the Edu Job money, allocated a flat $154 per pupil to Michigan school districts. They did not follow their “primary funding formula”, nor did they allocate the funds according to Title I students. They did allocate $66 million from another funding source according to the state’s primary funding formula (schools received either $23 or $46 per pupil).

The Michigan legislature ignored a key guideline in the funding requirements. The EduJobs bill made it clear the states could not "supplant" money that should come out of a state's education budget. Since the base foundation grant is supposed to include the $154 per pupil, Michigan could not use the federal money to replace or "supplant" it. The federal government sent a letter to the Governor notifying her that the Michigan legislature did not follow the rules. If Governor Granholm had not vetoed the $154 per pupil restoration, Michigan would have lost ALL the federal funds allocated to the state under the EduJobs bill. Michigan's funds would have been redistributed to the other 49 states and Michigan would have received $0. The Michigan Legislature will need to return to Lansing now that the election is over and change their application. In most likelihood they will need to follow the 2x formula to be able to receive the Federal money.

What does this mean for Walled Lake?
Under the $154 per student plan, Walled Lake would have receive approximately $2.7 million dollars. Under the 2X formula, Walled Lake will receive approximately $1.7 million dollars.

Oddly, Walled Lake is considered a “rich” district….receiving $8635 per pupil under ideal conditions. Compare this to other “RICH” districts – Southfield receives $11, 291 per pupil; Farmington receives $10, 365 per pupil; Birmingham receive $12, 244 per pupil. How can we be considered a “rich” district?????