Friday, September 30, 2011

Senate Bill 618 – Moves out of the Senate Education Committee to the Full Senate

On Wednesday, Sept. 28th, the Michigan Senate Education Committee passed a substitute amendment that broke the “tie-bar” between Senate Bill 618 and Senate Bill 624. Summarily, SENATE BILL 618 was reported OUT of Committee to the Senate Floor!

Senate Bill 624 mandated “Schools of Choice” for all public school districts in Michigan and was highly contested by the Michigan Association of School Boards. This bill remains in committee.

However, Senate Bill 618 has moved to the floor. The Senate floor will probably hear testimony in the next week and when it will move to a vote of the Senate is not clear at this time. WE MUST TAKE ACTION NOW. THIS BILL CAN TOTALLY CHANGE the terms of your employment, your pay, your benefits, your retirement and MORE!

SB 618 does several things.

1) It eliminates the cap on both charter and cyber schools

2) It allows for the private contracting of teachers in Michigan PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

This bill would allow school boards to contract with a person or business for teaching services!

If you look at the privatization of our substitutes, custodians, and the attempted privatization of our school bus drivers in Walled Lake in the past two years, I believe you can clearly see the significance these changes could have for you and for the education of children!

a) A school district could choose to go to the “lowest bidder” for teacher services. What kind of salaries do you believe this “lowest bidder” might be willing to pay? Although it may not be minimum wage, the salary implications would probably be significant.

What does the "lowest bid" mean to quality education for children?

b) Once a private company employes a teacher, they would no longer have to pay into the State Pension Plan for their employees. That would automatically save school districts up to 25% of their salaried teachers’ costs! It would be irresistible, in my opinion. BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?

1) Your pension benefits in the State Pension Plan could be frozen where they are now.

2) If school districts are no longer paying into the pension system, will that system be sustainable on investment earnings? Will it exist in the future?

3) If you have less than 10 years into the State Pension system before you are privatized, will you be able to ever qualify for that benefit?

c) Health insurance as a privatized teacher – It wouldn’t be a requirement of a private company, or it could be a very high cost/high deductible type of plan

d) You would likely be an “at will” employee, meaning you could be let go for any reason.

What would outsourcing teaching positions to private, for-profit companies mean for the children of Michigan?

1) Would it upsurp local control?

2) Would it end the concept of neighborhood schools and local school systems?

3) Would it mean that children would be taught by only those willing or able to accept a low wage?

4) Would a for-profit corporation really use a decision making process that meant doing what is BEST for children, or would they do what is best for the stake holders or those who receive the profits for their business?

Joe Hune, the Senator from my Livingston County home, feels that privatizing teachers is just an addition to the list of privatized services already existing in public schools. He even believes that privatization would, “….probably even require in some instances a higher threshold of academic achievement, so I don’t see a problem with.”

We need to contact our senators and urge them NOT to pass this law!

We need to also let our friends and neighbors know about this legislation! Many of these people may not understand the effect this legislation could have on the concept of neighborhood and local school districts! The could become non-existent. The investment of their tax dollars in local districts, buildings, and equipment could be passed on to a corporation. Their tax dollars to the state could be used to fund charter schools that have highly specialized agendas that they may not support. Their tax dollars could be used to fund the profits of corporations that join the “education” market more for $$$ than for educational excellence.

Below you will find a link to a site that will refer you to your local senator! Click AND tell your senator to oppose SB 618!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MEA Press Release - 9/28/2011

Senate ‘ed reform’ bills defy voter wishes and expert testimony
MEA opposes current versions of SB 618-624

EAST LANSING, Mich., Sept. 28, 2011 — Outsourcing teachers. Creating unlimited charter and cyber schools. Mandating that schools participate in schools of choice. Providing back-door vouchers to private- and home-schooled students.

All these are reasons why the Michigan Education Association opposes Senate Bills 618-624, the package of so-called “education reform” bills currently under consideration in the Senate Education Committee.

But MEA isn’t alone in that opinion – both public opinion research and expert testimony support the same conclusion. MEA President Steven Cook questions why some lawmakers are continuing to push these ideas regardless of the mounting opposition.

“Voters and experts are telling the Republican-led Legislature to stop this so-called ‘education reform’ because of its devastating impact on our neighborhood schools,” Cook said. “On top of the $1 billion cut from public education earlier this year to pay for a $1.8 billion business tax break, lawmakers are now looking at more ways to siphon funding away from schools that are such a critical part of our communities.

“When are legislators going to start listening and stop granting the wishes of corporate CEOs intent on making profits at the expense of students, taxpayers and schools? These ideas won’t help students. It’s just padding the bottom line of for-profit companies.”

In their current form, SBs 618-624 eliminate the cap on both charter and cyber schools, allow neighborhood schools to be converted to charter schools, remove the ban on privatization of instructional positions, and expand dual enrollment and virtual education programs to cover private- and home-schooled students at taxpayer expense.

“These bills are a direct attack on the very concept of neighborhood schools,” Cook said. “Instead of using taxpayer dollars to improve public schools through research tested methods, some lawmakers want to take those funds and pay private companies to educate our children. Those companies are out to make a profit and aren’t held to the same accountability and transparency standards that our neighborhood schools are.”

A recent poll by EPIC-MRA bears out Cook’s remarks. The survey of 800 Michigan voters found that 68 percent oppose outsourcing teachers to private companies. And while 59 percent supported charter schools overall, 52 percent thought removing the cap on charter schools would have a negative effect on the quality of education.

Expert testimony before the Senate Education Committee led to the same conclusion. Gary Miron, a Western Michigan University education professor and national expert on charter schools, told the panel that charter schools are moving away from their original goals of innovation and local control, and are turning into nothing more than “corporate or franchise schools.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Senate Bills 618-624 - ANOTHER attack on neighborhood schools!

From the MEA!

In the name of "education reform," the Senate introduced a package of seven bills, SB 618-624, that effectively dismantle public education by increasing charter schools, privatizing teachers, mandating schools of choice, expanding cyber schools, using tax dollars to support private school students, and allowing parents to convert their neighborhood school to a charter school.
Please watch the attached Power point for a synopsis of these seven bills.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Reprint of an Interview with Steve Cook, the new MEA president

Copied from:

EAST LANSING – As the leader of the state's largest teachers union, Steven Cook hoped to have a seat at the table when it came time to discuss how to improve Michigan schools.
Instead, the newly installed Michigan Education Association president finds himself locked firmly on the outside while a Legislature that he calls the most polarizing he's ever seen continues to chip away at gains and protections his 155,000-member union accumulated over years.
“If you look at our won-loss record since January, it's not very good,” Cook said this week in his first wide-ranging interview since taking the helm of the union Sept. 1.

“I don't know how we get past the political rancor, because schools should not be a political issue. The question we're asking is: How can we get past all that? There doesn't seem to be a lot of talk about improving the quality of education. It all seems to be about political payback.”
A former community school coordinator in the Lansing district, Cook, 54, is the first nonteacher to be elected president of the union that has seen its clout eroded since voters handed Republicans control of the state House, Senate and governor's office.

In recent months, the union has been powerless to stop once unimaginable changes to the tenure system, finds limits to what it can bargain for, and will see teacher evaluations partly based on student performance on standardized tests.

The Republican majorities also are looking at other moves, such as allowing districts to hire nonunion teachers, erasing the cap on charter schools, and even preventing districts from collecting union dues.

Cook said teachers are unhappy – and he believes that discontent has spread to union members of all stripes and to a growing part of the public.

“It seems as if there is an all-out war,” he said. “Our people feel pounded on, vilified.
“There are two ways people can go. Some of our people want to fight. The other people want to just quit and say, 'We're not going to fight; we're not going to rally; we're just done. Most of the people I hear from are on the other side – they're angry and they want to fight.”

MEA President Steven Cook shared his opinion on personalities and issues
The faction looking for a fight has responded by attempting to recall numerous Republican lawmakers, including Gov. Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, of Monroe, and Rep. Paul Scott, of Grand Blanc, who heads the House Education Committee.
Cook said recall attempts have unquestionably widened the divide with the GOP.
“It's hurt us with the Republican leadership,” he said. “They've got thin skin, and they're out of touch with their constituents. They won't even meet with out lobbyists. We ask why, and it's because of the recalls.”

Cook said there is a perception that the MEA is running all the recalls, but he swears each was the result of grassroots groundswells. The union has starting spending and offering manpower, especially in the campaign to oust Scott, who represents a union-friendly Flint suburb and who Cook said treated Iris Salters, his MEA predecessor, disrespectfully.

“Our people are frustrated and angry and lashing out,” Cook said. “And it's not just the teachers. They're being joined by the pipe-fitters and the electricians and everyone else. They've had it, and they're asking: 'What can I do?' They come to us and ask us to back up the money truck, which we don't really have.

“There's a downside. Will they recall enough people to flip the House or Senate? No. Will they get the million signatures they need to get the governor on the ballot? That's tough to do. But if I go out there and tell our members not to do these things, you're going to be able to measure my time in office with a stopwatch.”

The union backed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Virg Bernero, but leaders met with Snyder during the campaign. The union also introduced its own reform plan – the A+ Agenda – that suggested changes in tenure, evaluations and other areas.

But Cook said the A+ Agenda “never got a fair hearing” and called Snyder “a big disappointment” who doesn't seem to be in control of what his party members are doing in the Capitol chambers.

“We knew the House and the Senate would be polarizing, but we didn't realize it would be this bad,” Cook said. “If a good idea comes from a Democrat, it won't get heard.
“We've tried to work with people on the other side of the aisle. But the Republicans don't look too kindly on people who leave the reservation. We have friends in the Republican party, but they're afraid of the repercussions.”

Looking forward, Cook said the union will continue to reach out and advocate for members. A governor's commission is creating the guidelines to determine a teacher evaluation system, and he's hoping for a seat at the table.

He said the union also will push to restore some of the state aid that was cut this year. He said he also wants districts to keep class sizes smaller by adding more teachers, which he said research shows to be effective, even if it is expensive.

“Many of the things they are pushing, the rational is that they save money,” Cook said. “It's not about improving education, it's about saving money. If cheaper is always better, we haven't seen that.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

Data Presented to Governor regarding Charter Schools - "Virtually no difference"


Schools Hope Data Stalls Charter Cap Lift

Gov. Rick SNYDER said he is data driven, so the education lobby is providing data that it hopes will convince him to pull back his plan to lift the cap on charter schools now pending in the Senate.

The Tri-County Alliance (TCA) representing 86 school districts in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties has fired off a letter to the executive office contending, "No quantitative data exists that shows parental choice improves student learning" and the TCA leader suggested "those responsible for public policy must hold to the standard of examining all data regarding charter schools and choice, rather than promoting politically expedient agendas that could negatively impact Michigan's children."

The data used by the group includes a report by Western Michigan University (WMU) Professor Gary Miron, who argues charter advocates "quickly reinterpret research and shape a message to fit their needs rather than the long-term interests of the movement."

Tom Svitkovitch, who runs the Alliance, writes in strong language that there should not be a rush to judgment on this issue when the 2010 MEAP scores show "virtually no difference between charter schools and community-governed public schools . . .

"It is disingenuous to promote charter schools as the only quality choice for parents and children," Svitkovitch wrote.

The Miron report also looked at the student population in charters and found "evidence of both white flight and minority flight" into those schools which results in parents selecting schools where "their children will experience less diversity."

The five-page correspondence obtained by MIRS from an Alliance source asserted that the Governor and Legislature "refrain from placing charter schools on a partisan pedestal of education reform."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A message from the MEA President regarding NEW attacks against public schools - 4 new senate bills!

Newly elected MEA President Steve Cook speaks to the membership! CLICK on the link below:

More information to come in the coming week.

Friday, September 16, 2011

HB 636 passes and moves on to the Senate - Help!

Dear WLEA members,
I am writing to ask your help.

Of immediate concern is the SB 636 which would prohibit public school employers from deducting employee union dues. The state house passed its version yesterday. We need members to contact their senators TODAY and tell them that this bill does nothing to improve the quality of education, save school districts' money, create jobs or put more $ in members' pockets.

You can contact your State Senator using this link:

Please use your home emails and private phones.
Thank you!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bill to prohibit union payroll dues deduction on a fast track

Posted on MEA 09/14/11 at 9:37am

HB 4929, which prohibits the deduction of union dues by public school employers, is on a fast track since it was moved from the House Oversight, Ethics and Reform Committee yesterday. It has been referred to second reading on the House Floor and may move to third reading today with final passage on Thursday.

Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) introduced a similar bill--SB 636--on Sept. 8.
Introduced by Rep. John Haveman (R-Holland), HB 4929 was approved on a 4-2 party-line vote. In support of his own bill, Haveman testified that schools shouldn’t be in the business of collecting dues. The bill specifically says the dues deduction is a “prohibited contribution to the administration of a labor organization.” The Michigan Chamber of Commerce endorsed the bill but did not testify.

Ironically, after previously voting to force school employees to pay 20 percent of their health care and imposing a 3 percent tax on their pension, Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) says the bill would mean teachers would have more money in their pocket.

MEA is joined by other labor organizations opposing the bill. This is another unprecedented attack on school employees. Payroll deduction by a school district is not mandatory. It is a long-held practice that was bargained by local associations and their school districts as a matter of convenience. The cost of payroll deduction is minimal; making the necessary payroll system changes, however, will probably create an added cost to school districts.

HB 4929 does not put money in the pockets of school employees—it becomes an added financial burden. Personal time and budgets will now have to include the cost of writing checks and mailing dues money.

Contact your legislators immediately!
(Please use home emails and private phones)
1)Tell them this kind of legislation does nothing to enhance education or improve student achievement.
2 )It does not create jobs.
3) It is just another in a long list of anti-union, anti-school employee, anti-middle class attacks.

Representative Hugh Crawford – R, Wixom
Phone: (517) 373-0827

Representative Eileen Kowall – R, White Lake
Phone: (517) 373-2616