Wednesday, November 30, 2011

House Educ. Committee votes to lift caps on Charter Schools without requiring many of the same requirements placed upon public schools.

After being on vacation for 2 weeks, today the House Education Committee approved the House version of Senate Bill 0618. This was the bill that was part of the Senate Education Reform Package proposed earlier in the fall (please check earlier blog posts for more information). SB 0618 is the piece of the package of bills that lifts the cap on charter schools that can be authorized by community colleges and state universities. Michigan already has the sixth-highest number of charter schools in the nation. The bill’s critics have also noted that the bill places no controls on quality nor requires many of the mandates enforced on public schools, despite receiving public money.

Democrats offered more than 15 amendments and only one was approved. Those shot down included:

1) requiring charters to provide transportation,

2) requiring operators to show "demonstrated performance" before opening new charters,

3) reducing charter authorizers' profits,

4) putting reporting language back in for cyber schools,

5) requiring any new charter school authorized by a school district to recognize the collective bargaining agreement that

applies to other employees of the chartering district

6) and limiting where charters can locate.

I have “bolded” some of the most detrimental pieces that were EXCLUDED from the bill.

a) Why shouldn’t a charter school have to prove their performance before being allowed to open more charter schools?

b) Why should chartering agencies be allowed to make a profit from public tax monies?

c) Why shouldn’t cyber schools be required to report student achievement just as public schools must

d) If a school district charters a school, the teachers in that school are no longer recognized as union employees and don’t particularly have to receive the same wage as other teachers in that district? Can you imagine how this might be used? Isn’t this just out and out giving the school districts a tool to literally BUST the union? Bust employee rights? Bust and lower employee pay and benefits?

From reports from the MIRS New Agency, the tenor of today’s “hearings” in the House Education Committee were far from being termed civil and once again highlighted the bi-partisanship that dominates our state government to the point of impeding democracy. For example:

1) The House Education Committee has a new chair, who is Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and his first order of business was replacing a current Republican committee member, Rep. Holly Hughes of Montague, who has not expressed public support for SB 0618.

2)The following is a direct quote from the MIRS report:

It started with Minority Vice Chair Lisa BROWN (D-Bloomfield Twp.) expressing confusion when McMillin decided not to take up amendments in chronological order.

"Last time I checked, the minority party didn't get to set the agenda," McMillin informed her. McMillin later cut off Rep. Rudy HOBBS (D-Lathrup Village) who was expressing concern about the quality of charter schools. McMillin said that public schools have been failing for years.

That was the last straw for Rep. Doug Geiss (D – Taylor), who blasted McMillin for opining on every amendment and not letting Democrats speak. Geiss suggested that he might want to "pass the gavel on."

Hobbs called the hearing a "charade" and said SB 0618 is "taking a cap off of an experiment. This is not serious deliberation in my view," he declared.

Hobbs and McMillin then scrapped over the Democrat's amendment to have charter operators' information on the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), which failed. This time McMillin accused Hobbs of cutting in on him.
"If your members are going to interrupt me, I'm not going to call on them," McMillin told Brown. Lisa Brown said Hobbs was just trying to explain the bill.

Geiss complained about companies in education just for the profit motive. McMillin said those were "outrageous charges."

The Senate education reform package that still needs to be considered by the House includes legislation lifting the cap on cyber schools, increasing public school opportunities for private and homeschooled students, more opportunities for high schoolers to dual enroll in community colleges and a process for failing public schools to convert to charters.

These will also be considered by the House Education Committee and will soon move to the House floor. These bills have already been passed by the Senate last month and are a part of the GOP’s education reform package and legislative top priorities.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mackinac Center says lobbying efforts against public sector bargaining "in practical terms means no more MEA"

EAST LANSING, Mich., Nov. 28, 2011 — A Monday story in the Grand Rapids Press brought to light emails between State Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and leadership from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in which the Center’s senior legislative analyst, Jack McHugh, advocates for ending collective bargaining for Michigan’s public sector employees and “in practical terms means no more MEA.”

The emails from early June (available at show the intense lobbying role the Mackinac Center played earlier this year in the passage of a hard cap on health insurance premiums for public employees. But these emails also clearly show the anti-union, anti-MEA bias that has been a hallmark of the Mackinac Center’s work for years – and the influence they have over politicians like McMillin, who was recently named as the new chair of the House Education Committee.

“The Mackinac Center likes to pretend it’s a non-partisan think tank, but the public deserves to know who they really are and what they really think,” said MEA President Steven Cook. “For years, we’ve been saying that their real agenda is the elimination of collective bargaining rights and the destruction of unions – and now they’ve said it, in black and white.”

The Mackinac Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that, according to their most recent filings with the IRS, does not engage in lobbying activities. These emails certainly call that assertion into question – something the Center’s deep-pocketed backers should take into account.

“Based only on the limited reporting requirements the Mackinac Center has to follow, we know that foundations representing conservative individuals and corporate special interests have given millions to the Mackinac Center to push policy positions and develop pseudo-science ‘research’ to back up their beliefs,” Cook said. “Politicians who have that faux-research foisted upon them should know what the Center’s real agenda is – and whose interests they’re representing.”

A great example of the questionable quality of Mackinac Center research came earlier this year when a report from the Economic Policy Institute on the economic impacts of so-called “Right to Work” laws highlighted the lack of appropriate social science controls in the Mackinac Center’s research on the topic. The EPI research by Dr. Gordon Lafer (which can be found at, controlled for more than 40 variables that could influence the results – the Mackinac Center’s work controlled for none. Similar debunking of Mackinac Center “research” is done regularly by the Great Lakes Center’s “Think Twice Think Tank Review” project.

“We hope there is a renewed call, in light of the disturbing language in these emails, for more transparency from the Mackinac Center about where their funding comes from and more critical analysis of the policy positions their research points to,” Cook said. “And we sincerely hope that Rep. McMillin and others in the legislature think twice before deferring to the Mackinac Center’s ‘non-partisan’ expertise in the future.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23rd, 2011 -
VIDEO Message from MEA President Steve Cook
(3:11 long)

Click here to view video!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday Election News!


Paul Scott - R, Grand Blanc.......a former Michigan House Representative and former Co-Chair of the Education Committee in the House was RECALLED in yesterday's election in the 51st district.

In Ohio - The state's new collective bargaining law was DEFEATED by the people of Ohio! From Yahoo News!; "In a political blow to GOP Gov. John Kasich, voters handily rejected the law, which would have limited the bargaining abilities of 350,000 unionized public workers."

Monday, November 7, 2011

Letters to Editor from a WLEA member!

Letters to the FREEP editor from 2 MEA members! (Sat., 11/5/11)

Waiting isn't an option
I believe that the Michigan Education Association is spot-on with this recall effort. Since last spring, public education in Michigan and across the country has been under assault from tea party and Republican governors and lawmakers. I offer three examples below to illustrate my point:

• The introduction of SB729, the so-called right to teach, which affects only members of the MEA and no other labor group.

• Michelle Rhee's visit to Lansing last spring, touting school reform. Rhee's viewpoints are based on opinion, and no studies exist that prove that basing a teacher's evaluation on student test scores will help improve public education. Also, Rhee is under scrutiny for high erasure marks on standardized test scores in Washington, D.C., and she fired hundreds of teachers during her tenure in D.C.

• The Legislature's cut of close to $1 billion to public education earlier this year.
Public school employees are fed up with the abuse they have been subjected to and cannot afford to wait one more second to take action to preserve their noble, although often thankless, profession.

Dave Waltz
Commerce Township

In response to Brian Dickerson's Oct. 30 column (" Michigan has no time for recall nonsense"): When legislators legislate the opposite of how they campaigned, their constituents have every right to remove them from office.

Certain candidates recently campaigned with slogans such as, "Vote for me; I'm a nerd," or, "I run on a record of cutting taxes." But I know of no candidate who ran on an agenda of raising taxes on fixed-income seniors and financially vulnerable homeowners, plus massive cuts to education. And all this was to offset a new $1.7-billion deficit created by a massive business tax reduction under the pretext of job creation -- with no requirement to create a single job!

Once elected, several legislators adopted this horrendous agenda, contrary to their campaign statements or lack thereof. Fortunately, the recall process is available as
a voter protection mechanism and must never be diminished.

Chris Mikolajczak, Troy

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Charter School Caps? No more union release presidents?

As published by in the MEA's Capitol Comments on Nov. 2nd-

House Education Committee takes up SB 618 – No more caps on charter schools?

After much debate, the Senate narrowly passed SB 618 and the same debate seems to be brewing in the House Education Committee as expressed by the Committee Vice Chair Rep. Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center). A former teacher, Hooker is concerned that the bill to lift the cap on charter schools may harm traditional public schools. While he supports the idea of giving parents choices, he said he has no position on the bill right now.

The Committee heard testimony from both sides of the issue today. Supporters of the bill think it's time to give parents and students more choices when it comes to a quality education. Like MEA, opponents of the bill see this as another attempt to destroy public education and divert public taxpayer dollars to private, for-profit companies.

HB 4059 in Senate Committee – No more union release time??? No more full time release union presidents?

The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee heard testimony today on HB 4059which would prohibit a school district from entering into a contract that pays union officials for time spent conducting union business.
Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy), the bill's sponsor, explained that his bill doesn't end the concept of release time; rather, he said the bill is in the best interest of taxpayers who shouldn't be footing the bill for activity that could be paid for with union dues. Currently, only 12 large school districts across the state pay the salaries of full-time release presidents. Knollenberg was not sure of the cost for the practice.

Wayne-Westland Superintendent Greg Baracy’s testimony heated up the debate when he reminded the Committee that his district had been the target of an illegal strike. He placed the blame for that action on the union representatives who were ultimately paid for by the district to plan the strike.

Baracy said, “I could have purchased five teachers with that money. I could have saved student programs. I support this bill because it redirects precious resources to the classroom and it levels the playing field.”

It was obvious that Baracy is still holding a grudge, but Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) put his comments into perspective when she reminded him that the district had been cited with a ULP for their bargaining position which led to the strike. In response, Baracy claimed that the district was never found guilty of any ULP.

Warren questioned why such legislation was needed if he had the ability to bargain the issue. Baracy responded that he has tried to bargain out a full-time release provision but union members consider it to be a “sacred thing—like MESSA.”

Warren finished her questioning of Baracy by asking him who was paying for his time today while he was testifying. Baracy said, “It’s being paid for by the school district so I can save taxpayer dollars.”