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.”