Saturday, December 12, 2015

NCLB is gone! Is the new ESSA better????

Fourteen years of educational history ended when President Obama signed the new ESSA Act – Every Student Succeeds Act.  It will take the place of NCLB, or No Child Left Behind.
No Child Left Behind LEAVES behind a legacy of testing and of using those test scores to punish schools that do not meet the standards set by the federal government.  While accountability is desirable, NCLB has been behind the culture of testing that has taken over our schools.   

We aren’t done with tests under the new act. It still requires two tests, in reading and math, per child per year in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. It also requires science tests be given three times between grades 3 and 8.  States will have the power to decide how the tests are used in holding schools accountable for the performance of students.
The NEA reports in the most recent “Lily’s Blackboard” that, “ESSA empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on students most in need. Educators who were shut out during the past decade are going to be heard again—not after the fact, but as participants in the policymaking process. The law also reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and, most importantly, decouples high-stakes decision making and statewide standardized tests so that so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach. Last, ESSA begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new accountability system that includes an “opportunity dashboard” with—for the first time—indicators of school success and student support.”

There are those out there who are reluctant to say the new program will be successful.  Alan Singer, Social Studies Professor at Hofstra University, warns that while repealing the annual federal yearly progress reports is good, there are weak spots in the law.  For instance individual states may design their own accountability systems.  States will be responsible for identifying and supporting struggling schools.  Singer questions whether all states will be able to implement systems that are reliable and can truly accomplish this task.  

Singer also warns that this new bill requires states to set aside funds for “equitable services” for eligible students who attend private and religious schools.  Plus, the states must create an ombudsman position to ensure that private and religious schools get what they consider a fair share of federal funds.  What else might this lead to?

Finally, Kenneth Zeichner, a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington in Seattle, believes this new law may very well lead to “fast track” teacher education programs provided by corporate interests.  He says the bill establishes “teacher prep academies” designed to promote “entrepreneurial programs”.

Leaving behind aspects of No Child Left Behind is certainly more than desirable.  However, as states begin to design their own programs for accountability systems and student support, the ability to allow educators to have input in the design is imperative.  In this state’s current culture of teacher and public school bashing, that might prove difficult.  Our best place to have input is most likely through the Michigan Department of Education and the State Superintendent’s office. 

Send an email to Brian Whiston, Michigan Superintendent of Schools;

Monday, November 30, 2015


There are two bills that are of utmost importance set to be considered in the coming days in our Michigan House legislature.  Both bills passed the Senate prior to Thanksgiving.  Passage in the House, barring major changes from the Senate version, would mean they would quickly be forwarded to the governor for signing and into the law books.
These bills are UNION busting.  That’s all there is to it.  Read more!

Bill SB 280 would make it illegal to do any union work during work release time.  Those of you who have presidents that have some release time or perhaps are full time release will LOSE that representation.  All the work they do would have to be done AFTER hours.  But it is NOT just directed at presidents with release time!

Bill SB 280 would prohibit ANY kind of release time during work hours.  For instance;

·        District Talent Initiative
·        Professional Learning Communities
·        Professional Development and Design/Planning Committee
·        District Leadership Team
·        Teacher Evaluation-District Implementation Team
·        Quality Instructional Coaches Advisor Committee
·        High School Restructuring Steering Team
·        New Teacher Induction (professional development/mentors)
·        District Curriculum Participant
·        Bargaining and Grievances

ALL of these activities would always have to be done outside of school hours.  They are NOT political.  This is work that involves human resources, giving voice to educational workers in the decision making, and sharing our expertise.   Clearly, all are ways to deny employee voices!

 Bill SB 279 takes the prohibition even further.  It says that even if the union or individual reimburses MPSERS (the Michigan Retirement System & made mandatory this summer by the MPSERS Board), the person being released can ear NO CREDIT toward retirement.    So, people who are working in release time positions, or even those who might spend some days bargaining or any of the activities above, can earn nothing toward their retirement.   This is kind of like “hammering the nail” into the other bill, SB280.  How can people give up time toward retirement?  They can’t.

 Please CLICK below and follow the link the MEA’s LEGISLATIVE ACTION Center. 

When you click on the link it takes you to a HOUSE/SENATE page.  Do the following!

**Enter your zip code and it will give you the names of your House and Senate representatives.

***Click on the HOUSE representative in your area to contact; their page will pop up.

***Click on “Contact”, and you will have the choice to use their office telephone or a FORM to fill out that you can email from the site!

Tell them this (copy and paste if you like): 

Vote against SB280 and SB279.  They deny local school districts the ability to determine how to best involve their unions in the important activities that must be completed.  This isn’t political work being done.  This time is spent on important activities like evaluation, leadership, employee mentoring, professional learning communities, professional development, district curriculum, etc.    To vote for these bills is denying employees the ability to make service to students BETTER! 


Saturday, July 25, 2015

So, why pay union dues?

Greetings MEA Members of 7K & 7IJ!
A lot of you most likely received emails from a "Mary" and the Mackinaw Center back in June about your rights to opt-out, and how the union did nothing for Mary.  Steve Cook did write a reply to that accusation that was sent out some time ago..   The "essay" below was a guest editorial I wrote for the Summer  7IJ Coordinating Council Newsletter.   Some of you saw it in June, but I thought I would send it out again.   Why?  I believe that so much of what we receive from our MEA is invisible to us as members, and I want to tell you about how much the MEA and NEA provides for us that costs real money.....thus the need for our dues!

Today I am pondering over the
question, "Why belong to a union?".
I am thinking of a MILLION reasons someone should
belong to a union! Where do I start?
So much of what a union provides
is invisible to us on an everyday
level, but it is so important. Yes, with
membership we can vote for officers,
we can vote for ratification of Letters
Of Understanding and contracts,
and we can get representation when
there are disciplinary issues, or work
One of the most important reasons
that I feel union membership is
important is because we educators
need a voice in the process of
educational decisions. We are the
experts! All of you have years of
education and experience! Why
should we not be the leaders in the
voice for our profession?  How do
we guarantee that voice? I believe
it is through our union.
At the state level, the MEA lobbies for
our interests at the legislative level.
We can't all be in Lansing, so having our dues support
our MEA to be our advocate seems
MORE important than ever. The
MEA also keeps us informed of issues
occurring at the state level that affect
us as educators by publishing "Capital
Comments" and contacting our local
union leaders.
The MEA provides training for your
local leaders (like me) so they can
enter bargaining and grievances
knowing what to look for and how to
approach difficult situations. They
provide training in current laws and
practices. If we (local leaders) have a
legal question, we or our UniServ
Directors can call for legal advice
from the MEA. There is an MEA
economist that can provide research
and information on school finances,
and can give us specific information
about our individual school's finances.
None of us could do that all on our
own. Our organization and joining of
forces allows all these things to exist
and are essential to the continuation
of our public school careers.
The same kind of services and
educational advocacy occur at the
national level through our membership
in NEA. Those advocacy services as
described above occur at the national
level as well. The current work on the
reform of ESEA is a perfect example of where the NEA
is working for our good. Think of the policies and funding
that are set by our president, his cabinet,
and our national congress. How could
we all have a voice in those decisions?
And what would happen if we did not
have a voice in those decisions? We
need advocates at the national level,
At a local level, belonging to a union
gives you the power of numbers. If each
one of us had to negotiate our own pay
and benefits, I shutter to think what might
happen. Would the district act in our
best interests? They probably would
try, but think about these financially
difficult times. If health insurance
wasn't bargained by the union, that
would be a great place for them to cut
costs. If they could save millions on
salaries, why not have us take 10% pay
cuts (like some other nearby districts)
and never allow step increases? We have
to have a voice and backing in these kinds of
Reflect back, what are some issues you've had
to deal with as a teacher? Where would
you be or what would have happen if
you had not had the union contract to
back you up? Did you need to call me
or our MEA UniServ Director? What
if you didn't have someone to talk to
besides management?
Another example, sad to say, is that some crazy accusations are
made about teachers….some are true,
but most are not. If you did not have a
union to stand behind you, how would
those crazy accusations be treated,
even if they were false? How would
you be treated? Would there be any
guarantee of fair treatment or of
maintaining your job?

No union contract can be perfect and
sometimes people are not protected or
represented in a way they wish, but
what if the union did not exist? I think
a lot of us would not have jobs.
Certainly, my salary and benefits
(especially in these really financially
strapped times) would not be what
they are.
We need to stick together and I believe
the union, the MEA/NEA/WLEA, is
the best way to do that. There is
power in numbers. We can't do this
without support and thus, there is an
expense to these services; thus, our dues.
Over time,
I have no doubt that I have benefited
from the cost of my dues I have paid.
They have more than been returned
in services, salary, and benefits.
Times are difficult for educators right
now, and this is the very best time for all of us to
stick together and support our union at all levels!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Supreme Court Rules Against Challenge to Retirement Changes

The Michigan Supreme Court today rejected an appeal that has been in the courts for almost 3 years that challenged changes made to the public school employees retirement service. The MEA and AFT maintained that it violated both the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions.

This law change concerning public school employee retirement occurred in 2012, now called PA 300, requiring school employees to pay between 1% to 4% more of their salary to keep the multiplier at 1.5% or have the multiplier lowered to 1.25%.  The MEA and AFT argued that PA 300 was unconstitutional because it was contrary to statements in Office of Retirement Services publications over many years.  This new statute changed the retirement benefits in the middle of people’s careers.

A challenge made through the courts regarding the mandatory 3% deduction to pay for retiree health care (PA75) made in 2010 is not affected by today’s decision regarding PA 300.    The case involving this 3% remains before the Court.  It had been rumored that the courts were holding off on the decision regarding the retiree health care case pending the decision on the constitutionality of the PA 300 case.   However, no one seems to say when they expect the PA 75 decision to be made.  This decision will be different because there is no constitutional mandate for retiree health care subsidies.

(Newly elected Justice Richard Bernstein did participate in the decision as he was not on the court when the court).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ESEA - Email, Tweet, Sign a Petition or Tell your story!

Please take advantage of one OR ALL of the links below to tell Washington to fix the ESEA.  Tell them that good teaching and learning is NOT about more testing.  It is not about giving schools a label like "priority".   It is not about punishing schools whose students do poorly on tests!

Take action today! House ESEA rewrite expected to pass this week
The U.S. House is expected to pass a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this Friday. Unfortunately, this rewrite does nothing to help students learn or teachers teach. The focus has shifted to more testing, labeling of schools and then punishing them for their "failure," while doing nothing to close achievement gaps.
Your help is needed. Here are four things you can do.
  1. Email your members of Congress and tell them to get ESEA right.
  2. Send a tweet that targets your Senators and Representative using NEA's brand new tool with the hashtags #opportunityforall and #timetolearn. You don't even need to know your elected officials' twitter handles. Simply put in your zip code and it will be provided.
  3. Share your story on the over-use of standardized testing and how it has affected you and your students.
  4. Sign the ESEA petition along with thousands of other educators, students and parents to tell Congress that any reauthorization of ESEA must include time to learn and opportunity for all students.