michigan education association

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine has had a busy summer looking at ads in the race for governor. The close race between Republican Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer has meant many ads on TV and online. Some are just not true. Others are slightly misleading. We went over a couple of them with the Truth Squad’s editor.

Senator Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Twp, introduced Senate Bill 727.
Michigan Senate Republicans

New legislation in the state Senate would close Michigan’s teacher retirement system to new teachers. Instead, all new teachers would get a “defined contribution” 401(k)-style plan.

Under a partial overhaul of teacher retirement approved by state lawmakers in 2012, new teachers can choose between that or a “hybrid” plan, which combines elements of a defined contribution plan and a traditional pension. The new legislation would end that choice, giving new teachers only the 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan veterans get little benefits compared to other states

"This Veterans Day, Michigan has the dubious distinction of having its military veterans among those receiving the least government benefits of any in the 50 states. Michigan’s more than 650,000 veterans get about $3,400 on average in benefits. That's compared with a national average of nearly $5,000 a year," Steve Carmody reports.

Click here to see what Michigan lawmakers are doing to help veterans

Senate committee will investigate if teachers are following right to work laws

A new state Senate committee will look at how teacher unions are complying with Michigan’s controversial right-to-work law this week. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

The right-to-work laws prohibit the financial contribution to a union as a condition of employment. . . Democrats and officials with the Michigan Education Association call the committee a politically motivated exercise meant to beat up on unions. . . . The Mackinac Center has filed suit with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission on behalf of eight teachers who say they have been unable to leave their union because they didn’t withdraw in August.
 

UP could get 6 inches of snow

"A cold weather system is bearing down on Lake Superior. . .  The weather service forecasts some of the heaviest snow near Munising along the Upper Peninsula's Lake Superior shoreline, with about 4 to 6 inches accumulating by Monday afternoon. One to 3 inches could fall in parts of northern Lower Michigan," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/MIchigan Radio

Michigan’s largest teachers’ union is being accused of trying to intimidate teachers who wanted to leave the union.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Education Association announced 99% of its members decided to stay in the union, despite Michigan’s new Right-To-Work law.

Michigan Education Association / MEA

The president of the Michigan Education Association, Steve Cook, says the state’s new right-to-work law has not put a big dent in the teacher union’s membership.

According to Cook, who appeared on Michigan Public Television’s “Off the Record,” only 1% opted to stop paying dues during the dropout period. But while Cook says that shows most school employees still support the union, he argues the law made retaining members more expensive.

“Between the efforts of right-to-work and the efforts to collect dues, it’s been very expensive for the association,” Cook said. “It’s taken our focus off other things we would have rather been doing.”

The MEA, along with the American Federation of Teachers, are also defending extended contracts negotiated by some union locals that could delay the effects of right to work for years into the future.

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The financial storm has been brewing at the Buena Vista School District outside of Saginaw for some time, but it came to a head today.

The Buena Vista School District announced that the school is closed today and that teachers will be laid off.

A community meeting is expected to be held at 6 p.m tonight.

The District has faced declining enrollment at a time when public education funds are being cut in the state.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A national education advocacy group ranks Michigan sixth in the country for education policy.

The group Students First says the state gets high marks for bills passed in recent years by the Republican-led state Legislature.     

They include measures making it tougher for teachers to be tenured, and teacher evaluations that depend more on student achievement.     

But Andy Solon with Students First said the state can do better in some areas.

Sorting out Michigan's proposed education overhaul

Nov 21, 2012
James F Clay / flickr

In recent days there has been much made of a proposed overhaul to Michigan’s education system.

The overhaul consists of three parts:

  • two bills currently working their way through the state House and Senate,
  • and one draft of a bill that has yet to be introduced.

The bills are part of a package devised in part by Governor Rick Snyder’s education advisor Richard McLellan in an attempt to achieve the Governor’s goal of providing an “Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace” learning model.

(courtesy of KQED)

DETROIT (AP) - A lawyer says a Detroit federal judge plans to block a new state law that stops school districts from deducting union dues from paychecks.

Rep. Paul Scott's official website

The Michigan Supreme Court says it will not stop or postpone a recall election targeting a state lawmaker.  Today’s decision clears the way for the November 8 vote.   

Republican Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) has spent much of the past month trying to convince the courts to stop next month’s recall election.

With less than two weeks to go before the November 8 vote, the Michigan Supreme Court appears to have had the final word on Scott’s request and that word is ‘no’.  

Scott’s been arguing that there was a problem with the way recall petition signatures were collected and that there’s been so much confusion around whether the vote would take place, that it would be better to cancel or postpone the recall election. 

But in its order, the state supreme court expresses the hope that “officials charged with administering the election in Genesee County will ensure the fullest participation in the electoral process of all citizens.”   

The Michigan Education Association is behind the Scott recall campaign, targeting Scott for his support for cuts in state education spending and anti-union legislation.

Rep. Paul Scott's official website

We may hear as early as today whether a recall election targeting a state Republican lawmaker will be rescheduled from next month to next year.    

State Representative Paul Scott asked the Michigan Supreme Court to order a vote on recalling him from office moved from November 8th to next February. 

Next month’s recall has been bouncing around the courts this month as Scott has tried to get the entire recall election cancelled.   A judge did issue a temporary injunction stopping the vote only to be overruled by the Michigan Supreme Court.   In its decision, the high court ruled that judge's order cancelling the November recall created ‘practical problems’,  like what to do with absentee ballots that had already been mailed.  

Scott’s attorney is now arguing that the Supreme Court’s own ruling is adding to the confusion. 

The recall campaign says Scott only wants to reschedule the recall vote to February, so it can be held on the same ballot as the Republican presidential primary.   

A spokesman for state House Republicans insists the February date was only proposed since it’s the next regularly scheduled election.

Rep. Paul Scott's official website

The Michigan Supreme Court is being asked to stay a lower court ruling and allow Genesee County voters to decide if they want to recall State Representative Paul Scott.   

Last week, a judge issued a temporary injunction halting next month’s recall vote.    

Bobbie Walton is with the recall campaign.  She’s optimistic that the state supreme court will allow the vote to go forward.   

“We are hoping, through our efforts, we can bring the vote back to the people in District 51," says Walton.  

Rep. Paul Scott's office

A judge in Ingham County has issued a temporary injunction which stops a recall effort against State Representative Paul Scott.   

Republican Paul Scott was targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. Scott is a supporter of cutting K-12 education funding and legislation which targets teachers unions. 

user: mattileo / flickr

The Republican Senate Majority Leader, Randy Richardville, says he favors a right-to-work law that would only apply to teachers and other unionized workers in education. Here to explain the political implications of such a law are former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, Ken Sikkema, and political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, Susan Demas.

 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Today, the Michigan House of Representatives passed legislation that would keep public schools from automatically deducting union dues from an employee's paycheck. The vote passed 55-53 and goes onto the Republican-led Senate.

From the Associated Press:

Supporters of the bill say it will put more money in teachers' paychecks, at least up front. Teachers could write checks to unions later to cover their dues.

Opponents say the proposal is another attempt to weaken teachers' unions and inconvenience teachers in the state.

A separate proposal that could soon come up in the Michigan Legislature would make Michigan a so-called "right to teach" state.

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger released a statement about the bill, saying that the legislation "empowers school employees.":

We are hearing from teachers, in particular, who are not happy with how union leaders are using their dues. Because that has led to disagreement, we need to make sure our public schools stay out of the middle of collecting union dues.

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, says the legislation does nothing to improve education or put money back in members pockets:

"This kind of legislation is a blatant example of political payback for our involvement in recall elections."

user alkruse24 / Flickr

Michigan Republican legislators introduced legislation this week that they say will reform education in Michigan. The legislators call the seven bills they introduced the "Parent Empowerment Education Reform" package.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger summed up the effort this way: 

The seven bill package would remove limits on the number of charter and cyber schools, allow parents and teachers to force schools to convert into charters, and let districts hire teachers through private companies.

It also imposes new requirements on schools, specifying that students be allowed to simultaneously enroll in high school and college courses beginning in the 9th grade, that schools accept students from out of district, and that services be provided for homeschoolers and private school students.

In a statement on his website, State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), and the chair of the Senate Education Committee said he and his colleagues are following through on Governor Snyder's request to "expand the schools of choice program, empower parents and ensure that every student has access to a quality education."

From Pavlov's statement:

"Every parent in the state wants the very best for their children," said Pavlov.  "Unfortunately, when it comes to educating our kids, adult issues too often get in the way.  The Parent Empowerment Education Reform package is about freeing parents to pursue the opportunities that work best for their children and giving schools the freedom they need to innovate and excel."

The Michigan Education Association published a statement calling the reforms an "attack on public education" and an attempt to privatize the system:

Many of the concepts introduced in these bills were first mentioned by Gov. Snyder in his education message this spring. But it's apparent that the attacks on public education continue. None of these bills are meant to improve education. This is more of the same push to destroy public education: schools run by private entities, back-door vouchers, policies based on rhetoric rather than research, and more state mandates -- despite the Republican cut of $1 billion from public schools earlier this year.

(flickr stevendepolo)

Time is running out for the organizers of a recall petition against Governor Snyder to collect the signatures they need to put the issue on the November ballot. 

The Recall Snyder petition drive has until this Friday to collect more than 800 thousand signatures, so the voters can decide in November if they want to kick the governor out of office.    Those same voters elected Snyder less than a year ago. 

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The state’s largest teachers union says it will put its organizational muscle and money behind efforts to recall some Republican lawmakers.

The Michigan Education Association’s main complaints are cuts to school funding and new tenure rules.

Tenure rules adopted last week by the Legislature will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers.

Members of the MEA say they’re also angry at efforts to force them to pay more for their benefits. Doug Pratt, MEA spokesman, says the union has tried to work with some lawmakers on spending and education reforms:

"Our members across the state as well as the middle class at large have been under attack for six months now," said Pratt. "And we’ve done what we think we can do through the legislative process to reasonably work with people to come up with solutions that move the state forward. That’s not happening."

The MEA has 157,000 members and a large political action fund.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, one of the targets of a recall campaign:

"It’s not a surprise to hear the MEA is going public with its war on those who are fighting for change in Lansing," said Adler. "We have known for some time now that they’ve been working behind the scenes on recalls and it seems as though they wanted to go public before someone outed them."

MEA spokesman Pratt says some individual union members were involved early in recall campaigns. Pratt says the MEA has made a strategic decision to not name the lawmakers who will be union recall targets.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate may soon consider bills to make it easier to fire veteran teachers.   The state House has already passed the bills.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state House Education committee has approved a bill that would decertify a teachers’ union if the teachers vote to go on strike.  Individual teachers could also be fined or fired under the legislation.  It’s illegal for teachers to strike in Michigan. 

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.    He says state lawmakers want to silence teachers.

Public school teachers protesting in Lansing on February 26th, 2011.
mea.org

Governor Rick Snyder says he hopes teachers won’t authorize their union to call a statewide strike in response to his budget plans.

The Michigan Education Association is in the process of collecting answers to a member inquiry.

The MEA is querying its 155,000 members and 1,100 local bargaining units.

Union members are mad over Michigan’s new emergency manager law that could threaten collective bargaining agreements in financially troubled school districts. And many of them oppose Governor Snyder’s proposed big cuts to K-through-12 education and requiring teachers to pay more for their pensions and health coverage.

The governor says he’s confident the controversies will not spill over to classrooms.

"We have fabulous teachers in our state and I have confidence that the teachers in our state understand, and really appreciate – because they’re doing it for a living – that the most important thing in front of them is the students they’re teaching, and I don’t think they’ll look at using their students as a pawn in a broader game," said Snyder.

It is illegal for teachers and other public employees to strike in Michigan, but the MEA says cuts in school funding and rollbacks in collecting bargaining rights may demand drastic actions.

They've asked its bargaining units to authorize job actions that could include picketing or walkouts.

They expect to have all responses in hand by mid-April.

dianeravitch.com

Diane Ravitch, education historian and author of the book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, spoke at the Novi Sheraton Hotel today at an education symposium about the current state of education and education reform in the country.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Michigan Education Association.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Ravitch had a welcome audience, getting a standing ovation before and after she spoke at the conference...She said national policy makers say they want to reform education. But, what they’re really doing “is tearing education apart and demonizing teachers.”

She alluded to Detroit as she talked about districts that are eliminating programs, laying off thousands of teachers, getting rid of art education and increasing class sizes, saying it’s kids in Detroit "who need much smaller classes."

Ravitch said poverty plays a big role in the success or failure of students in a school system.

The Grand Rapid Press had more on Ravitch's talk in which she said the United States is in an age of "national stupidity" in terms of how it views education.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

Ravich, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who had a role in developing No Child Left Behind and the charter school movement, renounced both reforms, saying they've given way to a culture of incentives and punishments through testing that does little to help students...Ravitch said the country can't improve schools by constantly cutting budgets and using standardized tests to paint teachers as ineffective in an attempt to “de-professionalize” the work.

She said that current reforms that rely on test scores are a mistake:

“I take standardized test scores with a grain of salt – make that a ton of salt,” she said. “We've watched a gaming of the system and an increase in cheating because the stakes are so high.”

USA Today and the Detroit Free Press had stories over the weekend on this very subject. Their investigation showed anomalies in standardized test score results - anomalies that suggest cheating may have taken place.

Here is a clip of Ravitch talking about education reform and her book on the Daily Show:

The Daily Show - Diane Ravitch

Governor Rick Snyder met with the state’s largest teachers union today to talk about funding and standards for the state's public school system.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, reports the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools.

Weber reports that Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure, but says now is not the time to expand the sales tax.

Even so, Iris Salters, the director of the MEA teachers union, said she's glad the new Governor was willing to meet with them:

"We’re encouraged by the governor’s willingness to garner a lot of input from people who not only work within the education system, but those who are consumers of the education system. And that’s got to be good."

Another reform being considered by the Michigan legislature is to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state, something the MEA opposes. Doug Pratt, with the MEA, told MPRN's Laura Weber that he is concerned about the push to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state:

"It is a false premise that has proven not to work in other places, it is wrong for this state. And we are heartened by the governor’s comments as well as comments from others in the business community that now is not the time to take such an action."