teachers

http://www.ypsd.org/district/superintendentsmessage/

Superintendent Dedric Martin says the school system could need an emergency manager, unless staff agree to deeper cuts. 

Martin acknowledges staff already took a 10 percent salary cut. 

“That comes on the heels of additional concessions that they've made. And we've had reductions at all levels. Unfortunately it's not enough to carry a balanced budget and pay back money that has already been borrowed and spent," he said.

Martin says he knows the "emergency manager" card could be perceived as a ploy to get further concessions from unions.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate is expected to vote on legislation that would end state-provided health care coverage in retirement for new public school hires and require current employees to pay more toward pensions.

The Wednesday legislative session is the only one scheduled for July. The Senate is expected to take up the bill passed last month by the House.

The bill doesn't contain earlier language that would force new teachers into a 401 (k)-style plan. The measure calls for studying how ending the pensions would affect the state.

DETROIT (AP) - Teachers in three school districts run by the state are laid off with many not knowing if they'll have jobs when classes begin.

Charter operators have yet to be selected to run new systems in Muskegon Heights and Highland Park.

State-appointed emergency managers have shopped Muskegon Heights in West Michigan and Highland Park near Detroit to charter operators as part of plans to pull the cash-strapped districts from near-fiscal ruin.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Seventy-four people have been selected to participate in a program to develop math, science, engineering and technology teachers for several Michigan rural and urban school districts.

The state announced Wednesday the second class of fellows will receive $30,000 to pursue master's degrees at University of Michigan and Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Grand Valley State and Wayne State universities.

The program recruits recent college graduates and those seeking a different career. This year's fellows include a fighter pilot, police chaplain, biologist and kayak instructor.

About two thousand people applied.

They will teach in districts including Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Wyoming and Ypsilanti.

The Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation launched the program in 2009. It's administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The Flint school board has voted to lay off 237 teachers as part of an effort to eliminate an estimated $20 million deficit for the coming year.

The board voted Tuesday to lay off 108 elementary and 129 secondary school teachers.

Earlier this month, Mlive.com (http://bit.ly/JnOdC1 ) says the board voted to close both middle schools, along with Bunche and Summerfield elementary schools.

A state House committee goes to work this morning on a plan that would force teachers and other school employees to pay more for their retirement benefits.

Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders say the plan is necessary to ensure the long-term solvency of the retirement system.

There are a lot of details to work out, but the bottom line for public school employees is, one way or the other, they will pay more for retirement benefits and retirement health care. Governor Snyder says, overall, he supports the plan. “Cause it’s striking the right balance about taxpayer long-term liabilities and employees who have benefits," Snyder says.

Retired teacher Thom Housman asks, "What’s going to happen next year? What more can they take from teachers next year?" Housman says Republican leaders at the state Capitol have targeted teachers time and time again to address budget troubles regardless of promises that have been made to school employees.

There’s an ongoing debate about how to sustainably fund the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System.

According the Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the Center for Michigan, the retirement system is underfunded by $45 billion.

Bridge Magazine staff writer, Nancy Derringer, has taken an in-depth look at this issue.

Derringer notes that Senate bill 1040 would change the way the retirement system is funded. "If you are a new employee your contribution to the retire system would increase to 8%. And they currently pay 3 and 6.2 % of their salary. And then if you are a retiree you currently have your health care premiums 90% paid by the state and you pay 10%, that would switch to 80/20."

A Pontiac teacher who says she was fired after helping her students organize a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin is receiving support in the form of over 200,000 petition signatures. According to the Detroit Free Press, the online petition calls for Brooke Harris to be reinstated to her post at Pontiac Academy for Excellence and organizers plan to present the signatures during a meeting of the school's board at 5p.m. today.

From the Free Press:

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit based in Montgomery, Ala., started the petition.

The district has denied Harris was fired because of the fundraiser, but Superintendent Jacqueline Cassell previously told the Free Press she could not discuss a personnel issue.

According to Harris, the Free Press writes, students in her yearbook class planned to raise money and pledged to wear hoodies to school, a violation of the school's dress code meant to show solidarity with Martin who was wearing one when he was shot and killed in Florida earlier this year.

Harris told the Free Press that when school administrators became aware of the plan, they moved to block it:

Harris said Cassell said no, and when she asked whether students could meet with Cassell to make their case, she was suspended for two days for being insubordinate.

Harris said she came to the school while suspended, so her suspension was extended to two weeks, but she was fired after questioning it.

It remains to be seen if the petition will have any effect on Harris' employment status.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Teachers turned out by the hundreds in Lansing to oppose legislation that would force them to pay more for their pensions and retirement health care, or have their benefits reduced.

Some of them protested outside a state Senate committee hearing today on the legislation.

One of them was Pinckney teacher Sam Ziegler. He says the measure would break a promise to his profession.

"I knew I wasn't going to be a millionaire teaching," Ziegler said. "But it was something that was worthwhile that benefited others and myself, and I was told that I'd have a pension to go to and now it’s just slowly eroding and I see the danger that it will keep eroding away."

But some Republicans like state Senator Patrick Colbeck says the public school employee pension fund has liabilities so big the system could go insolvent if nothing is done. 

"Somebody’s got to pay for that eventually, later and right now that’s being pushed off because – if we’re talking about dealing with unfunded liabilities – being pushed off to the same kids that we're working hard to educate right now," said Colbeck.

Teachers say state government has increased the stress on the system with budget cuts that reduce districts capacity to pay into it, and forced layoffs that mean fewer people paying into the system.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate has approved legislation aimed at expanding prohibitions against sex between school employees and students.

The Senate passed the main bill in a legislative package by a 36-2 vote Tuesday. The legislation advances to the House.

The legislation would make it a crime for school employees such as administrators and teachers to have sex with students even if the student is 18 or older.

Current law sets an age of consent in such cases at 18.

user jdurham / morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan students over the past decade have fallen far behind their peers in other states when it comes to math and reading.

The "What Our Students Deserve" report by the nonprofit Education Trust-Midwest compares National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores in reading and math for fourth and eighth graders around the country.

According to the report, Michigan now ranks near the bottom in most subjects and grades.

Amber Arellano, executive director of Education Trust-Midwest, says Michigan students have been stuck in the same place for the past decade, while students in other states have been improving.

She says it's like a marathon, where She likens it to a marathon:

"We can see the other runners in this race, they’re all going much faster and much farther than our kids are."

Michigan's African American students ranked last in 4th grade reading among the 45 states reporting in 2011.

But Arellano says it’s not just low-income, urban or minority children who are struggling. White students in Michigan ranked 13th in the country for 4th grade math in 2003. Last year, they were 45th in the country.

fotopedia.org

You may have heard the promos on air: This afternoon, Changing Gears will host a live web chat with teachers across the Midwest to talk about the many changes in the past year, and what the future may bring. The web chat accompanies a piece by Dan Bobkoff that’s airing across the Changing Gears partner stations today.

user kconnors / morgueFile

Discussions are underway to figure out how best to evaluate Michigan’s teachers.

Governor Snyder has tasked a group of five people to develop a so-called “teacher evaluation” tool as part of the state’s new teacher tenure law. The law contains a lot about teacher evaluation, but doesn’t detail what the evaluation would look like.

Sarah M. Stewart / Creative Commons

A report out this week shows more than half of high school freshmen and sophomores failed the first semester of the new blended-online courses at Grand Rapids Public Schools. GRPS is Michigan's third largest K-12 district.

The program launched in the fall of 2010. At the time it was (and may very well continue to be) incredibly controversial. Like any new program, Grand Rapids schools spokesman John Helmholdt says there was an adjustment period the first semester.

“There was both a district-wide layoff but also a huge early retirement incentive where we had more than 400 teachers, principals, and support staff retire; and so that first semester was a little rocky,” Helmholdt said. The retirement incentive was offered by the State of Michigan to try to save districts and the state money.

Test scores improved in the spring 2011 semester, but the failure rate was still 44-percent.

DPS website

Some laid-off teachers in the Detroit Public Schools are being recalled by the district which has enrolled more students this fall than expected.

The district said Saturday in a release that principals at 34 schools have requested more teachers, and that 44 teachers were added to classrooms by October 19.

Twenty-three others have reported back to work and another 22 are expected to return. Some teachers and parents have complained of classes with more students than allowed under the teachers' union contract.

The district says it has 22 classrooms out of more than 4,000 that have exceeded student number limits.

The district ended last school year with about 74,000 students and budgeted for 66,000 this fall. Spokesman Steve Wasko said projections have been exceeded by almost 300 students.

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."

The Republican leader of the state Senate says he has no interest in making Michigan a right-to-work state.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says union workers have already made many concessions to help Michigan’s economic outlook.

Kevin Wong / Flickr

Teachers in our country rarely get the respect they deserve -- a uniquely American pathology. But this year they’ve endured not just indifference, but disrespect – and from Congressmen, no less. Teachers are now blamed not just for falling test scores, but failing state budgets and rising healthcare costs.

There was once a politician who took a different view.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance – what some scholars believe to be one of the three most important documents in the founding of America, along with the Constitution and Declaration of Independence – provided funding for public schools and universities. In it, he declared, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Allieosmar / Flickr

This week, Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of bills that dramatically changes teacher tenure rules here in Michigan. To take a look at the politics behind the controversial bills, we spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The new teacher tenure law that Governor Snyder signed this week makes it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling.  As Rick Pluta reports, the law "eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions."

The devil is in the details

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a package of bills that reshapes teacher tenure in Michigan. The bills remove seniority protections and make it easier to fire teachers who have been identified as “ineffective”.

Michigan Public Radio Networks’ Lansing bureau chief, Rick Pluta talks about what this means for teachers and how state leaders plan to implement the new law.

 

user frank juarez / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling. It also eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions. 

The governor says seniority is an outdated system for deciding which teachers are laid off first, and where they should work.

"We need a performance-based system that recognizes the very best that teachers can deliver and gives them good recognition and reward for those opportunities and that's what this is all about," said Snyder. "It's about moving forward and stop looking at a broken world of the past."

School employee unions say the new law will remove critical job protections and lead to districts getting rid of veteran teachers for financial rather than academic reasons.

Louise Somalski, with the American Federation of Teachers, says the new law takes away teachers’ rights to bargain for job protections as school districts face growing financial pressures.

"I’m afraid that when it comes right down to it, there so tight on money at the local school district level because funding has been cut, that the most-experienced teachers are going to be let go – and we want the most-experienced teachers with the kids and it's going to hurt the students in the long run."

A commission will make specific recommendations to the Legislature next year on how to measure teacher performance.

The new rules will take effect at the beginning of the school year that begins in the fall of 2012.

Woodley Wonder Works / Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to sign new teacher tenure rules into law today. Changing the state’s tenure laws has been a priority of Governor Snyder and the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. The Associated Press reports:

Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign into law changes to the state's teacher tenure system that supporters say will make it easier to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Supporters say the legislation… makes teacher performance rather than seniority the key factor in awarding tenure and deciding layoffs within a district.

Democrats say the proposals are part of a continued legislative attack on teachers and union rights and won't improve the state's schools.

Teachers already are reeling from state budget cuts to education that could force layoffs in many districts headed into the next academic year.

GOP lawmakers also are working on legislation that would require many teachers and other public employees to pay a larger share of their own health insurance costs.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent resigned yesterday, but today he hinted that he may not want to leave.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor has been lobbying state lawmakers to pass teacher tenure reform. Yesterday, lawmakers did that. 

Taylor says the reform means everyone’s focus has to be on student achievement.

(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.  

A tenure reform plan in the state Senate has the stamp of approval from Michigan’s largest teachers’ union.

The Senate proposal is very different from a tenure reform plan approved by the state House earlier this month.

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association. He says the legislation would eliminate a state tenure commission, and instead assign arbitrators to school districts that want to dismiss tenured teachers.

The Ann Arbor school board passed its budget last night which eliminated teaching positions.

Kyle Feldscher from Annarbor.com reports:

Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.

Feldscher reports that teacher layoffs are not expected:

The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.

School districts would have an easier time firing teachers under changes to tenure laws approved by the state House.

The tenure proposal would rate the effectiveness of teachers based on student test scores.

The bills have begun their march through the Legislature after many years of debating changes to tenure rules.

Democratic state Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton says tenure laws came about to protect teachers from administrators that tried to ban certain books from being taught in the classroom.

She says of course tenure rules should be updated and changed, but she says these changes go too far:

"Rather than go in with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel, identify a problem and fix it, what these bills do, really, I think, absolutely flay the tenure act with all the zeal of a butcher’s knife," said Lipton.

Republicans say the proposed changes would ensure bad teachers with failing student test scores are removed from classrooms.

The tenure bills were approved along mostly party lines, with one Democrat saying he would discourage his granddaughter from ever teaching in Michigan. The bills now head to the Republican-led state Senate.

Charles Dawley / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder came to the Mackinac Policy Conference after landing two big fish from the Michigan Legislature:  a new tax overhaul plan which reduces taxes on businesses and a budget that makes big cuts, including cuts to K-12 education spending.

After these victories, he might have thought he was going to leave the protesters behind in Lansing, but they've followed him to Mackinac Island.

Paul Egan of the Detroit News reports a group of teachers and other public sector workers are protesting Snyder's education cuts and tax policies. Egan quoted Jim Martin, a health and physical education teacher from Sault Ste. Marie, speaking about Governor Snyder:

"He says he's not anti-union or anti-teacher, but his actions say otherwise," Martin said at a news conference about a block away from the Grand Hotel where the policy conference organized by the Detroit Regional Chamber is being held.

The news conference was organized by A Better Michigan Future, a coalition of about 50 union and public interest groups...

"It can't be possible that everyone really believes that corporations need the money more than children," said Tammy Hazley, a special education teacher from Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools.

Egan reports the group is calling for a new state income tax, one where higher-income earners would pay more than lower-income earners. The group's director "also called for a reduction in the cost of work contracted out by state government."

user BES Photos / Flickr

This week, What’s Working focuses on education by taking a look at one Michigan school that went from academic mediocrity to being a model for educational reforms in the state. North Godwin Elementary is located just south of Grand Rapids in a working class community with a high immigrant population. Many families in the area are refugees from countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Vietnam, and Liberia. A high number of students spend a few years learning English as a second language. 

When Arelis Diaz arrived as a teacher at North Godwin Elementary in 1995, the students were struggling to reach proficiency in basic skills. She spent five years as a teacher, and then served as principal of the school from 2000 to 2005. In that time, North Godwin’s students began excelling on standardized tests, bringing student proficiency rates to upwards of 80 percent across all subjects. That academic success at North Godwin continues today. The school has been the recipient of praise and awards for its turnaround, including the “Dispelling the Myth” award in 2010, given by The Educational Trust. 

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