Monday, December 21, 2009

News of the Day

State Legislators Pass “Race to the Top” Legislation
Both Houses Adopt Conference Reports for HB 4787, HB 4788, SB 926 and SB 981

On Saturday, the RTTT bills passed the Legislature. Thanks to the hard work of many MEA members and staff, these bills came a long way from their initial form. However, the final bill regarding turning around “failing” schools contained language that attacked the collective bargaining rights of our members in buildings put under control of a state school reform officer.

President Salters and AFT President David Hecker put out a joint statement which included the following:

“MEA and AFT-Michigan came to agreement with legislative leaders on every necessary aspect of Race to the Top, including alternative certification, using student data as a component in employee evaluation, and measures to turn around struggling schools. However, the absolutely unnecessary language in the bills stripping educators of their voice in helping students in those struggling schools is something neither union can or will support.

“During the marathon sessions in the past three days, MEA and AFT agreed to countless changes which would have put Michigan in excellent position to compete for RTTT funds. The overreaching of the Legislature with regard to the collective bargaining rights of employees in struggling schools taken over by a state school reform officer is simply a step too far -- and one not needed for RTTT.”

Issues included in the RTTT Package

There were several bills that were passed under the RTTT banner which dealt with many topics, including:

- Turning around low-performing schools

- Expanding alternative certification

- Expanding charter and cyber schools

- Using student data as a factor in evaluation

- Starting with this year’s 6th graders, increase the mandatory attendance age from 16 to 18

- Allowing greater personalization of the high school curriculum

- Requirements for bidding before privatizing

- A “Teacher Bill of Rights” which assists educators in obtaining books and other necessary supplies

- NOTE: The bills DID NOT modify tenure.

More details will be available next week as our experts further analyze the bills that passed. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

News of the Day

MEA Launches ‘Reading Program’ for Legislators
Encourage leaders in Lansing to READ bills BEFORE they VOTE on them

Reading is fundamental – especially for legislators.

That’s why, today, MEA is launching a new “reading program” for our elected leaders in Lansing. Just as it’s critical for our students to read their assignments before taking a test, our state representatives and senators must READ any bills on school reform before they VOTE on them.

With the federal Race to the Top deadline looming, negotiations in Lansing around RTTT-related legislation will stretch well into the evening hours. These various House- and Senate-approved bills are in conference committee where six legislators will have significant influence over any compromise. They are Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland), Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom (R-Muskegon), Sen. Buzz Thomas (D-Detroit), Rep. Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills), Rep. Doug Geiss (D-Taylor), and Rep. Phillip Pavlov (R-St. Clair).

In these kind of last-minute negotiations, it’s common for legislators outside the conference committee to not have the opportunity to fully read compromise bills before voting.

But with our students’ futures at stake, it is essential that our leaders in Lansing do the responsible thing, read whatever bills come before them, and carefully consider the reforms they are enacting. The details of these reforms are critical – they will impact the education that students receive for years to come.

Critical areas for them to look for and oppose include:

- School reform that narrowly focuses on instituting building level reforms without addressing dysfunctional bureaucracies.

- Expansion of charter schools without proper oversight, transparency and accountability, as well as unregulated cyber schools or other new school models that don’t ensure a high-quality education for students.

- The elimination of teacher tenure and other assaults on school employee rights that ensure good working environments for employees – and good learning environments for students.

Act now!

E-mail and call your state representative and senator today (leave a voicemail if no one is available to take your call in person). If one of your legislators is on the conference committee, urge them to consider these issues in finalizing compromise bills. If your elected officials aren’t on the committee, share your concerns and ask that they consider them as they make their decisions in the coming days.

But above all, insist that all our leaders in Lansing take the time to READ this significant legislation BEFORE they cast a final VOTE.

Friday, December 11, 2009

News of the Day

Governor Granholm to Delay School Proration

At a 4:00 p.m. press conference yesterday, Gov. Granholm announced that she will delay the $127 per pupil proration cut in school aid payments this month. She justified making the move because state revenues in November showed the first increase since last January.

The cuts were to take effect this month after the Legislature failed in November to take action to reverse the pro-ration she ordered because of declining revenues.

The cuts will be delayed until the January revenue conference, which is scheduled for January 11, 2010.

Treasurer Bob Klein and Budget Director Bob Emerson reported that spending on several K-12 categoricals from 2009 was lower than anticipated giving the School Aid Fund (SAF) a carry-forward balance going into fiscal year 2010.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Senate Fiscal Agency showed that November revenues totaled $1.6 billion, up .8 percent from November 2008 and the first monthly revenue increase since January.

With the delay of the $127 pro-rata cut, the total amount cut in fiscal year 2010 would be $165 per pupil.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Please contact members urging them to call their legislators NOW!

The House is taking up bills (HB 5623 & HB 5636) which would:
--Require districts use "data on student growth" as a "significant" factor in teacher evaluations. It defines "significant" as 60%!
--Require districts to implement what many have called "pay for performance." It states it shall performance will be based at least in part "upon data on student growth as measured by assessments and other objective criteria."

Some talking points:
--These requirements go far beyond what the federal government is requesting in the Race to the Top grants

--These ignore such factors as:

student attendance (teachers will be evaluated on student performance even if the student is NOT there most of the year)
student at-risk status
student disabilities
parental support

--This is a "one size fits all" approach that ignores local control

--Most districts have sound evaluation processes that take into account many important factors to assess teacher performance

--This will penalize teachers who work with the students who have the greatest needs.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Be careful of what you sign!

As part of the application for RTTT funds, local districts must sign agreements (LoA or MoU) with their employee unions showing support for the reforms designated in the grant. This is a voluntary move on the part of the union. It is not mandated. By signing the agreement you are committing you and your local’s support to the reforms.

If you are approached to sign such a document, contact your UniServ director and your local leadership team before you sign. This is a huge decision with consequences for you and your members. It requires everyone’s best thinking and input into the decision.

Friday, November 20, 2009

News of the Day

Collective Bargaining Works, Firefighters say Dillon Health Care Plan – Prescription for Disaster

Three people who testified Thursday before a House panel considering House Bill 5345, a proposed state-run health plan for all public employees, said that collective bargaining helps save millions in health care costs. They told lawmakers that public employees increasingly share the cost of health care – and they asked lawmakers to continue to allow health insurance decisions to be made at the local level.

“Leave it up to the locals to tailor a plan that best suits our needs,” said Bryan Epling, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local #421, Lansing.

Byrnes laughs off possible run with Dillon - Speculation brews about her future

The chair of the House panel studying HB 5345, Rep. Pam Byrnes (D-Lyndon Township), has been noticeably absent from the Senate race in her home district, a contest many expected the term-limited representative to dominate. This fueled speculation in the Ann Arbor Chronicle that Byrnes was planning to join House Speaker Andy Dillon as running mate in Dillon’s possible run for the governor’s seat. Byrnes told the paper she is amused by the rumor, saying “I think it’s funny. Andy has not said a thing to me. As far as I know, he hasn’t made up his mind about running.”

MSU says it will cover some Promise Grants - Students rally on many campuses to restore scholarships

Michigan State University officials announced that they will use federal stimulus money to help cover some of the Promise Grant cuts to about 8,100 MSU students. The neediest students would get the most money, and a university spokesman stressed this was a one-time aid offer for this year only. Ferris State University made a similar announcement earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jennifer Granholm is making the rounds at rallies on college campuses, calling on student groups to urge their legislators to restore funding for Promise Grants in this year’s budget.

Tax roundtable debates solutions to Michigan’s fiscal crisis - MEA proposal gets wide support

The Center for Michigan brought together a diverse group of business, education and social service interests Tuesday to try to find answers to the state budget crisis. Audience members led the discussion by voting on what our priorities should be. Education was the overwhelming winner.

Perhaps surprisingly, there was room for consensus on the roundtable panel. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Business Leaders for Michigan agreed with MEA’s call for a complete evaluation of each tax incentive to make sure it’s producing jobs and helping our economy.

There were other areas of disagreement, including whether to expand the sales tax, institute a graduated income tax, and reduce public employee salaries and benefits, but, overall, panel members said they were optimistic that common ground could be found.

Monday, November 16, 2009

School Funding Video

The Washtenaw ISD has prepared a narrated PowerPoint presentation entitled, “Facing the Michigan School Funding Crisis." This 16-minute multi-media presentation does an outstanding job of providing an overview of Michigan’s current school funding crisis, and does it in ways that community members, staff, and even students can understand.

The Grand Ledge Public Schools showed it during a community board meeting to set the context as they announced a dramatic and painful restructuring plan that the district is considering for 2010-11. While it didn’t make the losses any easier to bear, it did help the community understand how few options school leaders have, and allowed stakeholders to turn their anger and frustration in the direction where it can do the most good: to the Legislature.

To watch the video click here!

PAC Meeting Cancelled

The December 9, KCEA PAC meeting has been cancelled.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

News of the Day

Senate panel moves 20j override request

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved SR 88 to the Senate Floor for concurrence. SR 88 is a resolution sponsored by Senator John Pappageorge (R-Troy) that asks the Michigan House of Representatives to begin the process of overriding Governor Jennifer Granholm’s veto of Sec. 20j funds in the 2009-10 K-12 School Aid budget.

Testimony was provided by a number of superintendents representing 20j schools. They included the school districts of Livonia, Troy, Farmington, Birmingham and Royal Oak. Each pointed out the cuts they have made in their budgets and the additional cuts they must make if the legislature fails to restore funding. All testified that they are donor districts. (Their districts pay more in taxes than what they receive back from the state in school aid.)

Mike Shibler, Superintendent of the Rockford Public Schools, testified that the 20j funds cost the non 20j schools $35/student. He supports restoring the 20j funds but not at a cost to non 20j districts.

The message of all who testified was not only about restoring 20j funds. They emphasized the need to make funding of schools a priority and requested that the legislature establish a more stable and adequate tax base for funding schools.

The resolution passed on vote of 10-5. Republicans voting in favor were: Ron Jelinek, John Pappageorge, Cameron Brown, Allen Cropsey, Tom George, Roger Khan and Tony Stamas. Republicans voting no included: Bill Hardiman, Mark Jansen and Michelle McManus.

Democrats voting in favor included: Michael Switalski, Glenn Anderson and Liz Brater. No votes were cast by Deb Cherry and Irma Clark-Colman.

Valde Garcia and Jim Barcia were not in attendance.


MEA supports House Bills 4245, 4284, 4997
House committee passes campaign finance bills

The House Ethics and Elections Committee approved three bills that would amend campaign finance law. Notably, the legislation would affect public employee payroll deductions for donations to union political action committees (PAC). Now, the measures go to the full House for consideration.

MEA supports the bills; please contact your state representatives to encourage them to vote yes on the following bills:

House Bill 4245 allows public employees to contribute to a union PAC by payroll deduction if the union fully compensates the public body for the use of any resources.

House Bill 4284 eliminates the requirement that labor organizations and others obtain annual consent for contributions from individuals who give on an automatic basis, such as through payroll deduction. Written consent would still be required, but not every year.

House Bill 4997 does the same thing as House Bills 4245 and 4284 but also affects communications to elect or defeat a candidate, including automated telephone calls. Automated calls and other electronic communications would have to clearly state the name and address or telephone number of the person paying for the communication. Further, telephone communications could not take place before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

Dillon Health Care Plan – Prescription for Disaster
Hearing on 5345 Continues

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 29, 2009, in Room 352 of the Capitol for 1:30 p.m. or after session, whichever is later.

Providing testimony will be the following:

Mike Duggan, CEO, Detroit Medical Center

Mike Shibler, Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools and
Lori Spotts, Tecumseh Education Association President, on behalf of MEA

Evan Falchuk, President and CEO, Best Doctors

Monday, October 26, 2009

News of the Day

Governor Holds Round Table Discussions on Budget

Governor Granholm visited West Michigan last Friday to meet with superintendents, school board members and school staff looking for solutions to the education funding crisis.

The Governor met with members of the school communities in the Muskegon and Kent ISDs encouraging them to support her ideas for a short-term fix and long-term changes to how schools are funded. As she sees it, tax reform is key to avoiding any further budget dramas like we’re seeing now.

After the Governor explained the state’s financial crisis and her reasons for cutting an additional $127 from state aid, on top of the $165 already cut, she heard the impact the cuts will have on education—in addition to the budget slashing schools have already endured.

She heard of the potential elimination of 600 jobs in Kent County and 225 teaching jobs in Ottawa County. Kent City has already eliminated guidance counselors and day custodians. In Whitehall, this new round of cuts could mean cutting programs in fine arts and eliminating athletics and extra-curricular. The message was clear—schools are no longer cutting the number of programs—they’re cutting education quality.

John Mierz, a Whitehall teacher and MEA member, was invited to participate in the discussion. He told the Governor that it’s impossible for districts and staff to do any long-term planning when there’s such funding uncertainty.

Arch Lewis, MEA Research Consultant and a participant in the discussion agreed. “We need a long-term systemic. It’s obvious Prop A isn’t working. We need to get money to schools that will be a permanent revenue source.”

For the short term, the Legislature has 30 days to implement immediate solutions like freezing schedule increases in personal tax exemptions, or having special interest groups pay a percentage of their tax exemptions as a way of closing tax loopholes.

The Governor ended both discussions with the same challenge. “We have to mobilize like we’ve never mobilized before and fix this problem. Contact your legislator and tell them to vote for the needs of public education. Kids only have this moment. The Legislature must be convinced. Are you willing to help me?”

Emergency meetings deal with school funding crisis

In an emergency meeting on Monday, the State Board of Education urged the Governor and the Legislature to immediately find money to reduce the cuts in school funding. Meanwhile, the governor held another round-table discussion in Rochester.

Local MEA leaders and staff attended the meeting. They supplied stories about the cuts in their local districts and its effect on the classroom and students. Oakland County superintendents spoke of cost cutting measures they have been making over the past several years.

Sen. Mike Bishop (R) Rochester, Rep. Tom McMillin (R) Rochester Hills, and Rep. Kim Meltzer (R) Clinton Township were in attendance at the meeting.

At the urging of the Governor, contact your legislator today. Phone, email, or text legislators and tell them we must save public education. Urge them to look for revenue by reforming our antiquated tax structure and fixing our broken school funding system. For our economic survival, education must be a priority.

Dillon Health Care Plan – Prescription for Disaster
Hearing on 5345 Continues

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 29, 2009, in Room 351 of the Capitol for 2 p.m. or after session, whichever is later.

Testifying on behalf the MEA will be Lori Spotts, President of the Tecumseh EA and Superintendent Mike Shibler, Rockford Public Schools.

Friday, October 23, 2009

News of the Day

Additional cuts proposed by the Governor

Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Granholm announced in a news conference a proration cut of $127 per-pupil for this year. The cut is based on revenue estimates for the School Aid Fund (SAF) by the Department of Treasury.

This cut is in addition to the $165 per-student reduction in the K-12 Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 budget that Granholm signed Monday.

Current law requires that the Treasurer notify the Governor if the actual revenue collections are less than the estimated revenue on which the budget is based. In that case, the Governor is required to notify the Legislature that payments to school districts will be reduced on a per pupil basis in 30 days unless the Legislature adopts a solution to the revenue shortfall.

The Governor’s action simply underscores the huge budget deficit faced by Michigan that results from the billions of dollars of permanent, special interest tax cuts enacted when the economy was booming. These cuts are now exacerbating the effects of the economic downturn. Unless the legislature comes up with a fix to this structural deficit, the Governor has no choice but to reduce funding to schools and other units of government.

Schools are feeling the effects of the economic squeeze. Sales tax revenue, which continues to come in below projections, are a major source of school funding. About 70% of funding for the state’s 552 school districts and 232 public school academies comes from the state in the form of sales and property tax collections with a smaller amount from the state’s general fund.

The minimum state grant to schools would drop from $7,316 per pupil last fiscal year to $7,144. Spending per pupil would range from $77,144 to $12,271. Such cuts are difficult for schools to address, as they are already one-third of the way through their fiscal year.

The Governor is holding school funding meetings around the state

Governor Granholm is going around the state setting up meetings with the school community to generate support/pressure on the legislature to come up with more revenue and funding for schools. MEA staff and members, along with school administrators, school board members and parents, have been invited to participate in the discussion with the Governor. The meetings are being followed by press conferences.

A meeting was held in Livingston County Thursday and meetings are scheduled in Muskegon and Kent Counties on Friday. Representatives from the KCEA will be attending the Kent County meeting.

Dillon Health Care Plan – Prescription for Disaster
Hearing on 5345 Continues

Cindy Nayer, President and CEO of the Center for Health Value Innovation, testified that access and affordability of care for chronic diseases, prevention wellness and mental health is the core for insurance design needed to provide a healthy workforce for Michigan.

Dr. Mark Frederick, Co-Director of the Center for Value Based Insurance Design with the University of Michigan, contends that the question the committee should respond to is “how to restore health to health care on limited resources?” He also stated that the cost going in such direction may not be less, but there would be a greater return on the investment of good health.

Keith Bruhnsen, Assistant Director of Benefits & Manager of the Prescription Drug Program at the University of Michigan, testified to the pooling of the prescription program at the University, which is a self-insured, self-administered program. As to savings, he stated that it depends on the plan design.

Dan Gilmartin, Executive Director & CEO, and Samantha Jones Harkins, Legislative Associate for the Michigan Municipal League, offered a neutral position on HB 55345. They questioned the cost savings within the bill without cutting benefits.

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 29, 2009. MEA is scheduled to provide testimony.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

News of the Day

K-12 Budget yet to be signed by the Governor

Monday, it was reported that the Governor signed the School Aid budget. However, the press release failed to indicate that Governor Granholm had instead signed the Department of Education Budget.

The Governor is studying language in the bill that provides for consolidation of services, collection of data through CEPI and the requirement for transparency of local school districts.

Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) continue to negotiate over possible revenues to fulfill obligations passed in the budgets.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Stimulus dollars aided education

Based on preliminary information obtained by The Associated Press from a handful of states, teachers appear to have benefited most from early spending. That's because the stimulus sent billions of dollars to help stabilize state budgets, sparing what officials said were tens of thousands of teacher layoffs.”

Examples cited in the article include California (where the stimulus was credited with saving or creating 62,000 jobs in public schools and state universities); Utah (reported saving about 2,600 teaching jobs); Missouri (reporting that more than 8,500 school jobs were saved); Minnesota (more than 5,900 education jobs saved); and Michigan (19,500 jobs have been saved or created, three out of four of which were in education).

As official data from the stimulus package is released later this month, more information is expected about the impact on education.

Dillon Health Care Plan – Prescription for Disaster

Public Hearings on HB 5345 scheduled through November

A hearing on HB 5345 is scheduled for Thursday, October 15, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. or after committees are given leave by the House, whichever time is later.

The agenda includes presentations by:
Adam Miller, Senior Benefits Consultant, Social Security Department, UAW

Keith Bruhnsen, Assistant Director of Benefits & Manager of Prescription Drug Program, University of Michigan

Bill Anderson, Legislative Liaison, Michigan Townships Association

Friday, October 9, 2009

MEA President Comments on K-12 Budget Resolution

“Thousands of school employees, parents, business leaders and voters made their voices heard during the past few weeks in an effort to stop massive K-12 budget cuts from becoming reality.

“While tonight’s cut of $165 per pupil is less than what had been previously turned down by legislators, this cut is still a deep one that will adversely impact the education of Michigan’s children. Reducing the per pupil cut is certainly a win for students. But the lack of a full investment in public schools is disturbing, especially since the vast majority of our legislators ran for office touting the importance of education to our economic recovery.

“MEA is proud of our members and all other Michigan citizens who exercised their right to speak up for our state’s children. But tonight’s decision underlines that while their efforts kept the absolute worst from coming to pass, their voices can’t go silent now.

“The lesson of the past two weeks is that we have a chronic budget problem -- and cuts aren’t making it go away. After a decade of budget shortfalls and cuts, more shortfalls and more cuts, we still lack the necessary resources to invest in our state and our future. Next year, we face the potential of an even bigger hole in the budget -- one that cannot be filled with cuts alone.

“Our leaders in Lansing have less than a year to address our antiquated tax structure and build a new one that helps Michigan face the challenges of a 21st century economy. The simple fact is that we need tax reform that leads to stable, predictable and sufficient revenue to pay for the services we all want -- sturdy roads and bridges, police and fire protection, clean air and water, health care and especially, world class public schools for our students.

“We have to take a hard look at how we’re investing our state’s money. Can we afford to spend money on tax incentives that don’t bring long-term economic growth to Michigan? Can we afford tax-free luxury items or tax loopholes that don’t serve the common good? Can we afford the massive tax breaks that many claimed would bring economic prosperity -- prosperity that obviously hasn’t reached the homes of millions of Michigan citizens?

“It’s time to invest in our state. It’s time to invest in our schools. MEA is proud to have been part of leading that charge during this budget debate and we’re proud to commit today to continuing that fight because of our solemn belief that the key to our economic future is preparing our students for the jobs Michigan needs.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

News of the Day

K-12 Budget impasse halts federal funds

School districts were sent a letter last Friday notifying them that until the Legislature and Gov. Granholm enact a continuation budget or a full-year budget, the state can no longer disburse federal funds.

The affected federally funded programs include: Title I; Special Education; School Lunch Program; Adult and Child Care Food Program; Career and Technical Education; Educational Technology; Improving Teacher Quality; Charter School Funds; Even Start; Migrant Education; Comprehensive School Reform; and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (After School Programs).

School districts and private organizations that operate federal programs normally are reimbursed their federal funds on a weekly basis, according to the Department of Education. Over a normal two-week period, the department processes about $43 million in payments.

The House and Senate have not reached agreement on how much money to put into a continuation agreement.

It’s time to stop corporate greed!

For the past two decades state government has passed through legislation approximately $5 billion/year in tax cuts. Such cuts were designed to stimulate our economy, bring in new industries to replace the dying auto industry, and be the ultimate in job creation.

History has proven this theory wrong as tax incentives have been provided with a modest number of businesses establishing themselves in Michigan, but with little job creation.

Now corporate executives, led by David Branden and Doug Rothwell, are loudly proclaiming that if, the state would completely eliminate their tax burden, in addition to the roughly $2 million a year that have already been eliminated, the state will see economic growth, job creation and a stable state budget.

It is time for the legislature to balance the tax burden—not just on the backs of workers—but also on corporations. Without a balanced approach, Michigan can’t provide a sound public infrastructure, including public education and a place for businesses to develop and grow.

Without a balanced approach, public education suffers and businesses will leave the state. Michigan will continue to experience economic decline and job loss.

Public Hearings on HB 5345 scheduled through November

It was reported that the hearing scheduled for this Thursday would be canceled due to budget discussions taking place all week. However, more than 30 citizens and organizations have requested the opportunity to testify on the legislation. Thus, hearings dates are being scheduled through November so that everyone has a chance to tell his/her story.

Monday, October 5, 2009

State Budget Update: Battle continues

The fight to ensure Michigan invests in its future continues a day after the state House rejected devastating public education cuts recommended by a House-Senate panel.
Now, lawmakers are expected to re-examine school funding, a battle that could drag on until mid-October; schools are due to receive their first state aid payment of the school year on Oct. 20.

MEA members are urged to continue legislative contacts – phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and other communications have helped fend off deep cuts so far. Lawmakers need to hear from you, the hard-working education professionals on the front line.

Friday, October 2, 2009

News of the Day

Granholm will use veto power on budget

Thursday, Gov. Granholm declared she would use her veto power on the 2010 budget that the House and Senate sent her this morning.

She said she would use her veto power to shape a budget that “diversifies the economy, educates students and protects people at risk.”

Early Thursday morning, the Senate approved a continuation budget that ended a brief government shutdown. But the House couldn’t get the votes for the proposed $218-per-pupil-cut in the School Aid budget—despite an agreement between leaders of both Chambers to do so.

What’s Next?

Yesterday was School Count Day. Schools now know how many students they have to educate, but they have no idea how much money they can count on from the state to educate those students. It will be another two weeks when the Legislature must pass a budget in order to meet the October school aid payments.

The only way to avoid drastic cuts is through added revenue. The question is where that money will come from. And that means our work is not done. We need to continue advocating for students and preserving the quality of education in our state.

Click here for information about Kent County student counts.

A recent EPIC/MRA poll showed that an overwhelming majority—77 percent-- of Michigan residents responding, said, “Don’t cut education.” Rather, they support a budget that is a combination of cuts and new revenue sources.

New revenue is needed. The unfortunate possibility is that a revenue source may be the Michigan Health Benefits Program (HB 5345) as proposed by Speaker Andy Dillon. Our fight against this threat to our health care, our bargaining rights and our union is still out there as legislators look for ways to avoid drastic cuts to education.

Freshman lawmakers propose earlier budget deadline

Today, a bipartisan group of freshman state representatives introduced a bill that would force legislators to finish the state budget by July 1. This comes on the heels of the brief government shutdown this morning.

A state referendum to change the constitution would be necessary. According to the bill, if lawmakers didn’t settle a budget by July, they would forfeit their salaries for each extra day it takes to deliver a budget. That would amount to just over $300 a day.

There would need to be a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers to get the bill on the state ballot for the Aug. 2010 primary.

Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee

The next meeting of the Committee to hear testimony on the Michigan Health Benefits Program (HB 5345) is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 8.

State health scheme vs. federal health reform

When will it take effect?

State Plan
It will depend if, and when, the law is enacted. Health benefits that are required under a contract in effect on Jan. 1, 2010, would continue until the contract expires.

Federal Health Reform Plan
Depends on when the law is passed and what provisions are included in the final version. Some provisions will take time to implement.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

News of the Day

LANSING, Mich., Oct. 1, 2009 – Schools across Michigan will open their doors to students again today without any idea how much money they will have to operate the rest of this school year after state lawmakers did not reach a budget agreement by last night’s midnight deadline.

“MEA is very disappointed that we’re still without a budget agreement.” said MEA President Iris K. Salters. “School districts have had their own budgets in place since June 1, and have waited all summer for a financial commitment from the Legislature.”

With Wednesday’s Student Count Day concluded, for the first time in recent memory, schools know exactly how many students they will educate without knowing how much money they will have to do it with.

Before the deadline passed, Michigan House Representatives rejected a school aid budget that called for severe spending cuts, but did not pass a budget for the new fiscal year that uses new revenue to invest in education.

“While we are grateful that massive cuts were not passed, this budget stalemate is further proof that Michigan needs fundamental reform in the way we fund schools,” said Salters.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

News of the Day

Today’s Goal: Complete the 2009-10 Budget

The legislature rolled into Lansing Tuesday with the goal of completing the 2009-10 budgets. It will likely take until the last minute on Wednesday to reach that goal.

In a statement, House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) said, "The House is preparing to move budgets agreed to with the Senate on Tuesday. House Democrats are also are preparing plans to protect police and fire protection, health care for children and seniors, Promise Scholarships, K-12 education and other programs that are essential to Michigan's economic turnaround."

Several advocacy groups criticized lawmakers for pushing through a budget with serious cuts without a balance of new revenues to cover needed services to maintain a quality of life for Michigan.

It’s not too late to make your voice heard in the waning hours. Please contact your state senator and representative immediately to tell them how further cuts to education will hurt your students and your community.

Reminder: Many school districts have policies about communicating with legislators on school time and equipment, so wait until you are away from school to contact your legislators or use your personal cell phone when you are off duty. To stay informed at home, sign up to receive the MEA Votes e-newsletter at

Latest Update

Conference committees on Revenue Sharing, Department of Community Health and Department of Human Services have all reached a deal and have signed conference reports. Reports will now go to the floor for debate and votes by each chamber. Early Tuesday afternoon the Michigan Department of Education Budget passed the House and was sent to the Senate for approval.

Just the Facts – Powers and Duties given to State Government by HB 5345

Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

Each day we will provide some of the powers and duties that this legislation gives to state government that normally is provided at the local level by local school board members, city councils, county commissioners, etc.

* The board shall review recommendations of the office of state employer as to health benefit plans and total premium cost for each plan to be adopted as part of the MI health benefits program to be offered for public employees or other beneficiaries. Sec. 7(a)

* The board shall adopt or reject the recommendations of the office of state employer based on the criteria listed in sections 8 and 12. Sec. 7(b)

* The board shall issue directions to the office of state employer as to changes to be researched, developed, included, and resubmitted for any rejected recommendation. Sec. 7(c)

* The board shall assess the financial stability of the benefit plans proposed for adoption as parts of the MI health benefits program. Sec. 7(d)

* The board shall assess the financial stability of the MI health benefits program not less than annually after adoption and implementation. Sec. 7(e)

State health scheme vs. federal health reform

How does the proposal affect the state and federal budgets?

State Plan

Speaker Dillon claims the proposal could save $900 million. But there is no proof that purported savings will materialize. If there are any savings, they will come from significant benefit reductions and increased employee out-of-pocket costs. Many states that run health plans for public employees are having financial difficulties with the plans, even running deficits. If the Michigan plan runs a deficit, taxpayers will be forced to pay the bill regardless of costs.

Federal Health Reform Plan

Obama estimates his plan will cost $900 billion over 10 years. Most of the money will be reallocated from current health care expenditures. Additional money will come from reduced health care costs and premiums paid by consumers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

News of the Day

House and Senate canceled Sunday sessions

When the House and Senate convene tomorrow morning, they will have less than 48 hours to pass a budget or force the state to shut down.

House speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) announced Saturday that they had canceled sessions scheduled for Sunday afternoon. However, the three scheduled conference meetings were convened. They included committees on the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education.

Session was not held today (Monday) because of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Over the weekend Mr. Bishop expressed confidence that a deal might at last be close. He said negotiators had resolved one of the five troublesome budgets although he declined to say which one. He remained confident that the logjam might finally break and the House would pass the 2009-10 budget based on all-cuts, no tax increases model to which he and Mr. Dillon agreed.

Just the Facts – Powers and Duties given to State Government by HB 5345
Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

Each day we will provide some of the powers and duties that this legislation gives to state government that normally is provided at the local level by local school board members, city councils, county commissioners, etc.

- The Michigan health benefits program board is created as an autonomous entity in the department of management and budget. Sec. 3(1)

- The board shall exercise its powers independent of the director of the department of management and budget. Sec. 3(1)

- The state employer shall serve as chairperson. Sec. 5(1)

- After the first meeting, the board shall meet at least monthly. Sec. 5(1)

State health scheme vs. federal health reform

Would all public employees have exactly the same health insurance?

State Plan
No. Public employees would lose the plans they have today and would be forced to choose from a limited menu of plans mandated and designed by the state-run program.

Federal Health Reform Plan
No. National health care reform would preserve choice for people who have insurance today and extend coverage to provide affordable choices to people who are presently uninsured.

School Reform
House Bills 4787, 4788, 4789 – School Reform/Takeover

These bills allow so-called “failing schools” to be targeted for special help. Schools with chronically low student achievement would be placed under the oversight of a state reform/design officer and operated as a “redesigned school” with modified staffing rules that could be negotiated with employees.

The district could authorize special charter schools, or “turnaround schools.” That would provide students with an alternative education option.

These bills have passed the House and have been referred to the Senate.

The reform measures in these bills are as follows:

- Provide for improving the education of children and working conditions of employees.

- Control over the school is given to someone with experience and the authority to reform the school.

- Protects the rights of employees to bargain changes in working conditions. It also expands bargaining rights to include the ability to bargain over the privatization of support services, the terms of a leave of absence to teach in a charter school and the first day of school.

- Creation of a turnaround charter school is the last resort, not the automatic first option. Extensive oversight of the charter schools is provided.

- Establishes alternative routes to certification.

Monday, September 28, 2009

News of the Day

Senate Passes Continuation Budgets

A divided Senate passed two continuation budget bills that would provide funding for October--but at all the cut levels agreed to by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) SB 0252 provided money for K-12 funding from the School Aid Fund. SB 0831 was for all other departments.

Democrats took issue, saying that the continuation budgets were based on the target agreement and not a "true" continuation budget based on numbers from the current fiscal year. SB 0252 cuts schools by $20 per pupil and cuts Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) by 4 percent. SB 0831 funds departments for a month at half of the levels set in the target agreement.

The State House of Representatives Continues to Work

At this time, they continue to negotiate the budget in conference committees. Speculation is that the House will return on Sunday when the Senate returns.

Just the Facts
Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

HB 5345 could export Michigan jobs and taxpayer dollars to other states and overseas if a large national insurance player with deep pockets wins the bid to underwrite the state-run fund. Currently 90 percent or of the public employee health insurance market is served by Michigan companies.

State health scheme vs. federal health reform
Would those currently without coverage receive coverage?
State Plan - No
Federal Health Reform Plan - Yes

School Reform

Senate Bills 636, 637, 638 – Neighborhood Charter Schools

These bills are being touted as reforms that are necessary for Michigan to qualify for Race to the Top funds established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Since these bills are pending before the full Senate, they could end up as part of budget negotiations.
The reform measures in these bills are as follows:
- Removes the cap on charter schools without requiring them to be accountable.
- Eliminates collective bargaining agreements.
- Eliminates teacher tenure
- Establishes alternative routes to certification.

MEA opposes these bills.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Public Hearings Continue on HB 5345

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan testified Thursday before a House panel considering House Bill 5345, a proposed mandatory state-run health plan for public employees. Asked if forcing workers into a state-run insurance program would save $900 million, as purported by bill sponsor Rep. Andy Dillon, Flanagan pegged the savings as "between zero and $900 million."

Flanagan told the House Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee that public schools might be able to further cut spending by consolidating services and wringing other efficiencies, though other expert witnesses have questioned the alleged savings in this proposal. Flanagan also told the panel that he didn't want to see his teacher-daughter lose her health benefits -- and, he said, collective bargaining helps public employees.

"I think people would be screwed if they weren't represented by unions," Flanagan told lawmakers.

Brian Morris, a senior consultant at Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co., said based on the information he's seen in the revised white paper, he doesn't have an estimate on the possible savings.
Mr. Brian Morris, who is a health care actuary who works with public employers, told lawmakers he does see a potential for savings, particularly the part about administration of benefits, but savings are lowered when there are more than "tens of thousands" of benefit recipients in the pool.

Wayne Cass, chair of the Coalition of Labor Organizations at Michigan State University, said there is no guarantee that some employees won't see benefit reductions. The proposal doesn't address the real issue of rising health care costs.

The committee's next public hearing is Sept. 24.

Please continue to contact your legislators!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Capitol Chaos – Tuesday, Sept. 15

Budget Talks Heat Up

On Tuesday, in a radio interview, Majority Leader Mike Bishop announced that he and House Speaker Andy Dillon agreed to move forward with a 2009-10 fiscal year budget based on the Senate- passed cuts.

Under this plan, once the budget is completed, the House would consider tax increases to pay for the restoration of some spending. The Senate would consider any revenue proposals passed by the House. However, Mr. Bishop stated that there are no votes currently in the Senate Republican caucus to support a tax increase.

Later in the day, Senator Bishop clarified his morning comments by stating that there is no agreement on the budget. He did say, “We have an agreement on process and that is to get these conference committees moving and get some forward momentum on our ultimate goal. …All we’ve done is told our subcommittee chairs that they need to go out and negotiate using the cuts that we’ve put on the table.”

Mr. Bishop also said that he and Mr. Dillon agreed that if they are unable to complete a budget before October 1, they would pass a continuation budget to buy officials more time to craft a plan.

Appropriations subcommittee chairs planned to caucus today after session.

Our message remains to tell your legislator to say “no” to the disastrous Senate budget cuts.

Thank you to all members and staff who made calls to legislators today about the budget shortfall.

Just the Facts
Speaker Dillon’s Proposed Mandatory Government-run Health Plan

A mandatory state government-run health plan could actually make Michigan’s long-term structural budget deficits worse. Now is not the time to add billions more in financial liability at the state level. North Carolina’s $2.2 billion mandatory state health fund just needed a $658 million taxpayer bailout. As proposed in HB 5345, Michigan’s fund will be twice as large – making the financial risk twice as large as well. Other state government-run health funds are also in serious trouble. To keep funds solvent, New Jersey’s voluntary state health plan just increased premiums by 25 percent for participating school districts.

In addition to putting state taxpayers on the hook when the plan runs a deficit, Sec. 20 of HB 5345 also makes counties, cities, townships, universities, school districts and other local governments financially liable for any shortfalls. In testimony September 3 before the House, Speaker Dillon’s paid consultant said that when the state-run health plan ran a deficit, the state would bill local governments and school districts.

Committee Notice
Public Employee Health Care Reform Committee

More testimony is scheduled to be heard on HB 5345 on Thursday, September 17, 2009. The hearing will begin at 1 p.m. or after committees are given leave by the House to meet, whichever is later. The hearing will be held in room 519 of the House Office Building in Lansing.

Testimony will be given by the following:
Mike Flanagan, Superintend of Public Instruction, Michigan Department of Education
Brian Morris, Senior Consultant, Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co.
Richard Cauchi, Health Program Director, National Conference of State Legislatures
Wayne Cass, Chair of the Coalition of Labor Organization at Michigan State University

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Alert and Call to Action

We have received word that the Speaker of the House has agreed with the Senate budget plan. This plan contains only cuts to programs, no additional revenue. If this plan is adopted, it will mean a $110 cut to the foundation allowance and cutting almost all categorical programs in education. Adoption of a budget based on the Senate cuts will be devastating to education.

House leaders are reportedly ready to approve the Senate budget that cuts more than $1 billion from the state budget. They are rushing to do something rather than taking the time to do the right thing.

For K-12 public education, per pupil funding would be reduced by $110 and almost all categorical funding would be eliminated -- a total slash of almost half a billion dollars.

Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Tell your state representative to just say NO to the disastrous Senate budget cuts. (Remember: Don't use your school email or phone)

· Tell them to maintain funding for public education -- the only way to ensure our long-term economic recovery is to prepare our students for the jobs Michigan needs.

· Our leaders in Lansing must stop the political maneuvering around other issues (such as the mandatory health plan for public employees and ill-advised school reforms) -- it's time to focus on fixing our budget.

The only way to fix our budget is to update our antiquated tax structure and bring in revenue from the areas of our economy that are growing (such as services).

Lansing Update

Budget Update

Budget talks are moving very slowly with no evidence of progress.

· Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop stands pat on his Senate-passed budget cuts (see attachment).
· Governor proposes an estimated $600 million in additional revenues.
· House is still sitting on its passed budget, which provides for a continuation budget for 2009-10, but lacks the revenues to fund it.

The stage is set for a repeat of 2007 with reforms being offered up for revenues in the dead of night. The question now is what those reforms might be. Possibilities include:

· Modification of PA 312 for police and fire.
· Modification of PERA.
· Failing schools reform.
· Creation of Neighborhood Public Schools
· Eliminate University charter caps.
· Certification changes.
· Changes to the Tenure Act.
· Public employee health care.

The attempt to gain additional revenue by the governor would provide an additional $200 million to the school aid fund, which would reduce the need to make cuts nearly in half.

The only good news is that August revenues were higher than anticipated. That means that only $75 million of the stimulus money padding that was placed into the 2008-09 budget will get used up instead of the prior projection of $134 million. While that helps, it will not cure the projected shortfall for 2010-11.

On the Reform Front

SB 336, SB 337, & SB 338 Awaiting Senate Action

The Senate Neighborhood Public Schools (NPS) package is on General Orders on the Senate floor awaiting action by the full Senate. The package includes SB 636, SB 637, and SB 638.

This package of bills allows for the creation of neighborhood public schools where a majority of parents and teachers agree to split the school away from the home district.

There is no limit to the number of NPS that can be created or chartered. Each of these schools would have less accountability, less transparency and more control than other charters. Teachers in an NPS school would be exempt from their bargaining unit and could not accrue tenure.

MEA opposes this package of bills.

Just the Facts
Speaker Dillon’s Proposed Mandatory Government-run Health Plan

Speaker Dillon’s idea is not a structural fix for the state budget. In fact, a state government takeover of all public employee health insurance would add about $4 billion in new financial liability for the health care of hundreds of thousands of local employees to the state’s long-term structural budget. Sec. 18 of HB 5345 creates a “MI health benefits fund” in the state treasury to collect premiums and pay plan expenses, putting the good faith and credit of state’s taxpayers on the line.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Your Health Care is on the Chopping Block

Your new health plan will be whatever the state says you can have.

Your health benefits will be cut, but you’ll be paying more for them.

A state Control Board will determine who your doctor will be and what treatments you can have.
Bargaining with your school district for health insurance is no longer your right.

This is your future as a public school employee if you let Speaker Dillon’s Michigan Health Benefits Program become law.

This scheme claims to save millions of dollars by putting all public employees—including school employees—into one giant health plan. But the only way to do that is to gut your benefits and force you to pay more out of your pocket for them.

Time is running out for you. This bill is on the fast track.

Act now to stop this attack on your health benefits and bargaining rights:

1. Go to to read the latest information on the mandatory public employee health plan.

2. Contact your state legislators. Urge them to oppose this plan since there’s no evidence the state can effectively manage such a project or that it will actually save money. Share your stories of wage freezes, concessions and other efforts you’ve made to help your district save money.

3. Volunteer to attend and testify at the committee hearings. Contact your UniServ director for details.

Get educated! Get involved! Fight for your right to bargain quality health care!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PAC Update

Esther Turner has been hired as a PAC Snap for the Kent County. She is available to assist in any capacity with your local PAC drive. The major push is for all contributions to be turned in by October 31, 2009. This year's goal is for 100% participation and $20/member.

"We want this to be an exceedingly banner year!" says Esther. "The opposition is determined to continue to take away our bargaining rights. We need to say 'heck no,' we will survive, and PAC is our voice."

You may contact Esther at or 616-957-1944.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Action Needed Now

Speaker of the House Andy Dillon has proposed a statewide health care plan for all public employees that would slash your coverage and strip your rights to bargain them. His proposal is anti-union, anti-collective bargaining and anti-public school employee.

This plan has gotten a lot of press – and MEA has been at the heart of this fight. The fight for health care that keeps you and your family safe. But to win this debate, we need your help in getting the facts out and ensuring that your legislators in Lansing understand how strongly you oppose the Speaker’s scheme.

A close examination of Speaker Dillon’s conceptual white paper makes it clear that:

- Speaker Dillon calls for the creation of a new government agency that would be empowered to review and approve or reject diagnoses and treatment plans between patients and their doctors.

- Speaker Dillon is clearly proposing a government-run health care fund and huge expansion of state government.

- His white paper presents his idea in the abstract, while offering little factual evidence or credible research to support any claims of real savings. In many cases, Speaker Dillon himself is unsure how his idea will be translated into legislation.

- No public policy debate of any value can be conducted until Speaker Dillon’s legislation is introduced.

- It will take at least two years, and likely more, before the state takeover and health fund could be implemented. There are no budget savings for at least three years, if ever.

- Increasing state government’s financial responsibility for another $4 to $6 billion in health care costs is risky and could be a big budget-buster.

- Speaker Dillon’s limited concept completely ignores the real research that should drive a public policy debate about public employee compensation: a fair analysis of total compensation, including salary and benefits; a history of bargaining; and consideration of the value of quality benefit packages to attracting talented individuals to careers in public service.

What are the facts?

- During the past three years, Michigan’s school employees have already saved taxpayers more than $700 million in health insurance costs by accepting lower cost health coverage or paying more out of pocket for co-pays and premiums.

- Through salary and wage concessions during the past three years, Michigan school employees have saved taxpayers an additional $200 million.

- In order to save $900 million, Speaker Dillon's plan would have to massively cut school employee health care premiums (and coverage) - some by as much as half.

- Currently 90% or more of the public employee health insurance market is served by Michigan companies. Speaker Dillon’s plan could export Michigan jobs and taxpayer dollars to other states and overseas if a large national insurance player wins the bid to underwrite the state-run health plan.

- Health care is a national problem that requires a national solution – one that our leaders in Washington are working on right now.

Your legislators in Lansing need to hear these facts from you. They need to stand up and demand that the Speaker provide details and legislation to back up his claims. They need to defend the health care and bargaining rights of half a million Michigan public workers and their families.

Kent County Representatives
Justin Amash 517-373-0840
Tom Pearce 517-373-0218
Robert Dean 517-373-2668
Roy Schmidt 517-373-0822
Kevin Green 517-373-2277
Dave Hildenbrand 517-373-0846

Please call or write your representative today! Tell him/her that the Dillon Plan is bad for Michigan.

Outside of Kent County
Look-up your representative at:


Sample Script: "I am a public school employee. I strongly urge you to oppose Speaker Dillon's health care proposal for all public employees. It is anti-employee, anti-collective bargaining and anti-union."

Also, as you see coverage of the Speaker’s scheme in the news, be sure to write letters to the editor or post comments on Web sites stating your opinion.

We can’t let this assault on public employee health benefits and bargaining rights go unanswered. Together, as union members, we can and will stop this attack and promote real solutions to our state’s budget crisis, including closing hundreds of millions in inefficient tax loopholes and restoring the promise of Proposal A to fully fund public education in our state.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

We Need Your Support!

A Public Hearing has been scheduled to discuss
the “Dillon Plan”:

Thursday, August 6th

1:00p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

At the Michigan State Building in Grand Rapids

(350 Ottawa Ave., Grand Rapids)

Speaker Dillon’s plan to create a statewide health care plan for all public employees
is based on questionable estimates of cost savings and a state government that can’t
even balance a budget. We need members to speak at the hearing about the following

Where are the savings coming from? There is no way this plan will deliver on its
promise to save millions without drastically cutting benefits and shifting
increased costs to employees.

Public school employees have already delivered millions in savings by accepting
lower salaries, cuts to their benefits and sharing in the cost of health care. (Give
specific examples from your experience.)

Public school employees are already part of large pools. Creating an even larger
pool for health care, as Speaker Dillon proposes, will, at some point, become a
cost increase.

Do we really trust the government to run anything on this large a scale? How has
it done so far?

Speaker Dillon’s plan will eliminate any local control over costs and benefits.
Why should we strip local school districts and local governments of the ability to
make the right decisions regarding their employees and their communities when
it comes to health care benefits?

Public Employees are taxpayers. This does not save them anything. It merely
shifts the costs and burdens to them.

Speaker Dillon’s plan is not the way to deal with the health care issue. We need
national leadership from Washington to deal with a national issue – not a risky
experiment in Lansing during disastrous economic times.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Call Your Representative NOW!

Speaker Dillon's health care proposal for all public employees is gaining momentum. You need to contact your state representative and tell him/her that stealing your rights and turning your health benefits into a political game is not okay. Please call your rep today!

Click here if you don't know who your state representative is: Find My Rep

Click here for a listing of state representatives' phone numbers: Reps' Phone Numbers

Here is a sample script -

"I am a public school employee. I strongly urge you to oppose Speaker Dillon's health care proposal for all public employees. It is anti-employee, anti-collective bargaining and anti-union."

Thank you.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Protect Your Health Benefits and Bargaining Rights

All members are encouraged to contract your state representatives NOW and implore them to not support the "Dillon Health Plan."

All of us need to respond to this action alert for two reasons:

1) It directly pertains to your current and future choices about health care.

2) Our strong, unified and immediate response is of the utmost urgency.

You have consistently told your bargaining teams – “Protect our health benefits.” Time and again the rising costs of health coverage have put the squeeze on district budgets and employee wages. School employees have responded time and again by paying more out of pocket for health coverage in lieu of the wage increases they would otherwise win… a sad state of affairs that could get drastically worse very quickly if we don’t act in unison right now.

Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon has proposed that all state employees, including all school employees, be forced into a single statewide plan. The potential impact upon you and your family:

1) You would have no choice of health plans. All of negotiated health choices would disappear.

2) Blue Cross would probably be chosen to administer the plan, but the plan’s benefits would be determined by how much the state can afford. It would be the state’s plan run by BCBS. Translation: Your hostage health coverage would be dialed up and down every year according to the state’s budget. As the state’s fortunes shift, so would your coverage. Make no mistake… your coverage will be dialed down more in hard times than it might be dialed up in good times… they would balance Michigan’s budget on our backs any time they want to spend more elsewhere.

3) You would lose your right to bargain your health care. In terms of health coverage, you would be a union member with the (non)rights of an at-will employee. Your choice of health coverage would be “take it” or “take it”... no discussion allowed, period. But thanks for asking.

4) Dillon’s numbers are “fuzzy” by design. His plan does not save the state money. It merely shifts the state’s burden to your shoulders, now and into the future. You, among all of Michigan’s taxpayers, are being selected to carry the load the state has failed to carry.

For more detailed info:

MEA has identified key legislators to contact. Please follow these steps to send the same email to each of them (saves time!):

1) Take 3 minutes to write a brief paragraph or two in Word based upon the above.

2) Block and copy your final text. You’ll be pasting it into several emails.

3) Click the links further below one at a time. That legislator’s bio will pop up.

4) Click the “contact” tab above that legislator’s bio picture. Then click her/his email address.

5) A pre-addressed email from to that legislator will pop up. Paste your text into the email box and fill out your personal info further down. Make sure to check “Send a copy of this letter to MEA” at the very bottom. This will help us track what is being done.

6) Click preview and/or send (red buttons at the bottom). Repeat steps 3-6 for each legislator.

Here are the legislators MEA has identified as being key to this issue:
Rep. Dillon
Rep. Byrnes
Rep. Melton
Rep. Meadows
Rep. Angerer

Also contact your local legislators:
Rep. Dean
Rep. Schmidt

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Merit Pay for Teachers

At this year's NEA RA in San Diego, merit pay was a hot topic, and President Obama is a proponent. Here are some ideas to think about:

There are basically three types of teacher compensation systems: the uniform salary schedule (such as the single salary schedule we are familiar with); performance-based systems, also known as behavior-based systems (based in part on observable and demonstrated skills on specific pedagogical techniques); and, outcomes-based systems, also known as pay for performance or merit pay (based on student performance).

Merit pay can be traced back to 1862 in England to the “payment for results” system which was based on student outcomes. It was not without controversy. A teacher at the time wrote “when one of my backyard boys died of bronchitis a few weeks back I felt a measure of relief; for his death would make one failure less.”

Merit/performance pay is a conservative idea which was re-introduced in the modern era in 1983 by Ronald Regan who pushed the idea of merit pay for civil servants. Under the adage that everything old is new again, merit pay is being resurrected by conservatives who are completely out of new ideas.

Contrary to the popular rhetoric of those touting it for the public sector because of its success in the private sector, pay tied directly to explicit measures of output is surprisingly rare in the private sector. According to the National Compensation Survey, only 6 percent of private sector workers are awarded regular output-based payments—and that practice is declining/fading.

Promoters of merit/performance pay for teachers also seem oblivious, ignorant or are willfully ignoring: the extensive literature in economics and management theory against it; the documentation of inevitable corruption associated with it; or the perverse consequences such systems have produced, when reliance on quantitative indicators is relied upon at the expense of qualitative indicators. Nowadays, the business management literature is filled with warnings about incentives that rely heavily on quantitative (student test scores) rather then qualitative (degrees, certification, evaluations, etc.) measures.

Economists, sociologists and management theorists generally caution against accountability systems that rely exclusively, or even primarily, on numerical outcome measures. Management guru, Edward Demming, wrote in his book “Out of Crisis” (on p. 102):

“The idea of merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. Everyone propels himself forward, or tries to, for his own good, on his own life preserver. The organization is the loser. Merit rating rewards people that do well in the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system. . . . moreover, merit rating is meaningless as a predictor of performance . . .”

Most management theorists conclude that public employees (including teachers) are relatively more motivated by a belief in the goals of the organization while private employees are relatively more motivated by financial rewards.

The General Social Survey found that public sector employees are more likely to respond that a job that is “helpful to society” is very important while private sector employees are more likely to respond that pay, promotion, opportunity and security is very important to them.

Modern professional work (such as teaching) is complex, multi-faceted and not easily summarized by simple quantitative measures. Merit/performance pay systems cannot measure that complexity but instead create concerns of validity, reliability and freedom from bias as to how they are administered.

Research, available through the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, shows no evidence of increased student achievement resulting from merit/performance pay programs. David Berliner’s research on the unintended consequences of high-stakes testing, commissioned by the Center, showed many negative consequences of merit/performance pay programs.

The Michigan experience:

Grand Blanc – system is based on a whole school building assessment on a number of indicators such as the Baldrige Assessment—not just a single test score. If the building does well, every employee gets a 1.5 percent bonus.

Clio – system is based on a whole school building assessment (takes into account things like attendance at football games or after school activities). It has caused problems because if one person doesn’t participate the whole staff is punished.

Oscoda – system is based on a district-wide assessment based on MEAP scores. If the district scores well on the MEAP, each of the teachers would receive approximately $250 at the end of the year.

Au Gres – system, in place since the 1990s, is based on a district-wide assessment based on MEAP scores. Teachers never received any money because students never scored high enough until the past couple of years…when the district realized they could not afford what they had promised and had to renegotiate a lower “bonus.”

Special thanks to MEA Executive Director Lu Battaglieri

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The End of MESSA?

Here is the latest news from Lansing:

The Legislative Commission on Governmental Efficiency continues to focus on health care benefits of public employees, particularly employees of public schools. Created by statute to examine ways to achieve efficiency in government, the commission has obsessed with finding ways to cut benefits and thereby reduce the compensation of school employees through the creating of a single, statewide, government run health care plan for all public employees, including school employees.

This is merely a revisit of SB 55 and SB 56 from a few years ago, and ignores the findings of a private study commissioned by the Senate and conducted by the Hayes Group that there are not significant administrative efficiencies to be achieved by dismantling the health care system that is currently in place for public school employees.

While the Governmental Efficiency Commission has not issued any public pronouncements in recent months, there continues to be considerable chatter by Lansing insiders to the effect that it is ready to issue a recommendation to force all school employees into a single state run plan. Last week the blog “Center for Michigan” posted an article claiming that the Commission is pursuing efficiency by cutting $300 million for community colleges from the State general fund general purpose (GF/GP) budget and replace it with $300 million from funds dedicated to the K-12 school aid fund (SAF). The $300 million hole in the SAF budget would be made up through an early retirement buy out and the creation of a single, state run health insurance plan for school employees.

Leaders from both parties and both legislative chambers seem to be buying into this flawed line of reasoning. Contact your representative and senator and urge them to oppose any state run health insurance plan for school employees. It was a bad idea four years ago and it still is a bad idea.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Another Attack Against Collective Bargaining

The Legislature is considering an important issue to your health insurance coverage and family’s well being. A government commission in Lansing is considering a recommendation to eliminate your choice and your control of your health care benefits. The recommendation would eliminate collective bargaining and replace your current health plan with coverage controlled by state government. A state-run plan could limit your choice of doctors, greatly, increase your co-payments and out-of-pocket costs, and cut your benefits at any time. Here's the actual draft recommendation:

“Require all active school employees to be placed in a State-run health care plan. Eliminate all local bargaining on health care. Local savings would depend on the cost of the State-run program compared to the current program. There would be State costs in implementing and operating the plan.”

The government commission is expected to finalize its recommendations this month. This remains a very fluid situation, and we will try to keep you updated and will let you know when and if we need your active efforts and support with legislators.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thanks for ALL You Do

It’s hard to believe this school year will be ending soon. As for those newer Association leaders, whether you are a first-time Association representative for your department or building, a new Association officer, grievance chair, or whatever… THANK YOU for taking on the responsibility of serving your Association.

It’s never too soon to plan for the future. Having knowledge and skills in how to best do your job is always in everyone’s best interests. Take some time now to plan on attending some of the important workshops and conferences MEA hosts each year. Attending will help you become a better employee and a better Association leader.

Here are the upcoming conferences and workshops:

For members:

*July 30-31 - Social Justice Institute
*September/October - Look for Survival Workshops for Probationary Teachers
*Early December - Instruction and Professional Development Conference (3 days)

For leaders:

*July 28-30 - Summer Leadership Conference
*October/November - Election Training
*February - Bargaining/Political Action/PR Conference
*March - ESP Statewide Conference
*June - Labor Relations Practicum

Please contact your UniServ Director or for more information.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Contact Your Legislators Now! Part Two

Here's Part Two of Contact Your Legislators Now!

Last week we began the list of proposals of the so called school reform legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives. It continues here. The bills HR 4787, HB 4788, and HB 4789 amend the school code, the school employee bargaining law, and the state aid act. Please contact your member of the Michigan House and Senate and urge them to make the changes listed below to these bills.

*Provide that any outside, private educational management organization brought in to manage a school building or charter school comply with all transparency and accountability laws and regulations on the same basis as do public schools and have demonstrated competency in making improvement to underachieving schools with pupils of all types and ability levels. Insist that principals and teachers be part of any evaluation teams that are charged with evaluating "failing schools" and making recommendations for their turnaround.

*Require that the State Department of Education complete all assessments and evaluations of schools that do not make AYP, as currently required by law or regulation. Most schools in danger of being deemed "failing" are not being evaluated or supervised by the Department of Ed. as they should be.

*Establish a provision for schools to be returned to control of the local board of education if the turnaround officer cannot make progress within a reasonable time period or if s/he determines that the turnaround task is complete.

Please remember - don't use school owned equipment or email systems to contact your legislators. Contact information for your legislators can be found here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Contact Your Legislators Now! Part One

School reform (so called) legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives. The bills HR 4787, HB 4788, and HB 4789 amend the school code, the school employee bargaining law, and the state aid act. Please contact your member of the Michigan House and Senate and urge them to make the changes listed below to these bills.

*Eliminate the provisions that would open one new charter school for each failing public school. Charter schools have been in Michigan for 15 years, and there is NO evidence that they bring significant improvement in a single struggling public school.

*Remove the provisions of the bills that allow the turnaround officer to ignore portions of local contracts and work rules that protect employee rights. Employees are not the problem nor are they the cause of the problems in failing schools, and we do not believe they should be scapegoats.

*Remove the anti-employee prohibited subjects of bargaining that were imposed on school employees, and only on school employees, 15 years ago in HB 4788.

Please remember - don't use school owned equipment or email systems to contact your legislators. Contact information for your legislators can be found here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

GRCC Recomendated Candidates

There a a total of eight candidates running for three seats for the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees. Four of the eight agreed to meet with the Screening and Recommendation Committee.

The KCPAC and the GRPAC make the following recommendation for the GRCC Board of Trustees election on May 5, 2009:

Ellen M. James - incumbent

Richard W. Verburg - incumbent

Robert C. Bennett - new

Make sure to vote on May 5!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

School Board Elections

School board elections are the most important local election you can get involved in. When you vote in these elections, you have the opportunity to help shape public education in your district.

School board candidates have filed their nominating petitions and An Affidavit of Identity with their local board of education office. Now is the time to contact your coalition units and form a Screening and Recommendation (S & R) Committee to interview all candidates.

Once you have finished the interviews and recommended a candidate, inform the membership, get out and support your candidate(s). Do what is needed to get your candidate(s) elected.

Taking an active role in school board races is the easiest way to influence those who make the decisions in your school district. This is your chance to continue MEA's ongoing advocacy for children, public education and public education employees.

Participate - you will make a difference.

Latest Info on Federal Economic Stimulus

The first round of stimulus dollars went to states this week, making available half of the money for special education and other federal programs. Michigan is estimated to receive a total of $800 million in funding for Title I and special education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoes President Obama’s intentions that stimulus money is to be used to save school employees’ jobs. He will withhold future installments of the stimulus money from anyone who defies Obama’s wishes.
State Fiscal Stabilization funds will be released in three installments: the first and second to save jobs and improve K-12 and higher education; in the third round of funding called Race to the Top grants, states that have made the most progress on reforms will be rewarded. Michigan is expected to receive a total of $1.5 billion in stabilization funding.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan plans to apply for those funds.

To ensure accountability and transparency in the use of these funds, recipients must report the number of education jobs that are saved. With so many school districts predicting layoffs, we must be vigilant to make sure funds are used to save as many school employee jobs as possible.

As education advocates, we must make sure school districts are investing the money in children and using these dollars to improve student achievement. Investing money in teachers directly impacts student achievement.

According to Senator Debbie Stabenow, this money makes resources available to keep teachers in the classroom, provide assistance to students with special needs and keep schools safe.

This money means students will receive the education necessary for the jobs Michigan needs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Perils of Social Networking

Many school employees, the MEA, and even the KCEA are active with on-line social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. If you have an online presence or are considering one, beware your job may be in danger.

Here's a link to a recent NEA article about school employees that faced termination or discipline for something online and unrelated to their jobs (or so they thought).

You may think that this doesn't or won't affect anyone in your local, but many employees, especially younger ones, have had an on-line presence for years. It has only been recently that the perils of this are occurring.

In the wake of these reports, the Ohio Education Association urged all OEA members to remove any personal profiles they may have posted on MySpace or Facebook. The Association also warned members that such profiles "can be used as evidence in disciplinary proceedings," which could "affect not only a teacher's current job but his/her teaching license" as well.

An Ottawa County EA's Executive Board adopted and sent out a similiar warning to all of it's members regarding appropriate use of the internet.

Be proactive. Educate your members today. If you would like a copy of the Ottawa County EA's warning please contact Jon Toppen at

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lobby Effort Under Way on Retirement Stimulus

Please tell your state senator to support SB 255

KCEA members are urged to contact their state senator immediately to support Senate Bill 255, a bill that would save money and create jobs.

Today, in the Senate Education Committee, substitute language was introduced for the School Employee Retirement Stimulus, which creates a one-year window from April 1, 2009, through March 31, 2010, in which school employees under MPSERS who are eligible for retirement could do so with a 1.75 percent multiplier for their pensions.

The multiplier is up from the current 1.5 percent, but down from a 2 percent multiplier proposed earlier. Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, is the primary sponsor of SB 255.

MEA members should tell their senator to take up SB 255 immediately and to vote yes. The savings that could be generated next year -- almost $500 million -- could help many school districts avoid mass layoffs.

If enacted, the legislation would encourage veteran school employees at the top of the salary schedule to retire. It would also open up jobs for recent and future college graduates who want to work in public education.

It is unknown exactly how many school employees would retire with the stimulus. While there would be a limit on the number who could retire, the exact figure will vary depending on how many of the most senior employees with actual service in Michigan public schools opt to do so. The liability for Michigan schools would be capped at $1.5 billion.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Poverty and Potential:Out-of-School Factors and School Success

A study by Dr. David Berliner, released today by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, provides powerful evidence for a fact that school employees have known all along—if you don’t solve the problems outside the classroom, you cannot expect all students to be able to achieve inside the classroom. The Michigan Education Association and the KCEA applaud Dr. Berliner in his call for leaders to address children’s physical and mental health as well as safety and not hold public schools accountable for factors beyond their control.

Here in Kent County, where many families are now faced with a severe economic crisis, more and more students are losing their homes to foreclosure and job loss, which often also results in loss of medical care, lack of nutritious food, and enormous emotional stress. To expect these children to be able to fully concentrate and succeed in school is absurd.

Solving the problems of poverty and homelessness will take involvement from the entire community. MEA and its members are currently engaged in outreach projects across the state to help make a difference. We urge every other Michigander to join us and work toward making sure our students have the safety and security they need to achieve their full potential and be prepared for the jobs Michigan needs.

Berliner study available at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Reading Requirement for Teachers Effective July 1, 2009

Beginning July 1, 2009, in order to advance from the Provisional teaching certificate to the Professional Education teaching certificate, a teacher must provide evidence of the completion of an additional 3 semester credit course in reading focused on the diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties which includes a field experience. This reading course is in addition to any reading courses required for initial certification. The course may be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level but must be completed before or during the first 6 years of classroom teaching to be eligible to advance in certification.
The Michigan Department of Education has posted a list of reading courses at various state colleges and universities that may be taken to satisfy the requirement. The list is available at the following web site: under the heading Specialty Programs.

Questions about the requirement may be addressed to Dr. Bonnie Rockafellow at

Teachers who meet the requirements to advance to the Professional Education teaching certificate before July 1, 2009 are advised to give serious consideration to doing so prior to the expiration date on the certificate to avoid this requirement. To advance the teacher must provide evidence that an additional 18 semester credits have been earned in a planned program since the issuance of the Provisional teaching certificate, a master’s degree or higher earned at any time satisfies this requirement, and have at least 3 years of successful teaching in the validity of the teaching certificate. Teachers having completed a planned program through a Michigan university or college should contact the Certification Office of the institution and request to be recommended for the Professional Education certificate to the MDE.

Individuals who completed a planned program through an institution outside of Michigan must apply directly to the MDE for a Professional Education certificate.

Contact Frank Ciloski, MEA Consultant at 517-332-6551 extension 6213 for further information.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Just a reminder that the deadline for students to submit applications to high school counselors for the KCEA Scholarships is next Friday, March 6 by 5 pm.

The deadline for submitting applications to KCEA Local Presidents for the KCEA Teachers of the Year Award and Support Staff Persons of the Year Awards is also next Friday, March 6 by 5 pm.

Both counselors and Presidents have until Friday, March 20 by 5 pm to submit their final choice from these submissions to KCEA.

All Dependent Scholarship Applications need to be received in the KCEA office by 5 pm next Friday, March 6 by 5 pm. These are the only student scholarships that are not selected by the counselors.

Click here for applications.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

World Clock

We're not vouching for the accurancy of this site, but it's mighty interesting:

Check it out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No Proration?

More information is becoming available regarding the Federal Stimulus Package, especially how money will be allocated for education. According to the Detroit News, the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency is reporting that Michigan can't get the Federal stimulus money if Michigan cuts appropriations for K-12 or higher education. Right now the Governor is disagreeing - she wants to her $59/pupil reduction in the foundation allowance and the Federal Stimulus money. Let's all hope the Senate wins this one.

For more information about the Federal Stimulus check out the following on the U.S. Department of Education web-site:

· A table showing the amounts provided for the Department’s programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), in pdf at and in Microsoft Excel at

· Tables showing preliminary State allocations of FY 2009 funds provided under the ARRA at These do not include funds that will be allotted from the yet-to-be-enacted regular FY 2009 appropriation.

· Preliminary estimates of ESEA Title I LEA allocations of supplemental FY 2009 funds under ARRA at Again, these do not include funds that will be allotted from the yet-to-be-enacted regular FY 2009 appropriation.