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