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.