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.