Monday, June 25, 2012

SB1040 On Hold

The Senate adjourned until July 18 without doing anything regarding SB1040. This does not mean nothing will happen, so keep in contact with Senator WalkerAnd your legislator and tell them it is unfair to fix our pension system at our expense. We did not create the problem and it will not go away with the simplistic plan the Senate has put forth. To find out more, go to

Saturday, June 16, 2012

E.J. Teachers Invite All to a Rally Monday

East Jordan teachers and staff will be gathering at 4:30pm Monday, June 18 for an informational picket in the high school parking lot. All MEA MEMBERS and friends of E.J. staff are encouraged to attend. Things have not gotten better with rumors swirling around the board will try to impose a contract retroactive to 2010. It supposedly will include 20% copay on insurance premiums, 10% wage reduction, and paybacks on wages for the past two years among other things. Bring a sign supporting the E.J. staff on Monday at 4:30.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strange Day In Lansing

After reporting the pension bill was a done deal, news out of Lansing via email from MEA spokesman Doug Pratt, the Senate leadership could not come to terms with the house version and simply left for the day without doing anything. Meanwhile, the House could not move on the bill since their version was different than the Senate plan. The Legislature is scheduled to return July 18 for a one day session, so be prepared to contact your representative and senator to stop or at least get them to amend this bill even further. Stay tuned for round two.

Petition for Constitutional Amendment Rolls On

Yesterday, various groups including MEA supporting the petition drive protecting collective bargaining rights in Michigan turned in over 600,000 signatures to the Secretary of States office. That is more than double the 322,000 needed to place it on the ballot this fall. Boyne City members collected over 200 signatures alone. Way to go Boyne City! Even though the deadline for turning in signatures is July 9, by getting them in early will mean a better placement on the November ballot. But now is not the time to rest. The real job will be getting people out to vote YES in Novenber. Stayed tuned for details.

Pension Reform a Done Deal

Early Wednesday night Senate Leader Randy Richardville signed off on the Pension Reform bill. However, it looks like it will not prevent new teachers from joining the pension system as the senate version wanted. I don't have many details at this writing, but I will keep you informed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

E.J. Needs Your Help

Come join East Jordan teachers This Thursday at Sportsman Park (that's the one just over the bridge on the left in E.J.) for an informational picket.  There is a feeling the board will attempt to impose a contract next month with a 10% pay cut retroactive back to the expoireation of the current contract.

This means teachers will have to pay back the district the reduction in wages!  How would you like that done to you!!

Come support our colleagues!  Stand up and be relevent! 

See you Thursday at 4:30pm.  Bring your picket signs:)

SB1040 on Fast Track in House

Call your representative now. House committee republicans do not seem to care about the financial harm they will do to retirees, current teachers, and future teachers.  When former teachers gave examples of how raising the copay from 10% to 20% would devastate their monthly income, Phil Stoddard of the Office of Retirement Services (ORS) reminded the committee that low income subsidies existed for those finding it hard to make ends meet. 

Really!?  The answer to pulling the plug on someones monthly pension is to say go get a bridge card?  Better start doing something or we will be working for poverty wages.

Current teachers can expect to cough up 4-7% of their annual salary just to keep the 1.5% multiplier.  But if you don't want to pay out that much, you can take a lower 1.25% multiplier.  Not sure what that translates into lost money at retirement, but I bet it is a significant chunk of change.  But wait, you have a third option!  You can be your own financial advisor and put your money into a 401K style retirement fund.  I seem to remember a little something call the Recession of '08.  Ask a retiree how they fared with their 401k after 2008.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stupidity In Action

How stupid can the Michigan Senate be?  When SB 1040 was written (and co-sponsored by Sen. Howard Walker),  one of the provisions in the bill stated that in order for teachers to avoid all the changes that would take place in the current pension program, they would have to retire by May 31st of this year!  The politicians did not realize that the school year for most districts doesn't end until June.  That would put schools in chaos with teachers retiring before the end of the school year.  Oops!  When MEA a lobbyists pointed that out to the Senate, they quickly came up with an amendment to the original bill to move the retirement date to July 1st.  This goes to show how little these guys know about education and schools in general.  If it wasn't such a serious issue, it would be comical.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Protect Our Jobs

Protect Our Jobs. That is the name of the petition drive to place a constitutional amendment prohibiting Right to Work laws in Michigan on the November ballot.

We need your help. BCEA will need a member in each building to help distribute petitions, collect completed petitions, and encourage members to gather signatures. Executive Council cannot do it all. We need everyone to step up.
There will be a Protect Our Jobs organizational meeting Wednesday, April 11, 5-7pm at NCMC library conference room. Call 347-6271 (MEA Petoskey office) to say you will attend.

Senator Howard Walker Attacks Your Retirement

Provided courtesy of
Emphasis placed is mine. Sen. Howard Walker is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The latest legislative assault on retirement was launched on Thursday, March 29 in the form of Senate Bill 1040. The bill makes sweeping changes to limit the pension benefits received by employees while increasing the out-of-pocket costs for both active and retired members.

MEA is conducting further analysis of SB 1040, but it is clear that this bill dismantles the retirement security of thousands of Michigan school employees and their families. MEA recently joined the Coalition for Secure Retirement and will be working through that coalition to fight against these destructive bills.

Key provisions of SB 1040 include:

  • Increased contribution rates (to 5% for Basic or 8% for MIP, PLUS the additional 3% for retirement health) to retain the current multiplier of 1.5% for future years of service in the calculation of a pension.
  • Employees choosing to not pay the higher contribution rates would either have to freeze their defined benefit accrual and shift to a 401(k) style plan with a 4% employer contribution OR have the multiplier for any future service lowered to 1.25%.
  • Retroactively impose the graded premium subsidy program on all active employees (rather than only those hired after July 1, 2008).
  • Cap the premium payment for retirement health benefits at 80% for active AND retired members -- effectively doubling the premium payment for many current retirees.
  • Eliminate retirement health benefits for all future hires, replacing it with an employer-matched health savings account, and cap final average compensation at $100,000 for new employees.
For a full rundown of SB 1040's impacts on current employees and retirees, view CSR's Action Alert.

SB 1040's sponsor, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw), and other Republican leaders indicate that this proposal will be moving through both chambers alongside the upcoming state budget process in April and May. Call your state Senator today and urge him or her to oppose this assault on the retirement of Michigan's dedicated school employees. Current employees should not have to pay even higher out-of-pocket costs to keep the benefits that have been promised to them. And retirees cannot afford for their health insurance premiums to increase, especially in light of the state's new pension tax.

We're Not Going To Take It Any More

Question:  How many anti-teacher/education laws have been passed by the Republicans and signed by Governor Rick "I'm not against unions/teachers/public education/etc." Synder, the past two years?
Answer:  11

How many bills are pending attacking teachers, public education, the middle class, and workers in general?
Answer:  19 and counting

Need  a little inspiration?  Watch the clip below.

A one-line summary of each law/bill is listed below.

Republican Attacks -
A Look Back and a Look Ahead

With the sheer number of attacks from Legislative Republicans since February 2011, it’s helpful to lay out a few highlights in one document. It should be noted that this is NOT an exhaustive list of the bills. To view the complete list visit our Bill Tracker at

What Has Passed

PA 4 – 3/17/2011
This Act requires schools to fall under the newly defined and expanded use of Emergency Financial Managers to include ability to unilaterally terminate or amend contracts, dissolve elected boards, etc.

PA 42 – 5/26/2011
This Act eliminates tax exemptions for public school employee pensions.

PA 54 – 6/8/2011
This Act freezes wages after a contract expires, passes health care cost increases on to employees and bans retroactive bargaining.

PA 62 – 6/21/2011
This Act cuts education funding $1 Billion.

PA 101 – 7/19/2011
This Act ties completion of probation to student test scores, allows summary discharge of probationary teachers; allows taking away tenure and prohibits bargaining over evaluation.

PA 100 – 7/19/2011
This Act allows for unpaid suspensions, removes “reasonable and just cause” as the standard for discharge; holds that 2 “ineffective” evaluations is proof of ineffective teaching; stops pay for tenured teachers 90 days after an appeal is filed.

PA 102 – 7/19/2011
This Act amends the school code and prohibits bargaining over evaluation and lay-off standards; prohibits seniority as a factor in assignments including lay-off/recall situation; sets forth evaluation criteria, including student test scores as a major factor; and establishes the “Governor's Council on Educator Effectiveness” to develop statewide evaluation criteria.

PA 103- 7/19/2011
This Act amends PERA and makes the following prohibited subjects of bargaining: policies and standards for reductions in force; content and standards for evaluation; procedures regarding discipline or discharge; decisions how merit pay might be awarded; decisions about classroom observations and placement in innovation programs.

PA 152 – 9/27/2011
Requires public employees to pay 20% of their health insurance or a “hard cap.”

PA 277 – 12/20/2011 (Effective 3/27/12 – Immediate Effect withheld)
Eliminates cap on charter schools with no oversight or accountability.

PA 53 – 3/16/2012
Prohibits using payroll deduction for union dues. Applies to school district employees only.

What Is Still Out There

HB 4306 – Pending on House Floor
Requires school districts to solicit bids to outsource certain support services.

SB 729 – Pending in Committee
“Right to Work for Less” for MEA members only.

Senate Joint Resolution B – Pending in Committee
Calls for salary reduction and temporary pay freeze for public employees.

HB 4140 – Pending in Committee
Allows for statewide public employee health care plan.

SB 593 – Pending in Committee
Creates a defined contribution retirement plan for all school employees hired after 7/1/2011.

HB 4420 – Pending in Committee
Removes community colleges from the MPSERS retirement system.

HB 4052 – Pending on the House floor
Ban use of taxpayer funded equipment and facilities for union or political activities.

HB 4059 – Passed House, Pending in Senate Committee
Prohibits public employer contracts that pay union officials for conducting union business.

HB 4466 – Pending on House Floor
Changes provisions concerning striking public employees (increased fines, group rather than individual fines).

HB 5023 – Pending in Committee
Expands the list of employees subject to penalties for striking.

HB 5024 – Pending in Committee
Prohibits mass picketing and sets fines on individuals and unions for violations

HB 5025 – Pending in Committee
Requires annual authorization by employees to have union dues deducted from their paychecks by the employers.

HB 5026 – Pending in Committee
Repeals the prohibition against advertising for strikebreakers (scabs).

SB 619 – Passed the Senate, pending on House Floor
Removes all controls and caps on cyber schools.

SB 620 – Pending on the Senate floor.
Creates “conversion charter schools.”

SB 621 – Passed the Senate, pending in House Committee
Expands list of schools that can provide service to students in private schools and receive state aid.

SB 622\SB 623 – Passed the Senate, pending in House Committee
Removes all limits on ability of students to attend college level courses while in high school

SB 624 – Pending in Senate Committee
Bill mandates schools of choice.

SB 1040 – Pending in Senate Committee
Comprehensive cuts to school employee pension and retiree health. Impacts all future, current and retired school employees.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Busy Spring Ahead

MEA is getting ready for a petition drive to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this fall. More than a dozen unions and organizations will be pushing for an amendment to protect workers rights in Michigan. With the passage of Right to Work law in Indiana, Michigan House Republicans, led by Speaker Jase Bolger, are sure to push the same kind of nonsense this year. Local MEA leaders, including yours truly, will be meeting to discuss strategy and organization to head off this onerous and job threatening legislation. Plan on helping in this effort. Stay tuned for details.

East Jordan Board Meeting Monday

East Jordan teachers and the board will have another go at it Monday at 5:30pm in the high school media center. This is getting to the point of ridiculousness. Everyone is welcome to attend and show support for our friends in East Jordan. Remember, this could be you fighting for your job.

Gov. Snyder Shows True Colors

Gov. Snyder signed HB4929 into law this past Friday. The law prohibits school employees from having union dues deducted from their pay using payroll deduction. So much for the gov not wanting to pick a fight with the unions. I have not heard when it takes effect or how MEA will collect dues. I will keep you posted. You can tell MacMaster and Foster thanks for standing with teachers and supporting workers in Michigan...not!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

MEA President Steve Cook's Message

In case you missed the latest video message from President Steve Cook.  His remarks regarding Mitt Romney also ran as an editorial in the Detroit News.

Cyber School Bill Stalled

Congratulations to those of you who contacted your legislator regarding SB 619-623, the so called "Cyber School" bill.  Your efforts have stalled the bill in the House of Representatives.  The Republicans realized they did not have enough votes for passage last week.  However, the fight is not over, so keep in contact with your state representative and urge them to vote no on this group of bills.

Interesting that news headlines tout Gov. Snyder's plan to give more money to public schools as an "increase" in school aid funds.  Well, yes and no.  There will be an increase over what was given last year, but not the 2.8 to 3% as stated by the Governor.  After crunching the numbers, it comes out to 0.2 to 0.8%.  Some increase.  However, if you look at the total hit schools took last year, which amounted to $1.8 million, it is a stretch to call this years funding an increase.  It's like saying we received a 3% pay raise when inflation has been running at 4%.  Poof, there goes your "raise".

And finally, have you noticed Lansing is taking a different approach as to how we should pay for government services lately?  Take for instance road repairs.  It used to be road maintainance and construction was funded through the state gasoline tax and federal taxes reimbursed to the state.  Not any more.  If the powers that be have their way, funding will come from the general fund or areas with a surplus such as education.  I realize no one wants to see gas prices go up with additional taxes, but this idea of,  "if I don't use it, I should not have to pay for it" mentality has gotten way out of hand.  Simply because I don't drive on roads in Detroit, doesn't mean I should not pay a gas tax to fund repairs and construction for those same roads, or anywhere in Michigan .  It is about the common good, not the individual.  Somehow our Lansing folks have  come to the conclusion if people complain about higher gas taxes, then they will simply start paying for it out of the general fund.  If you think there is nothing wrong with this idea, think again.  Where do you think education funding comes from?  What do you think will happen when the school aid fund runs a surplus, as it did last year?  I dislike paying more in taxes just like you do, but be careful what you wish for.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Breaking News: PPP poll shows Dems Have Good Shot Winning House

A new Public Policy Poll shows Michigan Democrats have a legitimate chance to flip the House of Representatives in 2012 fall elections. According to Public Policy Poll,

"Democrats should have a pretty good chance at retaking control of the House there this fall.  They lead the generic legislative ballot by 14 points, 48-34. They have an 8 point advantage with independents and are also benefiting from superior party unity with 92% of Democrats planning to vote Democratic to 83% of Republicans planning to vote Republican."

This should give every one of us renewed vigor and focused resolve to keep the pressure on our elected officials to do the right thing. Keep calling them. Encourage your friends and neighbors to vote this coming November. It is our opportunity to turn the tide on the education bashers and destroyers of the middle class.

Yes, Friday is the best day of the week.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More in Store From Lansing

Keep calling your legislator and tell them to slow down the cyber school train.  Its not that it is a bad idea.  It is the fact it is yet to be a proven educational method for teaching kids what they need to complete in today's economy.  Don't be fooled by the proponents of cyber schools when they say it will give students and their parents options to a public education.  Do you really want to gamble with your child's education and put it in the hands of a corporation that does not even reside in Michigan?  All we are saying is slow down and look at the facts.  Due diligence is needed before we pump millions of tax payer dollars into coporate pockets on an idea that has not been proven.  Keep calling.  Rembemer, thos ewho can, teach.  Those who cannot pass bills against those who can teach.

Keep Up the Support for East Jordan

A big, big thanks to Greta, Deb, Mary Jo, Dave, and Regina for attending the E.J. board meeting last Monday.  The board managed to bring boring to a new level with a drawn out budget reviewunheard of in teh annals of board meetings, new rules to stifle public comment (really?), and generally trying to wear down everyone attending  in hopes they would pack up and leave.  A big hug of support goes out to all the E.J. staff and a message of stay strong and hold firm to your beliefs.  You are in the right!  Stay tuned for more updates as they occur.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Unlimited Cyber Schools on Horizon

HB619 passed out of committee today that would allow unlimited cyber schools to be created in Michigan. Call your representative NOW and tell him to vote NO! This is an untested, unfounded, and expensive idea. Colorado spent over $10 million to a private firm to run an on-line school with very poor results. Over half the kids returned to their traditional high school further behind in skills after only one year of on-line classes. Of that number a third ended up dropping out.
Even Michigan state superintendent Mike Flanigan is opposed to the idea of unlimited cyber schools. Private firms are licking their chops at the prospect of millions of public dollars flowing to them when they set up their for profit on-line schools.

Call your representative now and tell him to vote NO on this waste of public school funds.

East Jordan Board Meeting

Our friends in East Jordan continue to need our support. The next Board meeting is Monday, February 13 at 5:30pm. I know we have a board meeting as well at 7pm, but we could make a night of it. The E.J. Board continues to take a hard line with the staff; demanding a 10 percent pay cut, 20 percent co-pay on insurance premiums, and punishing them with a 5 percent cut in pay for every month they fail to settle. The EJ Association has offered the board a package that would have saved them over $20,000 a month, if they had settled in July. C'mon! Really?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Upcoming Board Meeting

Board Meeting Monday, February 13 at 7pm. The board will be discussing next year's budget, and it does not look good. Everyone should attend.

Can Lansing Make It Illegaler To Protest?

Have you called Rep. Foster or Rep. MacMaster yet? Why not? it takes all of 10 minutes or less. Your call could make the difference. Read the summary below. If you value your organization, you need to call. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.

House committee passes more anti-union bills--Call your state representative!
Posted on 01/31/12 at 4:01pm

On a party line vote, the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee passed on Tuesday House Bills 5023-5026, a package of anti-union bills meant to curtail the powers of labor unions:

HB 5023--fines striking public employees one day's pay and their union $5,000 for each day of the strike, expanding the penalties beyond the current rules that only apply to public school employees.

HB 5024--sets fines and restrictions on members and their unions for mass picketing.

HB 5025--requires an employee's annual written authorization to have their union dues deducted from their paycheck by employers.

HB 5026--eliminates the prohibition against employers advertising for strike breakers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

East Jordan Teachers Need Your Support

Mark Monday, January 16 on your calendar.  East Jordan Board of Ed will meet and you need to be there.  They have not settled a contract and are still asking for ridiculous terms compared to what other area schools are getting.  How would you like a pay freeze AND a 5% cut in pay.  On top of that, you would take a cap on your insurance.  That means the board would only pay up to a certain amount for monthly premiums and if you wanted better insurance, you would pay the difference.  On top of that, the district has been giving up $28,000 per month in savings since July because they refuse to accept concessions offered by the East Jordan teachers.  This is not about money ( 8% fund equity in the district).  This is about sticking it to teachers and anti-union sentiment from the board.
 Show your support and attend the meeting Monday, January 16 @ 5:30pm in the H.S. Auditorium.  You owe it to your friends and colleagues in East Jordan.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

U.S. Ignores Crucial Part of Finland's Education Success

An interesting  article in this month's issue of The Atlantic about the Finnish education system was brought to my attention by Susan Sharp.   In it the author points out the U.S. is ignoring a critical point about the success of the schools in Finland; there are no private schools in Finland (okay, maybe one or two) and yet that seems to be the driving force behind school reform in this country.

 In the article, Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? goes on to state something rather curious and apparently lost on American policy makers (including our own legislators in Michigan). Below is what Sahlberg says.

As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. "There's no word for accountability in Finnish," he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

Some how we need to make our policy makers aware of the research and facts and not let them get away with using rhetoric and sound bites to drive policy.  Thanks for the article, Susan.

RTW and Snyder's Education Plan is Lurking Around the Corner

I'm betting most everyone is glad 2011 is behind us.  It couldn't get much worse, eh?  Well, don't let your guard down.  The Republican party is still pushing to make every state they can a Right to Work state, including Michigan.  On Meet the Press this morning, every single Republican presidential candidate was in favor of passing RTW laws and stated it would be a good thing not only for New Hampshire, but the rest of us as well.  Don't be fooled by the arguments and rhetoric.  None of their assumptions that RTW will bring jobs to Michigan (or anywhere else, for that matter) or improve the middle class is based on any factual information or scientific studies.  Beware of what any of our representatives say.  They have not done their homework.  It is based solely on party ideology.  If the thinking fits the philosophy, then they will go for it, no matter the outcome or how it affects you or me.  Pretty sad way to run government and make policy decisions.