New charter schools open with no track record of success

This year, the Legislature allowed for the expansion of cyber and charter schools, despite concern from education experts that too many charter school management companies had questionable success records and were only out to make a profit. While the new law requires charters to meet academic goals, there’s no guarantee that the new schools will be operated by companies with proven academic records.

This fall, 31 new charter schools opened, with number 32 opening in January. This is the largest number of charter school openings since the late 1990s. A report by the Education Trust-Midwest showed that only 14 already had schools operating in Michigan and had a measurable track record.

Charter companies whose schools are in the top third of the state’s top-to-bottom ranking are considered “quality” by the Trust. Only eight out of the 14 operators in Michigan earned that rating.

If more than half of an operator’s schools were below the 33rd percentile in the top-to-bottom ranking, they were considered “struggling” and the companies were to improve the performance of the schools currently operating before opening any new ones. Among all the operators opening charter schools, only 22 of the 47 met the Trust’s criteria for quality.

Proposal 2 attack ads full of lies, misleading statements

Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, the group who tried so hard to keep Proposal 2 off the ballot, has not given up. They have released another attack ad on the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining and working families that is full of lies and misleading statements. The ad is being bankrolled by corporate special interests who have poured more than $1 million on Proposal 2 attacks.

This time, they claim that if the proposal passes, teachers will strike as they did in Chicago, bus drivers will no longer have to pass safety standards, and pension and health care costs will rise. These unfounded claims are meant to scare and mislead voters.

Proposal 2 clearly states, "No existing or future law of the State. . .shall abridge, impair or limit the foregoing rights; provided that the State may prohibit or restrict strikes by employees of the State and its political subdivisions."

Cook: 'The purpose of Prop 2 is to restore--not extend union power.'

Critics of Proposal 2 to protect collective bargaining and middle class families may have lost their court challenges to keep the issue off the November ballot, but they haven't given up the fight. They're flooding the media with interviews and ads designed to scare people into voting NO on Proposal 2 with questionable and inflammatory information.

In their latest attempt to discredit Proposal 2, critics claim that passage of the amendment would mean school employees could strike and not face any fines if they did.

MEA President Cook dismisses the idea, "Proposal 2 has within it for the first time a constitutional prohibition on school employee strikes. The right of the Legislature to determine penalties for school employee strikes is untouched by Proposal 2."

Opponents have also falsely said that Proposal 2 would undo laws such as those requiring school bus drivers to receive safety training, protecting students from sexual predators, and requiring school districts to fire employees with criminal backgrounds.

Collective bargaining has a spot on the November ballot

This afternoon, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of collective bargaining rights and working families with their decision to allow the Protect Working Families proposal on the November ballot. Ballot language will now be written.

The Court rejected the challenges from special interest groups that the proposal failed to list the sections of the Constitution that would be affected. All along, the Protect Our Jobs campaign maintained that there was no legal basis for keeping the proposal off the ballot.

The Supreme Court also approved the ballot proposals requiring a two-thirds legislative majority or statewide vote to raise taxes and voter approval for a new international border crossing.

Fate of collective bargaining amendment rests with Supreme Court

In what is ultimately turning out to be a battle for voter rights, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Thursday, Aug. 30 on the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining. Judges will also be hearing oral arguments on the casino expansion, the new international bridge and a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to place the collective bargaining amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Opponents of all four ballot proposals filed appeals with the Court on the basis that none of the proposals lists the specific areas of the Constitution that will be impacted.

The Board of Elections has set Sept. 7 as the deadline for a decision so ballots can be finalized.

Collective bargaining ordered onto ballot by Court of Appeals


Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided 2-1 to let the constitutional amendment protecting collective bargaining and working families go before the voters on Nov. 6. The Michigan Supreme Court gave the Appeals Court until today to make a decision. It's still not certain what position the issue will have on the ballot, but it is certain critics of the amendment will appeal to the Supreme Court. 
It may be last week's Supreme Court ruling to put the casino ballot proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot that paved the way for today's Court of Appeals' decision. The lower court rejected the casino proposal on the grounds that it would create sweeping changes to the Constitution--the same argument being used to reject the collective bargaining amendment. When the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling on casinos, it seemed inevitable that the nearly 700,000 voters who signed the collective bargaining petitions would have a chance to decide the issue on Nov. 6.

Let the voters decide!

Gov. Snyder and Attorney Bill Schuette launched a formal attack on voter rights yesterday when they filed court papers to block the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining and the middle class from the November ballot. The two claim that the amendment changes too many laws to be listed in the 100-word statement of purpose for the ballot and should therefore be denied a place on the ballot.

At the request of the Governor, Schuette issued an opinion stating that “the Governor and lawmakers have enacted reforms that have led to economic growth and budget stability.” The concern is that the ballot proposal could undo all of that.

Andrew Nickelhoff, attorney for the Protect Our Jobs campaign, discounted Schuette’s opinion since it’s based on faulty legal reasoning and the proposal has already met all legal requirements.

SB 1040 finally passes House, Senate; employees, retirees stuck with the cost

There's little good news in the Senate and House finally voting out SB 1040 today. On a 21-6 Senate vote and a 57-48 House vote, they increased current employee contributions to their pensions, increased retirees' share of their health insurance, and ended retiree health insurance for new hires.

"This bill is not fair. It just shifts costs around and solves nothing," said Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) who spoke in opposition to the bill.

Under SB 1040, new hires will not be moved to a defined contribution retirement benefit. They will stay in the current hybrid system which combines a defined benefit and defined contribution mix. New to the bill, is the call for a study of the financial impact moving new hires to the defined contribution would cause. The study will be done by Nov. 15.

One more time for SB 1040?

The Senate will try again tomorrow to take care of SB 1040, legislation dismantling the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. (MPSERS). They tried last month but were short the votes (16-22) to pass the House version.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Kahn--author of the original bill--claim "there is a deal in principle" and they have the 20 votes needed to pass the bill. Gov. Snyder has been in favor of cost-cutting changes to the system--so much so that they were included in the 2013 budget.

All along a key issue has been switching members from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution one and eliminating the current hybrid system. While some Republican legislators favored the switch, Kahn has been opposed to it because of the $300 million per year cost to do it. Just switching new hires over would cost school districts an additional $8 to $10 billion over the next 30 years.

Attorney Andrew Nickelhoff details why MI Attorney General Bill Schuette is wrong for attacking working families

Today, the campaign to protect working families responded to  Attorney General Bill Schuette's attempt to deny citizens the opportunity to vote on a ballot proposal to ensure collecitve bargaining rights for Michigan workers. 

In a conference call, legal expert, Andrew Nickelhoff detailed why the people of Michigan deserve a chance to vote and revealed that Schuette's recently released opinion was in direct opposition to stances he's taken in the past.  The opinion offered by Schuette, at the request of Governor Snyder, attempts to prevent Michigan residents from having a voice.  Schuette’s opinion, which is not binding, comes after the Secretary of State’s office shot down an effort by corporate special interests to try and block the proposal.

Collective bargaining brings both sides together to negotiate fair wages and benefits, safer work conditions and protection from arbitrary decisions. It gets firefighters and police life-saving equipment, protects nurses so they can speak up about a patient’s care and limits class sizes so teachers can better educate our kids. 

Nearly 700,000 Michigan residents signed a petition to protect the right to negotiate for fair wages and benefits.  Citizens deserve a chance to vote on the ballot proposal.

See press release .