Feature

Changes to SB 1040 address some concerns

Late Friday, Gov. Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and House Speaker Jase Bolger announced some significant changes to SB 1040—the bill to drastically change school employee retirement benefits.

House passes cyber school bill, other “ed reforms”

Update: Rep. Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) lost her request to reconsider the vote on SB 619 to expand charter schools, but she was successful in her request for a roll call vote on the immediate effect of the bill. The 57-52 vote failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority, so SB 619 will not go into effect until next spring.

April 26, 2012—House Republicans managed to strong-arm enough votes to barely pass SB 619—legislation to expand cyber schools—on a 56-54 vote. Thanks to intense lobbying efforts from MEA members and many other groups, the bill was vastly improved from the original passed by the Senate.

Fifteen amendments were offered, but only six Republican ones were adopted. There was no debate or explanation of any of the amendments. 

With the amendments, the bill now reads:

  • Through Dec. 31, 2013, there can only be five statewide authorizing bodies for cyber schools. The number can double the following year, but there can be no more than 15 after Dec. 31, 2014.
  • Cyber school enrollment can’t exceed 2,500 in the first year; not more than 5,000 in the second year; and no more than 10,000 in the third year and beyond.
  • The Department of Education can stop the authorization of any new cyber schools if the number of students enrolled is more than 1 percent of the total student enrollment in public schools for the 2012-13 school year. In 2014, the limit is 2 percent.

Legislature can’t agree on how schools can spend limited new monies

Budget season is in full bloom in the Legislature, with votes being held on budget bills moved by various appropriations committees. In most cases, those committees were stingier in their proposals than Gov. Snyder’s $48.2 billion proposed budget.

A budget must be in place by Sept. 30, but legislators plan on beating that deadline by having one in place by June 1.

While both the House and the Senate want to give more money to K-12 districts than the Governor does, they don't agree on how the money should be spent. Under the Senate proposal, richer districts would get $100 more per pupil and low-funded districts would get $200 more.

Changes coming to proposed retirement legislation

If you’ve wondered whether contacting legislators or providing testimony or attending legislative sessions was important—then yesterday’s Senate Appropriations Retirement Subcommittee decision to work on a substitute for SB 1040 is proof that your actions make a difference.

Update

Pontiac may lose state aid for failing to reduce debt

Even after two rounds of staff layoffs—the most recent on April 13—the Pontiac school district still hasn’t reduced enough of its $24 million deficit to receive its April 20 state aid payment.

The move by the Michigan Department of Education, who is overseeing the progress of the district’s deficit elimination plan, has questions about the district’s progress.  Not only does the district stand to lose $1.25 million in state aid this Friday, future aid payments will also be withheld.

Forty teachers were laid off last Friday with only two days notice. Substitutes were hired to cover those classes.

Walter Burt, Pontiac’s interim superintendent, is looking to staff to bear the brunt of the deficit elimination plan since they are the most costly. However, mismanagement of funds by the administration is the reason the district is so deeply in debt.

Tell legislators what retirement cuts will mean for you

This Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Retirement is holding a hearing on Senate Bill 1040. We need your help to make sure the voice of school employees and retirees are heard! SB 1040 is the most sweeping attack on school employee retirement benefits in history. It breaks promises made to both current and active retirees. At the same time, it discourages the best and the brightest from ever entering the profession.

Walled Lake paraprofessional wins ESP Brunner Award

Denise Miller

Denise Miller, a paraprofessional and local union leader from Walled Lake, was named the 2012 recipient of the Leon A. Brunner Award. The award is given annually at MEA's Statewide Educational Support Professional Conference in recognition an ESP leader's significant contributions and commitment to ESP issues and concerns. 

During last year's recall petition drives, Miller worked tirelessly to collect signatures to hold lawmakers accountable for their decisions in Lansing. She gained notoriety after she filed suit against the Oakland County Parks for restricting her ability to circulate petitions at a local park, where the county had literally marked off a 12-by-12 foot square in which she was told she had to stand. In a huge victory for both the recall supporters and believers in our personal freedom to engage in political activity, Miller won the court case.

Miller is now looking forward to working hard in 2012 on the Protect Our Jobs campaign to protect collective bargaining rights in our state constitution.

Poll shows Americans believe in collective bargaining

In what is encouraging news for the Protect Our Jobs campaign, a Bloomberg News national poll shows 64 percent of Americans believe that public sector workers should have the right to collectively bargain. That number includes 55 percent of Republicans. In that same poll, 63 percent believe that states should not be able to break pension agreements they've made.  The poll of 1,001 adults was conducted March 4-7.

The poll comes after a number of Republican governors used budget problems to justify removing collective bargaining rights. Most poll respondents believed that those budget deficits were a result of years of tax cuts--not the actions of public employees.

As a result of that opinion, Bloomberg’s poll shows that 72 percent have a favorable view of public employees and see corporations wielding more political power than unions.

Power up for professional development

Free, high quality professional development is now available to all MEA members. By going to www.mea.org and clicking on "Members Only" and logging in, EA and ESP members can choose from a variety of courses grouped into four libraries designed especially for classroom teachers and ESP.

MEA members have free access to two of the four libraries. The courses are mini-modules which take two to four hours to complete. The courses are presented in a self-paced format and you can earn graduate credits or credit toward ESP certification.

ACT NOW to stop attacks on dues deduction!

Urge the Governor to veto HB 4929, HB 4246

It didn't take long for Republican legislators to respond to yesterday's launch of the Protect Our Jobs campaign.

Just one day later, both the House and Senate passed HB 4929 restricting payroll deduction of union dues for school employees and then voted on an unconstitutional maneuver to avoid an immediate effect vote on banning graduate student research assistants from unionizing.

It's been said that an ineffective administration is the best organizing tool--it also applies to legislators whose only goal is to break unions and destroy the middle class instead of creating jobs. Legislative activity today is a prime example of why all MEA members need to be involved in the Protect Our Jobs campaign.

It was a busy day of union busting in Lansing. Just this morning the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee reported out an amended version of HB 4929. By this afternoon, the full Senate had taken up the bill, throwing out one of the amendments that would have allowed school employees to continue with automatic payroll deduction if their union paid school districts for the cost of doing so. Amendments did pass that require public posting of audits of union representation costs and provide $100,000 to cover the cost of data collection (that appropriation prevents the bill from being eligible for a voter referendum).

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