Feature

Education community roundly pans Snyder’s secret ‘skunk works’ group

Members of the education community are roundly panning Gov. Snyder’s secret “skunk works” voucher workgroup.

 

As outrage continues to spread throughout the education community, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan announced Wednesday he is taking over the previously secret education “reform” taskforce established by the Snyder administration and a Mackinac Center official.

Snyder administration holding secret meetings to develop school voucher plan

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has been holding secret meetings with corporate special interests to develop a plan for introducing school vouchers in Michigan.

 

Members of Gov. Rick Snyder's administration have been holding secret meetings to develop a school voucher plan for Michigan, the Detroit News revealed Friday in a special investigative report.

The clandestine meetings have been taking place since December, and are being headed by state employees and one of the leaders of the far-right Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The workgroup is developing a "model for K-12 public education with a funding mechanism that resembles school vouchers," the News reported.

School vouchers allow already-dwindling public education funds to be diverted to for-profit private schools, leaving Michigan public school students to struggle with overcrowded classrooms, less instruction and fewer basic supplies like books and pencils.

As is stands, school voucher plans violate the Michigan Constitution, which bans public aid to nonpublic schools. Because vouchers rob kids of the resources they need to succeed, voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2000 constitutional amendment that would have allowed the use of vouchers. Voters rejected a similar proposal in 1978.

It appears the will of the people and the state Constitution matter little to the Snyder administration's secret workgroup, however. The group is hatching a plan under which Michigan would open a number of so-called "value schools," which would replace the instruction students receive from teachers with long-distance video conferencing, the News reported.

Senate Appropriations Committee passes education funding bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed three education funding bills for the 2013-2014 budget year, covering K-12, higher education and community colleges, despite universal opposition from Democrats on the committee.

Like Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal, the Senate bills come nowhere close to restoring the $1 billion that Snyder and his Republican allies raided from our kids’ schools — just to help fund more than $2 billion in tax cuts for corporate special interests.

Click here to find contact information for your legislators. Tell them to put Michigan kids first and restore every penny they robbed from local schools.

Senate Republicans reject right-to-work penalties

Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, told the Detroit Free Press, “I’m not going to punish anybody for something they did legally.”

Penalizing school districts and higher education institutions that negotiated “fair share” agreements with employees prior to the implementation of Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law is not on the agenda of Republicans in the Michigan Senate, who this week passed education appropriations bills out of committee without the penalties.

That’s in sharp contrast to the state House, where Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted recently to eliminate grants for K-12 districts, penalize universities by 15 percent and not increase funds for community colleges — all because they followed the law and negotiated in good faith with school employees.

Between last December’s passage of right-to-work and its March 28 effective date, many school districts, colleges and universities negotiated fair share agreements with their employee associations. The agreements require that employees who benefit from union representation pay their fair share toward the cost of representation. Michigan’s new right-to-work law bans fair share agreements, but only for contracts not in place by March 28.

Extremist politicians have relentlessly attacked employers for negotiating fair share agreements, insisting they should have followed a law that wasn’t yet in place. Those attacks have included being called before McCarthy-style committee hearings in Lansing about the agreements, as well as threats of funding cuts for schools or universities that entered into contracts with employees prior to the implementation date.

While Republicans in the House are attempting to follow through on their threats and take away much-needed resources from students and school employees, Republicans in the Senate seem to be taking a more measured and responsible approach to the issue.

38 outstanding public school students awarded 2013 MEA Scholarship

EAST LANSING, Mich., April 12, 2013 — The Michigan Education Association today announced the recipients of the 2013 MEA Scholarships, honoring exemplary public school students from across the state who will be attending a Michigan public university next fall.

Among the 1,116 applications submitted for scholarship awards this year, the MEA Scholarship Fund Trustees chose 20 new award recipients who will each receive $1,500. In addition, 18 repeat winners who are already enrolled in college will receive $750 each.

Since 1997, the MEA Scholarship Fund has awarded 410 scholarships totaling $440,790 to graduates of Michigan public high schools.

The general criteria for awarding the scholarships include academic achievement, extra-curricular activities as well as school and community service.  All other criteria being equal, children of MEA members and students from lower income households are given first consideration.

Judge rules lawsuit challenging right-to-work law can go forward

Attorney General Bill Schuette claims that state police shut down access to the Capitol on Dec. 6 to protect public safety as the Legislature was deliberating on right-to-work legislation. Here is a shot from inside the "overcrowded" Capitol on Dec. 6, as citizens were left outside in the cold.

A lawsuit challenging Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law because it was passed in violation of state and federal open government laws can go on as scheduled, an Ingham County Circuit judge ruled Wednesday.

Judge William Collette ruled against Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion to dismiss the case, which was filed by the Michigan Education Association, the ACLU of Michigan, and a coalition of other labor unions and citizen watchdogs.

MEA and others contend that Michigan lawmakers violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the state Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when citizens were refused entrance to the Capitol as the Legislature took up right-to-work legislation in December.

“By allowing state police to block citizens from entering the Capitol, Lansing politicians not only violated the basic American principles of open and transparent government, they also violated specific state and federal laws designed to protect the rights of citizens,” MEA President Steven Cook said when the lawsuit was filed. “We’re confident the courts will agree that the Legislature’s actions on the afternoon of Dec. 6 constituted a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act and should be invalidated."

Citizens across Michigan rally as so-called ‘right-to-work’ takes effect

Michiganders held a silent protest at the state Capitol on Thursday to highlight how Gov. Rick Snyder and corporate special interests are trying to silence the voices of middle-class families.

As Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law took effect Thursday, hundreds of people across Michigan participated in local rallies to send a clear message: Right-to-work is temporary, but solidarity is forever.

Citizens used numerous tactics Thursday to stand up to Gov. Rick Snyder and the rich CEOs who pushed the law, which is designed to slash wages and benefits for middle-class families — regardless of if they’re in a union.

At the Capitol Building in Lansing, citizens held a silent protest to highlight right-to-work’s aim of silencing the voices of working families. In Hamtramck, teachers, students and community supporters held a march in support of collective bargaining rights. Candlelight vigils in multiple locations celebrated the history and resilience of Michigan’s labor movement. Events also took place in Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Detroit, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Mount Pleasant, Pontiac, Taylor and Utica.

The Truth About the Mackinac Center

The shadowy Mackinac Center for Public Policy is the largest right-wing, state-level policy think-tank in the nation.

One of its primary goals is to dismantle public education in Michigan, replacing traditional public schools with profit-making institutions.  In a leaked email sent to state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, the Mackinac Center’s senior legislative analyst admitted, “Our goal is outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan, which is practical terms means no more MEA.”

Hyper-partisanship leads to House passage of EAA bill

The overly partisan atmosphere in the Michigan Capitol led to the state House narrowly passing legislation yesterday to expand the Education Achievement Authority — without protections for students, teachers and education support staff.

House Bill 4369, which passed by a 57-53 margin, allows the EAA to take over up to 50 public schools across the state that are deemed to be in the state's bottom 5 percent — without so much as conducting an educational audit to determine the specific problems facing the schools in question. The EAA would also be allowed to create new charter schools within two miles of a so-called "failing" school.

In addition, public school employees transferred to EAA schools would lose their collective bargaining rights. An amendment to the bill late Thursday allows current school employees hired by an EAA school to remain members of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System – but new EAA employees would not be in the system.

House could vote this week on EAA school takeover legislation

The state House may vote this week on House Bill 4369, which would create a statewide "takeover" district called the Education Achievement Authority that would take over local schools, eliminate employees' collective bargaining rights and silence the voices of local citizens.

 
MEA members are urged to contact their state representative and tell them to oppose the EAA legislation. Click here to find contact information for your legislators.
 
The EAA would be allowed to take over up to 50 public schools across the state that are deemed by arbitrary and flawed rankings to be in the state's bottom 5 percent. The bill would also allow the EAA to create new charter schools within two miles of a so-called "failing" school.

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