Cat in the Hat makes a ‘purrfect’ Friday for kids at two Michigan schools


Children, teachers and education support professionals at two Michigan schools had plenty to meow about Friday, as Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” made stops at Green Acres Elementary School in Warren and Pattengill Middle School in Lansing as part of NEA’s Read Across America Day.

Now in its 16th year, the NEA’s Read Across America program continues the NEA’s ongoing commitment to building a nation of readers and mobilizing school employees around an issue they care deeply about: making sure all students have access to books and the skills and support they need to read and learn.

Numerous local and national dignitaries joined about 200 students at Warren’s Green Acres on Friday morning for a special reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” by NEA Executive Committee Member Christy Levings and former Detroit Pistons forward Earl Cureton.

“I thought it was a wonderful event,” said Warren EA President Jon Fielbrandt, who along with every student and adult donned a towering red-and-white stovepipe hat as part of the festivities (his favorite Seuss books are “Green Eggs and Ham” and “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”) “The students were very excited to have everyone come to Green Acres to be a part of the celebration.”

New survey finds educator satisfaction at an all-time low

Teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to its lowest level in 25 years, according to a new survey released last week.

Only 39 percent of teachers report being satisfied with their jobs, according to the annual Metlife Survey of the American Teacher. This figure has dropped 23 points since 2008, according to the survey.

Teachers reporting low levels of job satisfaction were more likely to be working in schools with shrinking budgets, few professional development opportunities and little time allotted for teacher collaboration.

“This news is disappointing but sadly, there are no surprises in these survey results,” National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said. “Teacher job satisfaction will continue to free-fall as long as school budgets are slashed. Educators are doing everything they can to prepare their students to compete in the global economy, but the rug just keeps getting pulled out from under them.”

Pontiac students and educators benefit from generous school supply donations

Pontiac Education Association member and Whitman Elementary School teacher Linda Puas said of the supply drive and Saturday’s event, “This is so sad and yet so heartwarming. You really feel ‘not alone’.”

MEA organized supply drive in response to supply shortages caused by education funding cuts

PONTIAC, Mich., Feb. 16, 2013 — On Saturday, MEA members from across Michigan stepped up to help the students and educators of the Pontiac School District. In response to a critical school supply shortage caused by education funding cuts, MEA coordinated the donation and delivery of more than $12,000 in cash and gift cards, as well as thousands of dollars more in school supplies.

A truckload of these donated supplies was distributed to Pontiac Education Association members on Saturday at UAW Local 653 in Pontiac. Donations came from MEA teachers and support staff from around the state, as well as other allies such as the United Auto Workers and even contributions from other public school students, like the student council of Utica’s Flickinger Elementary.

The massive underfunding of public education by Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature has created an untenable crisis for educators and students in Pontiac.  Last year, MEA members conducted a similar supply drive for teachers and students in the Benton Harbor Area Schools.

Snyder's budget restores fraction of funds raided from schools

Gov. Rick Snyder released his proposed 2014 budget Thursday morning, and while it includes small increases in school funding, it comes nowhere close to providing local schools with the resources they need to give Michigan students they education they deserve.

Snyder's budget proposal includes the following:

Increasing the K-12 budget by 2 percent, which includes bringing the state's minimum foundation allowance to $7,000 per pupil

Doubling state funding for early childhood education

Increasing state support for public universities by 2 percent

Increasing community college funding by 2 percent, which includes more investments in skilled trades programs

Despite the small increases in funding for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities, the amount of state support provided to education is still far less than it was before Snyder took office in January 2011. In his first budget, Snyder cut K-12 funding by more than $1 billion and increased taxes on the middle-class, just to provide a $1.8 billion tax break to corporate special interests.

MEA and others file lawsuit to invalidate illegal ‘right-to-work’ law

EAST LANSING, Mich., Feb. 1, 2013 — Michigan’s new “right-to-work” law should be overturned because the state Legislature violated state and federal open government laws when passing it, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Michigan Education Association and others in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Without a single public hearing, the state House and Senate passed legislation on the afternoon of Dec. 6 to make Michigan a right-to-work state. Simultaneously that afternoon, state police barred citizens from entering the Capitol, despite state law that requires the Capitol to remain open when the Legislature is in session. In addition, partisan legislative staffers were also ordered to fill the public galleries in the House and Senate to stop regular citizens from observing the votes.

According to the lawsuit, Michigan lawmakers violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the state Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"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. "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."

Teachers boycott high-stakes standardized test

In what National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said is a “defining moment within the education profession,” teachers in Seattle are boycotting a district-mandated standardized test because it would have the ultimate effect of harming student learning.

Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle unanimously decided on Jan. 9 not to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, a move that has garnered national attention and support from educators, parents and students. Other Seattle-area teachers have followed the Garfield teachers’ lead and are refusing to give the test.

The MAP is a computer-administered test that is supposed to measure math and reading skills. It’s intended to be used for high-stakes evaluations of teachers. What it really does, however, is rob students of critical class time and tie up computer labs, all while failing to measure what students are actually learning in the classroom.

Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference fast approaching -- register today!

Registration is still open for the 2013 MEA Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference, which will be held Feb. 7-8 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Click here to download a printable program and registration form.

The Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference will feature numerous educational and informative sessions geared toward collective bargaining, public affairs and professional development.

The theme of this year's conference is "Advocacy Through Member Engagement," and will feature keynote speaker Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education.

The conference will also feature a two-day session called the Blended Learning Institute. The session will provide educators with options for bring blended learning into their classrooms to create a more dynamic learning experience. 

Registration still open for 2013 Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference

Registration still open for 2013 Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference

Registration is still open for the 2013 MEA Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference, which will be held Feb. 7-8 at Cobo Hall in Detroit.

Click here to download a printable program and registration form.

The theme of the conference is "Advocacy Through Member Engagement," and will feature keynote speaker Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education.

Ball, an expert on teacher training and development, serves as director of TeachingWorks, a national organization dedicated to improving teacher education. Ball convincingly argues that policymakers must place more focus on developing current teachers -- both experienced and those just starting out. Skillful teaching is not common sense, Ball says. Instead, skillful teaching can -- and must -- be taught.

Final deadline for MPSERS retirement elections is Wednesday, Jan. 9

Members of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System have until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 9, to make their final elections on pension and retiree benefits.

Members hired before July 1, 2010, have three options:

  1. Remit higher contributions in exchange for retaining the 1.5-percent pension multiplier for future years of service. Employees will be required to identify whether they wish to contribute the higher amounts until retirement, or until they achieve 30 years of service.
  2. Remit the same contributions as before, but have a 1.25-percent pension multiplier for future years of service.
  3. Remit no contributions, freeze the existing pension benefit, and convert to a specified 4-percent defined contribution plan for future years of service. 

Conn. school shooting tragedy reinforces need for real discussions on student, employee safety

EAST LANSING, Mich., Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 — The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steve Cook in response to today's school shooting in Connecticut and the need for greater focus on student and school employee safety:

"More than 30 times since Columbine, unconscionable acts of gun violence in American schools have either ended or forever changed the lives of students and school employees. Speaking for MEA's 150,000 members, all our condolences go out to the victims and their families, as well as the entire community of Newton, as they deal with the senseless deaths of these children and educators. 

"Regardless of what the details and facts are of today's events in Connecticut, this nation must have a real conversation about guns and the safety of our students and those who care for them.

"I am a gun owner and avid outdoorsman, but something must be done to protect our children from such acts of violence.  Entire school communities -- boards, administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and students -- need to be partners in discussions to ensure our school buildings are safe and protected from these kinds of crimes, using the latest in technology and building design to secure buildings and classrooms from those who would bring harm to students, whether armed or not.

"But we need REAL solutions. Just yesterday, the Michigan Legislature passed SB 59, which allows for concealed firearms in our schools. Those who think that students and teachers will be safer with MORE guns in our schools are just plain wrong.  Thinking that teachers should carry weapons and fire on threats is a recipe for even more death -- not safety. I hope Governor Snyder understands this and vetoes SB 59, not only for the safety of our children but out of respect for those who died today in Connecticut. To sign this bill in light of this tragedy would be unfathomable."