Retired MEA members urge continued commitment
While the job might be over, the work goes on.
That’s the takeaway from the hundreds of retired teachers and education support professionals who gathered in Lansing on Monday for MEA-Retired’s annual meeting.
"The retirees in this state are connected with one another — we’ve worked together for many, many years,” explained Larry Smartt, a retired teacher from the Troy School District who attended the meeting. “Our motto for MEA-Retired is ‘The Commitment Continues,’ so we still want to support the active teachers and support staff, and support educational issues and legislation that are positive for children.”
Smartt and the 32,683 other MEA-Retired members can be the most resonant voices for public education, said NEA-Retired Vice President John Jensen, who served as guest speaker for the meeting.
Jensen said retired teachers and education support staff can be particularly effective when it comes to communicating with lawmakers, as retirees generally have more time during weekdays to attend political and lobbying events, compared with MEA members who are still working full time. In addition, retirees can command a certain level of respect and carry with them a form of gravitas that comes naturally with age and experience.
For the sake of public education, retired teachers and support staff must understand the power they have and remain “committed and engaged,” Jensen said.
“MEA can’t do it without you guys,” he said.
Monday’s meeting was the last chaired by MEA-Retired President Harvey Miller, who is stepping down from his leadership role. Replacing Miller is Judy Foster, a retired language arts teacher from DeWitt who previously served as vice president of MEA-Retired. Dave Schopp was elected vice president, while Dan Rudd will remain as secretary-treasurer.
For very good reason, working and retired MEA members alike are deeply concerned about all of the attacks being levied against school employees, such as education budget cuts, increased class sizes, reduced compensation, higher health care costs, gutted retirements and threats to Medicare and Social Security.
Without retired members standing shoulder-to-shoulder with current members — staying active while encouraging others to get involved — nothing will change for the better. It will only get worse.
“We need to stand up and fight for our rights,” Foster said. “If we don’t fight for them, no one else will.”
For more information on MEA-Retired, visit www.mea.org/mea-retired.