State drops out – so MEA members step up for students, employees in Benton Harbor

Truckload of supplies, thousands in donations delivered to address supply shortages caused by $1 billion in education budget cuts

BENTON HARBOR, Mich., Nov. 17, 2011 — When Republican lawmakers pushed through more than $1 billion in cuts to public education earlier this year, bad financial situations in school districts across the state were made even worse.  A prime example of this is in Benton Harbor, where the cuts have caused an unsustainable lack of basic school supplies across the district. 

Since the state has failed to step up and fix the problem, MEA members took it upon themselves to do so.

Today a truckload of supplies and more than $13,000 in financial contributions – collected from MEA members across the state-- were delivered to help the students and school employees of Benton Harbor. 

“Students – and the teachers and support staff who work with them – need the necessary tools to succeed,” said MEA Secretary-Treasurer Rick Trainor. “Michigan’s decade-long failure to properly fund public education, capped off by the Republican’s $1 billion in education cuts earlier this year, has starved schools of those critical supplies.

“If the state isn’t going to give the students and employees of Benton Harbor what they need, MEA members from every corner of this state will.”

Across Benton Harbor, MEA received reports from members who are working in classrooms without any paper, pencils, and other basic essentials.  Textbook shortages are common.  Technology is in disrepair.  Some schools don’t even have copiers to reproduce worksheets. 

“Our members are dedicated to their students,” said Mike Schroeder, MEA UniServ Director for Benton Harbor. “They have made concessions to help students, but the state’s budget cuts have hurt the district so badly that these shortages were becoming the norm. Benton Harbor needed help and MEA members delivered.”

Donations – either in the form of actual supplies or financial contributions – came from MEA members in school districts all across the state.  Many MEA local associations pooled money together from individual members to make large contributions possible.

“We’re proud to take a stand and help our union brothers and sisters in Benton Harbor in their efforts to educate this community’s students,” Trainor said. “And we’re proud to continue holding Lansing politicians accountable for the damage that’s being done to public education by their reckless budget cuts.

“Republican lawmakers thought it was more important to give a tax break to corporate special interests than provide for the education of our state’s students. It’s time to tell them to stand up for kids, not CEOs.”