Buena Vista teachers laid off, despite voting to continue working without promise of pay

Buena Vista teachers met Monday and decided to continue working this week, even though they learned on Friday that the district had run out of money to pay their salaries on time. Despite the teachers' selfless action, the Buena Vista School Board voted Monday night to lay all of the teachers off.

At an emergency meeting last night, the Buena Vista Board of Education voted to lay off its employees, effective May 31. This action came mere hours after teachers voted to continue working this week, despite having no guarantee when they would get paid for that work by the cash-strapped district.

“Yesterday, we again saw proof that Michigan’s educators put their students first, with the decision by the teachers of the Buena Vista Education Association to continue working this week,” MEA President Steve Cook said. “These dedicated educators wanted what is best for their students — to give their school district and the state the time and assistance necessary to work out a plan to keep school open for this final month of the year.”

 “But last night, we yet again saw proof that politicians, administrators and other so-called ‘leaders’ consistently put money first and our kids last,” Cook said. “Faced with a selfless offer of help from their employees to continue working, without the guarantee of a paycheck next payday, Buena Vista’s school board and administration gave up on their students and employees and laid everyone off. “

Ironically, the Buena Vista Board of Education’s move comes during the launch of national Teacher Appreciation Week.

Students and school employees in the Buena Vista School District are innocent victims of gross financial mismanagement by district and state administrators, as well as Gov. Rick Snyder’s reckless $1 billion in cuts to school funding.

Despite the fact that a state-funded juvenile justice program left the district, the Buena Vista School District continued to receive funding from the state for the program — and spent those state funds. The state decided to punish students and school employees for its and the district’s financial mismanagement, and immediately stopped sending school aid payments for April, May and June to make up for the overpayment.

As a result, the district is out of money. May 3 was the last paid work day for employees, who will receive their last paycheck on May 10.

“Buena Vista school employees and students shouldn’t be made to suffer for school administrators’ lack of fiscal responsibility and Governor Snyder’s lack of support for public education,” MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz said, after an MEA meeting Monday with local educators to answer questions about how this crisis will impact their students and their families.

Buena Vista teachers have made countless sacrifices in recent years. They’ve agreed to freeze their own pay for four years running, and the number of teachers has dropped by more than half since 2009, down to 27.

“Aside from the time to come up with a solution with the state, the Buena Vista Education Association and the MEA offered our professional assistance in coming up with a plan that would help lead the district out of deficit,” Cook said. “Last night’s clear response? ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’”

“The response from the state has been no better, with a steady stream of talking points out of Lansing about how there was nothing they could do under the law to help the students of this district,” Cook said. “Since when do we need anything other than our state constitution saying that the state has a responsibility to educate our children in order to get action to keep schools open until June? Instead of coming up with a solution, bureaucrats spent Monday coming up with excuses.

“When politicians and pundits claim public education is broken and blame teachers as the cause — especially those like Gov. Snyder and others who voted for his massive school funding cuts — we will remind them of this day.

“We will remind them about 27 teachers in Buena Vista who wanted nothing more than to guide their students toward the end of another school year.

“And we will remind them where the real fault lies — with the gross mismanagement and misguided priorities on the part of both this school district and the state politicians and bureaucrats involved in robbing the education and the future of 400 innocent students.”

“To the dedicated teachers and education support professionals in Buena Vista, MEA will continue to stand by you and your decisions to do what’s best for your students and your families,” Cook said. “While your offer to work this week was the right thing to do, your thanks has been a pink slip from an employer who doesn’t have any money to pay for your continued work — and a cold shoulder from a state that clearly doesn’t value your contributions or the students you serve.”