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.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and school employees help do that job every day,” MEA Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trainor said. “By making these generous contributions, teachers and support staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure Pontiac kids have the basic supplies they need in their classrooms.

“But supply drives and donations can only go so far. Our state’s elected leaders must do their part and adequately fund our kids’ schools, so that every Michigan child can get the good education they need and deserve.”

The critical shortage of classroom supplies in Pontiac is not unique; nor is it a crisis of their own making.  Since the beginning of the school year, Pontiac teachers have been paying out of pocket for learning essentials that the school district cannot afford – paper, writing utensils, copying supplies and more.  These out-of-pocket expenses come at a time when staff in Pontiac, like many school employees across the state, have experienced severe wage and benefit reductions, while paying significantly more for their retirement benefits.

In 2011-12, public education suffered a $1 billion cut in funding, equating to a $470 reduction in per pupil spending – all to help pay for a $1.8 billion tax break for corporate special interests pushed by Gov. Rick Snyder and his Republican legislative allies. The effects of that devastating school funding cut are still being felt every day in Michigan classrooms.

The supply drive for the Pontiac schools was assisted by members of the United Auto Workers in Pontiac.  “I would like to personally thank members of UAW Local 653, and their president, Michael Warchuck, for supporting this effort,” Trainor said.  “We also appreciate the UAW International for their efforts in collecting classroom supplies and providing a trailer to transport those supplies.”

Pontiac Education Association President Aimee McKeever expressed gratitude for the outpouring of contributions, saying, “On behalf of the teachers, support staff and students of Pontiac, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to those who contributed money and supplies.  Words cannot express my appreciation for these desperately needed classroom supplies.”

“It is very heartwarming that so many people have donated so much for our district despite our economic situation,” said Cynthia Rush, a teacher at Pontiac’s WHRC Elementary and one of McKeever’s Pontiac EA members. “It shows true solidarity between all unions – brotherhood and sisterhood. Making sure that all children succeed."

Last year, it was Benton Harbor.  This year, it is Pontiac.  Many other districts will soon face the same plight unless the Governor and Michigan legislators decide to provide more than mere rhetoric to public schools.  Actions speak louder than words.  For lawmakers to say education is a top priority is one thing – actually providing the necessary funding is the real test.

So far, they have failed.

Pontiac Education Association member and Whitman Elementary School teacher Linda Puas summed it up best: “This is so sad and yet so heartwarming. You really feel ‘not alone’.”



David Crim, MEA Communications Consultant, c) 517-256-3172, dcrim@mea.org

Aimee McKeever, Pontiac Education Association President, c) 248-245-3508, amckeever@mea.org

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CUTLINES – photos available at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/prm2dnjg8xkcjon/shtSJvcsXo:

PONTIAC1.JPG – Members of the Pontiac Education Association “shop” for needed school supplies at Saturday’s donation distribution event at UAW Local 653 in Pontiac. Credit: MEA/Miriam Garcia

PONTIAC2.JPG – Supplies donated from across the state to assist Pontiac students and educators are picked up by Pontiac Education Association members at a Saturday distribution event. Credit: MEA/Miriam Garcia

PONTIAC3.JPG –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’.” Credit: MEA/Miriam Garcia ###