#RedForEd Reality Checks – Ideas, talking points and more

Michigan educators must organize opportunities to share their stories in their communities and shine a light on why public education needs increased education funding. Get the background you need to make your voice heard through a #RedForEd Reality Check, including background research, ideas for events, talking points and more. Most importantly, be sure to share what you’re doing so we can let others know about your great ideas to get the word out!

Don’t forget to let us know that you’re committed to helping hold these events and secure the funding our students deserve!

Get Ready – Get Informed

  1. Take the time to write down your story: Why did you decide to work in public education? What are your favorite things about education and what has changed? What would you like to see happen for students and your profession? Your voice matters and your students need you to speak up for them. We want you to begin all your organizing work with sharing your story so folks have an idea of what has happened to education during your time in the field.THIS IS A GREAT GROUP ACTIVITY – sharing stories with each other will help you think of specific examples to share (and remind you that you’re part of something bigger than just you and your job).
  1. Study the studies:The School Finance Research Collaborative brought together top industry experts to reexamine our approach to how we fund Michigan’s schools to fully prepare all students for jobs and success. They found that we are UNDERFUNDING schools by almost $2,000 per pupil – BEFORE taking into account added costs for more expensive needs like special education and at-risk student support. A second study by MSU reaffirmed Michigan’s decline in funding, putting us dead last in funding increases over the past 25 years. Check out these links to learn more:
  1. Find your legislator: Look up your state representative and your state senator, record their contact info, follow them on social media, and sign up for their newsletters. Our goal is to get the Legislature to pass the Governor’s Education Budget increases and we need you to reach out to your lawmakers to tell them to vote in support (and urge others to do the same). 

Ideas for Local “Reality Checks”

There are LOTS of ideas for how to do these #RedForEd Reality Checks in your area – and you’ll probably come up with creative options too. Share what you’re doing with us so we can let others know about your ideas – and show the collective strength of our movement!

Meet with Lawmakers

Work with your union and your local MEA UniServ director to set up informal meetings with your state lawmakers and discuss education policy. At these “Legislative Councils,” share your stories with them about the need for funding increases. Let them know what your day looks like.  Invite them into your classroom. Let them what you think students need to be successful. Engage them in a lasting conversation about helping students.

Pass a School Board Resolution

SFRC and the Tri-County Alliance both have sample resolutions they’ve shared with school boards asking for their support of the governor’s education funding increases. You can support those efforts – invite school employees and supporters to attend the next school board meeting (wearing red) and ask them to pass the resolution. Or, if your board is already planning to pass such a measure, show up and support them at the meeting!

Informal Meetings/Coffee Klatches/House Parties

You can arrange for small group meetings with parents and community members on education funding at a local establishment in their community. Invite the public to talk with an educator about the state of education. Let them know why it is important to pass increases to education now.

Hold walk-ins/walk-outs

Pick a day to wear red and walk in school together at the start of the day – or walk out together at day’s end. Take the time before or after your event to speak about why you’re doing this activity and what community members can do to help. Have a sign-in sheet asking folks to get involved, including attending the June rallies.

Attend your PTO Meeting

Talk to parents about what students need and ask them to get involved, including attending the June rally with you. Ask the group to support the Governor’s Education Budget. Get a list of supportive parents and ask them to talk to their legislators and come to events.

Coalition Building

Think about all the groups that would support your local schools, attend their meetings, and ask them to organize with you. Tell your story and bring a sign-in sheet for potential activists, including people to attend the June rallies. Most of the public supports local schools, so think about the power you can build by asking everyone to lean in: churches, businesses, political groups, environmental organizations, local government officials, parent groups…the list goes on. Make sure to report your visit so we can track our coalition building and RSVP’s.

Write an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor – or Talk to a Reporter

Tell your story. Let your local newspaper know how the budget increases would help students, contact your union for tips on writing a letter to editor.  If you want any help doing this, or if you’d be willing to talk with a reporter about the need for additional school funding, contact MEA’s David Crim at dcrim@mea.org.

Tell your Story on Social Media

Post a picture or video about your Reality Check. What’s the impact of funding shortfalls in your school? What resources do your students need?  Why do we need this funding? Why are you coming to the rallies in June? Be sure to use the hashtag #RedforEd and #RealityCheck.

Have another idea for a #RedForEd Reality Check?  Let us know by contacting Jessica Lumbreras at jlumbreras@mea.org.

Talking Points

So we’re all on the same page about what needs to be communicated with the public about the budget, please use the following talking points:

  • Research shows Michigan has been lagging behind in funding for schools – and our students are suffering because of it. We have to stop shortchanging kids and make their education a priority again.
  • Gov. Whitmer’s proposed $507 million increase for public education is the biggest investment in our classrooms in a generation, and is desperately needed to help our students prepare for graduation, post-secondary opportunities, and the workplace.
  • This budget stops political “shell games” and puts money meant for schools where it belongs – educating our students. Her plan also means money raised to fix roads will go to that purpose, which stops the raiding of education funds to fix potholes.  For this to work, we have to fully fund real solutions that bring in money to fix our infrastructure and education funding shortages.  We can’t afford to not spend the necessary money to fix our roads and fund our schools.
  • Our message to lawmakers is clear – Value Students, Respect Educators and Fund Our Schools. We need this budget passed in order to start tackling other problems, like overcrowded classrooms, overtesting of students, educator shortages and more.

Tips for Sharing Your Story

Your experiences as an educator are what brings these talking points to life.  Find ways to work your story into the points above to help supporters understand why we need to fight for this funding increase:

  • “What would your classroom look like if you had adequate funding/if Gov. Whitmer’s budget were a reality?”
    Up-to-date technology, smaller class size, more resources to meet the needs of special education or low income/at risk students, more literacy coaches to help meet student reading needs.
  • “What would your district look like if the governor’s budget is adopted?”
    Expanded offerings in career/technical education to help provide job skills for all students; higher quality professional development to improve teaching and learning.
  • “What has your classroom/school/district lost as a result of the disinvestment in education?”
    Counselors, social workers, librarians, updated technology, competitive salaries, adequate textbooks and supplies.

Specifics about Gov. Whitmer’s Budget

  • Gov. Whitmer’s first education budget is proof that she keeps her promises: during the campaign, she committed to listening to the experts on the front-lines in classrooms and buildings across the state who told her that our schools are dramatically underfunded.
  • This half-billion dollar increase in K-12 funding will begin to dig us out of the hole that has been created in education funding for the last several years.
  • The governor’s pledge to stop the raids on the School Aid Fund is something we have been calling for over many years. It’s nearly impossible to adequately fund our schools when education money is literally stolen and used for other purposes, like fixing roads.
  • Gov. Whitmer’s commitment to tripling the number of literacy coaches in her education budget reflects her understanding of the importance of reading for early elementary students. With the threat of retention in 3rd grade still held over their heads if they fall short on state tests, young readers will finally begin to receive the supports they need to help them achieve reading proficiency.
  • Additional funding for at-risk, special education and career/technical education is badly needed—and delivered in the governor’s education budget. Her budget reflects the reality that it doesn’t cost the same amount of money to educate every student.
  • It is refreshing to have a governor who doesn’t simply ignore important research that points out the drastic disinvestment in our public schools over the last decade AND the costs of neglecting to adequately fund education.
  • Instead of ignoring studies like the School Finance Research Collaborative (which proved we were shortchanging our children by at least $2,000 per student every year) and a follow-up study by MSU (which showed Michigan to be DEAD LAST among all states in education funding increases over the past 25 years), Gov. Whitmer used those studies as a roadmap to creating her first education budget.
  • As educators, we are looking forward to working with Gov. Whitmer and the Legislature to make this new education budget a reality. Michigan’s future depends on it. As the governor said in her budget release, “If we want anyone to come to Michigan, we’ve got to invest in ourselves.” Investing in our schools is the best investment we can make.
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