Posted on 02/23/15 at 3:31pm

More Michigan children are living in poverty according to the annualKids Count report by the Michigan League for Public Policy and  funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The number of children in poverty increased by 35 percent with one in four children living in poverty and one in three qualifying for food assistance because their families’ incomes are $23,600 or less a year.

Posted on 02/23/15 at 3:32pm

The U.S. House is expected to pass a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this Friday. Unfortunately, this rewrite does nothing to help students learn or teachers teach. The focus has shifted to more testing, labeling of schools and then punishing them for their “failure,” while doing nothing to close achievement gaps.

Posted on 02/25/15 at 9:21am

If you believe our schools and safer roads are important to the quality of life in Michigan, circle May 5 on your calendar. On that day, voters will be asked to vote on a proposal that would raise over $1 billion to repair Michigan’s dangerous roads and bridges, while raising $300 million in new revenue for Michigan public schools, funded by a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax.

Posted on 02/18/15 at 3:01pm

MEA members Marcia Hudson and Linda Maniago of Avondale were awarded a $5,000 Learning and Leadership Grant from NEA for their Teacher Lab project. In this latest round, NEA awarded 16 Learning and Leadership Grants. 

Posted on 02/18/15 at 3:02pm

Michigan State University scholars have created a financial health-indicator system for school districts that could be facing financial stress. The proactive system uses research and information from other states to analyze the fiscal health of school districts and is outlined in a white paper, “Knowledgeable Navigation to Avoid the Iceberg.”

Posted on 02/18/15 at 3:06pm

When you find yourself in a hole, the first step to getting out is to stop digging.

The hole I am referring to is the $1 billion taxpayers spend each year on Michigan’s experiment with charter schools. A recent report by a pro charter school group ranks Michigan’s charter school accountability law last among similar states. 

Collective bargaining ordered onto ballot by Court of Appeals

 

Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided 2-1 to let the constitutional amendment protecting collective bargaining and working families go before the voters on Nov. 6. The Michigan Supreme Court gave the Appeals Court until today to make a decision. It's still not certain what position the issue will have on the ballot, but it is certain critics of the amendment will appeal to the Supreme Court. 
 
It may be last week's Supreme Court ruling to put the casino ballot proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot that paved the way for today's Court of Appeals' decision. The lower court rejected the casino proposal on the grounds that it would create sweeping changes to the Constitution--the same argument being used to reject the collective bargaining amendment. When the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling on casinos, it seemed inevitable that the nearly 700,000 voters who signed the collective bargaining petitions would have a chance to decide the issue on Nov. 6.

MEA Financial Services can help you survive SB 1040

In response to the passage of SB 1040, MEA Financial Services is holding informational meetings across the state to help members understand the impact the legislation has on their retirement plans.

Will school employees see retirement contribution refunds?

Last week’s combination of the passage of SB 1040 and the Court of Appeals ruling that the existing 3 percent employee contribution for retirement health care is unconstitutional is raising questions about whether or not school employees will be seeing a refund of those funds, like state employees already have.

Let the voters decide!

Gov. Snyder and Attorney Bill Schuette launched a formal attack on voter rights yesterday when they filed court papers to block the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining and the middle class from the November ballot. The two claim that the amendment changes too many laws to be listed in the 100-word statement of purpose for the ballot and should therefore be denied a place on the ballot.

At the request of the Governor, Schuette issued an opinion stating that “the Governor and lawmakers have enacted reforms that have led to economic growth and budget stability.” The concern is that the ballot proposal could undo all of that.

Andrew Nickelhoff, attorney for the Protect Our Jobs campaign, discounted Schuette’s opinion since it’s based on faulty legal reasoning and the proposal has already met all legal requirements.

IMPACT OF SB 1040 H-3

IMPACT OF SB 1040 H-3, as Finalized by the Legislature 8/15/12

For current retirees under age 65 and those who retire January 1, 2013 or later:

  • Will pay 20% of MPSERS health premium. Retirees currently pay roughly 10% for self and any dependents, except that retirees on Medicare pay only the Medicare premium on themselves and 10% of the MPSERS premium for any dependents.

For retirees who are 65 or older, who are Medicare-eligible and have retired by January 1, 2013

Analysis of impacts—SB 1040

Unfortunately the House voted 57-48 in favor the (MPSERS) overhaul, a compromise that includes a study to fully transition from a defined benefit (DB) to a defined contribution (DC) system. Earlier in the day the Senate passed the bill, SB 1040, by a vote of 21-16, sending it to the House. The bill moved to the Governor's office for his signature.
 
The changes made in this version  include the following:

Collective bargaining off the ballot--for now

As expected, the Board of Canvassers split 2-2 on whether to put the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining on the November ballot. For now, the proposal is off the ballot. The Protect Our Jobs campaign will now take the fight for working families to the Michigan Supreme Court for a decision, bypassing the state Court of Appeals.

SB 1040 finally passes House, Senate; employees, retirees stuck with the cost

There's little good news in the Senate and House finally voting out SB 1040 today. On a 21-6 Senate vote and a 57-48 House vote, they increased current employee contributions to their pensions, increased retirees' share of their health insurance, and ended retiree health insurance for new hires.

"This bill is not fair. It just shifts costs around and solves nothing," said Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) who spoke in opposition to the bill.

Under SB 1040, new hires will not be moved to a defined contribution retirement benefit. They will stay in the current hybrid system which combines a defined benefit and defined contribution mix. New to the bill, is the call for a study of the financial impact moving new hires to the defined contribution would cause. The study will be done by Nov. 15.

One more time for SB 1040?

The Senate will try again tomorrow to take care of SB 1040, legislation dismantling the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. (MPSERS). They tried last month but were short the votes (16-22) to pass the House version.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Kahn--author of the original bill--claim "there is a deal in principle" and they have the 20 votes needed to pass the bill. Gov. Snyder has been in favor of cost-cutting changes to the system--so much so that they were included in the 2013 budget.

All along a key issue has been switching members from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution one and eliminating the current hybrid system. While some Republican legislators favored the switch, Kahn has been opposed to it because of the $300 million per year cost to do it. Just switching new hires over would cost school districts an additional $8 to $10 billion over the next 30 years.

Will 700,000 voters be denied their voice?

There is more at stake tomorrow in addition to SB 1040. The Board of Canvassers will meet tomorrow to determine if the constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining and working families should be on the November ballot or not.

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