Feature

Update

Pontiac may lose state aid for failing to reduce debt

Even after two rounds of staff layoffs—the most recent on April 13—the Pontiac school district still hasn’t reduced enough of its $24 million deficit to receive its April 20 state aid payment.

The move by the Michigan Department of Education, who is overseeing the progress of the district’s deficit elimination plan, has questions about the district’s progress.  Not only does the district stand to lose $1.25 million in state aid this Friday, future aid payments will also be withheld.

Forty teachers were laid off last Friday with only two days notice. Substitutes were hired to cover those classes.

Walter Burt, Pontiac’s interim superintendent, is looking to staff to bear the brunt of the deficit elimination plan since they are the most costly. However, mismanagement of funds by the administration is the reason the district is so deeply in debt.

Tell legislators what retirement cuts will mean for you

This Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Retirement is holding a hearing on Senate Bill 1040. We need your help to make sure the voice of school employees and retirees are heard! SB 1040 is the most sweeping attack on school employee retirement benefits in history. It breaks promises made to both current and active retirees. At the same time, it discourages the best and the brightest from ever entering the profession.

Walled Lake paraprofessional wins ESP Brunner Award

Denise Miller

Denise Miller, a paraprofessional and local union leader from Walled Lake, was named the 2012 recipient of the Leon A. Brunner Award. The award is given annually at MEA's Statewide Educational Support Professional Conference in recognition an ESP leader's significant contributions and commitment to ESP issues and concerns. 

During last year's recall petition drives, Miller worked tirelessly to collect signatures to hold lawmakers accountable for their decisions in Lansing. She gained notoriety after she filed suit against the Oakland County Parks for restricting her ability to circulate petitions at a local park, where the county had literally marked off a 12-by-12 foot square in which she was told she had to stand. In a huge victory for both the recall supporters and believers in our personal freedom to engage in political activity, Miller won the court case.

Miller is now looking forward to working hard in 2012 on the Protect Our Jobs campaign to protect collective bargaining rights in our state constitution.

Poll shows Americans believe in collective bargaining

In what is encouraging news for the Protect Our Jobs campaign, a Bloomberg News national poll shows 64 percent of Americans believe that public sector workers should have the right to collectively bargain. That number includes 55 percent of Republicans. In that same poll, 63 percent believe that states should not be able to break pension agreements they've made.  The poll of 1,001 adults was conducted March 4-7.

The poll comes after a number of Republican governors used budget problems to justify removing collective bargaining rights. Most poll respondents believed that those budget deficits were a result of years of tax cuts--not the actions of public employees.

As a result of that opinion, Bloomberg’s poll shows that 72 percent have a favorable view of public employees and see corporations wielding more political power than unions.

Power up for professional development

Free, high quality professional development is now available to all MEA members. By going to www.mea.org and clicking on "Members Only" and logging in, EA and ESP members can choose from a variety of courses grouped into four libraries designed especially for classroom teachers and ESP.

MEA members have free access to two of the four libraries. The courses are mini-modules which take two to four hours to complete. The courses are presented in a self-paced format and you can earn graduate credits or credit toward ESP certification.

ACT NOW to stop attacks on dues deduction!

Urge the Governor to veto HB 4929, HB 4246

It didn't take long for Republican legislators to respond to yesterday's launch of the Protect Our Jobs campaign.

Just one day later, both the House and Senate passed HB 4929 restricting payroll deduction of union dues for school employees and then voted on an unconstitutional maneuver to avoid an immediate effect vote on banning graduate student research assistants from unionizing.

It's been said that an ineffective administration is the best organizing tool--it also applies to legislators whose only goal is to break unions and destroy the middle class instead of creating jobs. Legislative activity today is a prime example of why all MEA members need to be involved in the Protect Our Jobs campaign.

It was a busy day of union busting in Lansing. Just this morning the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee reported out an amended version of HB 4929. By this afternoon, the full Senate had taken up the bill, throwing out one of the amendments that would have allowed school employees to continue with automatic payroll deduction if their union paid school districts for the cost of doing so. Amendments did pass that require public posting of audits of union representation costs and provide $100,000 to cover the cost of data collection (that appropriation prevents the bill from being eligible for a voter referendum).

Protect your job, your voice, your future

Here's something every MEA member knows all too well when it comes to protecting our jobs, our wages and our benefits--collective bargaining works. It gives every one of our members a voice and the ability to come together to negotiate a fair contract.

But Lansing politicians don’t know or care about this. They have introduced more than 100 anti-worker bills over the past year. And none of them have put Michigan back to work.

It's time to take action!

Visit www.ProtectOurJobs.com to sign our online petition and help take on the politicians and corporate special interests who continue to assault collective bargaining rights.

Remember--together we can protect our work, our voice and our future.

Will research or emotional appeals sway votes for SB 619?

SB 619allowing for the expansion of cyber schools—could see action this week on the House floor. While MEA leaders, members and staff have continued to send the message to their legislators that there is no reliable research or data to support such a move, SB 619 supporters are trying to use emotions to sway legislators.

The Michigan chapter of the National Coalition for Public School Options (NCPSO) has stepped into the fight by posting heartfelt letters on its website targeting legislators and urging them to vote “yes” on SB 619.

Written by parents, the form letters tell how cyber schools are helping their gifted students excel, their failing students catch up, and providing their students with health and developmental issues an alternative to traditional public schools.

NCPSO makes the claim that nearly 10,000 Michigan students are being denied the opportunity to attend a cyber school. Individual letters exploit student stories to make the case that cyber schools are the only way to get customized, personal access to a certified teacher; provide safety from bullying; and allow a student the flexibility to speed ahead or slow down their lessons.

Commentary: The two Romneys are a study in contrasts

MEA submitted the following opinion piece to the Detroit News for President Cook’s monthly column.  The News, without MEA’s permission, edited out the paragraphs in bold.  MEA believes it is in the public interest to present the full, unedited piece. 

With the upcoming primary on Tuesday, Michigan has become the focus of Republican presidential politics – especially for Gov. Mitt Romney, for whom a win in his home state is at stake.

For those of us who know our Michigan history, it’s interesting to view this campaign through the lens of another Gov. Romney: Mitt’s father, George. 

In 1965, Michigan Gov. George Romney signed into law the Public Employee Relations Act.  This legislation gave public sector employees (teachers, school support staff, police officers, firefighters and other public workers) the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. 

In 1967, Gov. Romney signed the Michigan Income Tax Act, creating a flat rate income tax that helped drive greater investment in our state and its infrastructure.

Prior to becoming governor, George Romney was the CEO of American Motors, helping to build Michigan’s modern auto industry.  He was also a prominent advocate for investing in and improving public schools in our state – so much so that the Michigan Education Association awarded Romney our “Distinguished Service Award” in 1960 for contributions to the cause of public education.

Senate passes election reform bills

Yesterday, the Senate passed 11 Republican-sponsored election reform bills that impact voting.

Two of the bills--HB 5085 and 5086--are anti-union bills that prevent a public employer from automatically deducting PAC contributions from an employee’s paycheck.

The bills put into law a 2010 state Supreme Court ruling on the issue. In MEA v. Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, the Court ruled that public school districts cannot administer payroll deduction plans that send money to a political action fund.

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