Feature

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.

New budget proposal no real investment in education

Gov. Snyder presented his 2013 budget today, but while schools will see more money--there are strings attached. And it still isn't enough of a boost to make up for the $1 billion cut schools saw last year.

In a news release today, MEA President Steve Cook said, "Putting a fraction of that $1 billion back into schools doesn't fix the problems that such a massive cut caused last year--it only continues to enrich the corporate special interests who benefitted from the $1.8 billion tax cut that the education cuts enabled."

House committee passes more anti-union bills--Call your state representative!

On a party line vote, the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee passed on Tuesday House Bills 5023-5026, a package of anti-union bills meant to curtail the powers of labor unions:

  • HB 5023--fines striking public employees one day's pay and their union $5,000 for each day of the strike, expanding the penalties beyond the current rules that only apply to public school employees.

  • HB 5024--sets fines and restrictions on members and their unions for mass picketing.

  • HB 5025--requires an employee's annual written authorization to have their union dues deducted from their paycheck by employers.

  • HB 5026--eliminates the prohibition against employers advertising for strike breakers.

Debate continues on cyber school expansion

With a committee room packed with cyber school supporters in yellow scarves in honor of National School Choice Week, the debate over SB 619—whether unlimited cyber schools is an element of sound education reform—continued in the House Education Committee. 

While the lineup of those testifying may change, the arguments don’t. Supporters continue to claim that cyber schools will provide more and better choices for a child’s education than a traditional school can. 
 
Critics aren’t necessarily condemning cyber schools, but they point to the lack of data to warrant the unlimited expansion of what is really an education experiment. They want the Legislature to wait until the two Michigan cyber schools have been in place for two years to study the effectiveness. The state Department of Education and the Governor agree.

House Committee hears testimony restricting union dues collection, union activities

The House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee heard testimony Tuesday from union members who oppose HB 5023-5026, bills restricting union activities and punishing union members. And all of them pretty much said the same thing—the legislation is punitive, unnecessary, irrelevant and unconstitutional.

HB 5025, probably the most damaging piece of anti-union legislation in the package, requires an employee’s annual written authorization to have their union dues deducted from their paychecks. Supporters say this bill gives workers more opportunities to control whether money is collected for political activities or other functions—control workers already have, making this legislation just another attack on unions.

Union members repeatedly testified that PAC contributions do not come from dues; they are a voluntary contribution. They also stressed that no worker in Michigan is forced to join a union. Workers can opt to pay their fair share which only pays for the salary and benefits the union has negotiated for all workers.

How will Indiana influence RTW in Michigan?

It would be in our best interest to monitor the "Right To Work For Less" (RTW) movement in neighboring Indiana since several Republican legislators have already said, "As Indiana goes, so goes Michigan." Indiana would be the 23rd state to impose RTW, which allows workers to benefit from negotiated contracts without paying their fair share.

In 1995, the Indiana Legislature passed a RTW law for teachers. The current proposal would expand to include all workers.  Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is leading the charge on the issue now with commercials. Hearings on the proposed bill are currently underway. On the first day of session, House Democrats protested the legislation by choosing not to attend sessions and denying a quorum for voting. Thousands are expected to protest at the Statehouse despite the imposition of new security regulations and capacity limits. In addition to other labor groups, the NFL Players Association has come out in opposition to the legislation--the Super Bowl will be played in Indianapolis on Feb. 5.

More changes to public education in Snyder’s new proposals

Last year’s legislative onslaught of so-called education reform proposals shouldn’t have come as a surprise. In his April 2011 special message on education reform, Gov. Snyder gave marching orders to legislators to lift the charter school cap, overhaul teacher tenure, tie teacher evaluation to student performance, encourage unchecked growth of cyber schools and tie funding to student achievement.

Now, eight months later, Snyder has updated his list of education reform proposals to reflect legislative changes. He’s also added some new initiatives which give us a glimpse into this year’s political agenda. His emphasis is still on alternative forms of education—especially cyber schools—which dismantle public education and sell it off to private companies.

Snyder signs SB 618 into law

On Tuesday, Gov. Snyder signed SB 618 into law lifting a 150-cap on university-sponsored charter schools.  The bill is now Public Act 277.

The original bill was modified so that the cap is gradually lifted until 2015 when there will be no limit. Next year, the limit is 300 new charter schools and grows to 500 in 2014.

MEA opposed the bill on the grounds that lifting the cap robs traditional public schools of needed resources. The bill also lacked strict accountability standards for newly-created charter schools.

Legislature goes home for the holidays

Legislature goes home for the holidays

After lifting the cap on charter schools, the Legislature finished its business for the year today without doing any more harm to public education, students and public education employees and their unions.

The Senate did not take up HB 4929, legislation to end payroll deduction for union dues, or any of the litany of other anti-union bills under consideration.  And the House took no action on SB 619 (unlimited expansion of cyber schools).  But rest assured the debate over further attacks on public education, unions and the middle class will restart in the New Year.

The Legislature will be back in session January 11, 2012. For now, there is peace in Michigan.

Call your state rep NOW to oppose SB 618

The pressure is building in the state House to pass SB 618, the bill allowing for unlimited expansion of charter schools.  There are still several Republican representatives who are opposed to the bill's provisions that remove the cap on charters without increasing accountability measures.  But they are under intense pressure to vote in favor of SB 618.

Call your state representative right away -- contact information can be found at http://bit.ly/sBEt9 . Urge them to vote no on SB 618.  Tell them that unchecked expansion of charter schools will hurt your district and your students, siphoning even more resources away from our neighborhood schools.

Take action now!

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