An EPIC-MRA news releasetoday reports that 68 percent of Michigan voters are clearly opposed to the outsourcing of teachers to private companies, part of a Senate package of education reforms (SB 618-624). And with other reforms getting mixed reactions, it sets the stage for a divisive public conversation on proposals generated by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
In testimony before the Senate Education Committee on SB 618-624, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said that while our education system was outdated and needed an overhaul, most teachers aren’t the problem. They’re just the scapegoats who—surprisingly—are feeling “bashed.”
“Teachers can be allies in reinventing education in Michigan, but when I’ve talked about the need for reforms, sometimes it’s taken as an indictment of teachers. People will resist change if they think we’re bashing them,” said Flanagan.
MEA President Steve Cook appeared on Michigan Public Television’s “Off the Record” last week and called out Republicans for their harmful decisions regarding public education in Michigan and set the record straight on MEA’s involvement in recall elections.
“It’s actions by Republicans that are driving the recalls; it’s not the MEA. The MEA is not their only problem. Their problem is constituents upset about a business tax cut that gutted public education by $1 billion,” said President Cook.
Last week Sen. Randy Richardville, Senate Majority Leader (R-Monroe), announced his push for “Right to Work FOR LESS” legislation for teachers. He singled out the MEA for failing to represent its membership and failing to make financial sacrifices in these tough economic times.
Political insiders say this is all retribution for the recall of Scott who voted to cut education funding, played a key role in changing tenure policies and supported slashing collective bargaining rights.
On a close 55-53 vote today, the House passed HB 4929 which prohibits the deduction of union dues by public school employers. The bill was fast-tracked through the House after being introduced Tuesday. The bill now goes to the Senate where SB 636, a comparable bill introduced by Sen. Meekhof (R-West Olive) on Sept. 8 sits.
Rep. Haveman (R-Holland), sponsor of the bill, said the legislation isn’t an attack on teachers. “It allows them to have more money in their pockets and that’s a good thing.”
HB 4929, which prohibits the deduction of union dues by public school employers, is on a fast track since it was moved from the House Oversight, Ethics and Reform Committee yesterday. It has been referred to second reading on the House Floor and may move to third reading today with final passage on Thursday.
Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) introduced a similar bill--SB 636--on Sept. 8.
Introduced by Rep. John Haveman (R-Holland), HB 4929 was approved on a 4-2 party-line vote. In support of his own bill, Haveman testified that schools shouldn’t be in the business of collecting dues. The bill specifically says the dues deduction is a “prohibited contribution to the administration of a labor organization.” The Michigan Chamber of Commerce endorsed the bill but did not testify.
In what is probably one of the most blatant examples of anti-union, anti- school employee legislation yet, Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) says he supports right-to-work legislation that only affects public school employees and will have legislation ready soon.
In support of what looks like political payback for MEA’s recall efforts, Richardville said on PBS’s Off the Record, “The teachers union—specifically the Michigan Education Association—have lost their way and public school employees should no longer be forced to join them.”
Richardville singled out teachers unions because he claimed they haven’t recognized the state’s tough economic times like other unions have.
MEA President Steve Cook responded in a press statement this morning, “Republican leaders have slashed school funding, increased taxes, stripped collective bargaining rights from school employees, forced them to pay more out-of-pocket for retirement and health insurance. They’ve completely undermined and demoralized the educators of this state.”
The Legislature is back in session Wed., Sept. 7 and expect them to quickly take up more of Gov. Snyder’s “education reform” plan. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), chair of the Senate Education Committee, is pushing a package of bills that would require all public schools districts to participate in the schools of choice program and would allow Michigan public schools to hire teachers from private firms.
Pavlov said, “We have to expand choice to empower parents to make sure they get the very best education for their kids.”
The bill, requiring local governments and school districts to spend no more than a certain amount on their employees’ health insurance, is a combination of both a hard cap and an 80/20 plan.
Under a hard cap, SB 7 would require public employers to pay no more than $5,500 (single--NOT $5,000 as previously reported), $11,000 (individual and spouse) and $15,000 (family coverage). A public employer could elect the 80/20 split with employees for health care costs. While local units of government could get out of either cost-sharing plan, school districts must choose either the hard cap or the 80-/20 plan.
On Tuesday, the legislative conference committee for Senate Bill 7 reported out a compromise version of this bill that continues the assault on public employee health care. Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on this final version of SB 7 tomorrow.
SB 7 would require public employers pay no more than $15,000 for family coverage, with lower thresholds applied to individuals and couples, OR elect to split the cost of health insurance 80/20 with their employees.
Local units of government -- other than school districts -- could opt out of either cost-sharing plan. School districts are required to choose either the hard cap or the 80/20 plan.