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House rams through bills to dissolve school districts without transferring employees

House Education Committee Chairwoman Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, referred to school employees as “hogs” in a floor speech late Thursday night.

After the chair of the House Education Committee referred to school employees as “hogs,” Republicans in the state House rammed through legislation late Thursday night that would dissolve the Buena Vista and Inkster school districts and leave employees in those dissolved districts without the right to a job in the receiving districts.

Under House Bill 4813 and House Bill 4815, the state superintendent and state treasurer could decide to dissolve a troubled school district if the district fails to submit a deficit reduction plan or is financially incapable of implementing such a plan; lacks the funds necessary to run a K-12 program for a year of required instructional hours; and has 2,500 students or fewer and lost at least 10 percent of its students over the course of a year.

The legislation is crafted so that only Buena Vista and Inkster qualify for dissolution. Initially, it would have applied to any school district in the state, but MEA successfully fought to have it narrowed.

A dissolved district’s students and property would be transferred to one or more nearby districts.

School employees in the dissolved districts would not have rights to jobs in the receiving district — even though their district dissolved through no fault of their own. The legislation initially protected school employees in the dissolved districts by providing them with the right of first refusal for jobs in the receiving district, but an amendment by state Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, stripped away all employee protections.

Franz’s amendment was fully supported by House Education Committee Chairwoman Lisa Lyons, R-Alto. In response to school employees’ concerns, Lyons said from the House floor: “Pigs get fat — hogs get slaughtered.” 

House passes curriculum flexibility bills

The state House overwhelmingly passed legislation supported by the MEA Thursday that would provide more flexibility and local control in establishing graduation requirements for students.

House Bills 4465 and 4466 maintain high graduation standards while providing local school districts with flexibility through “personal curriculum committees.” These committees would be able to customize standards to meet the needs of individual students.

Under current law, students can fulfill the algebra II requirement by completing a program or curriculum in electronics, machining, construction, welding, engineering or renewable energy, provided it features an “appropriate embedded mathematics requirement.” The legislation passed by the House eliminates the “appropriate embedded mathematics requirement.” Instead, students would have to successfully complete “the same content as the algebra II benchmarks assessed on the department-prescribed state high school assessment.”

Snyder must veto proposed ban on Common Core or every school will fail to meet AYP

Every school in Michigan will fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress and will lose federal aid unless the governor vetoes a part of the budget passed by the Legislature that strips funding for implementing the Common Core State Standards.

MEA members are asked to contact Gov. Rick Snyder immediately and urge him to restore funding for Common Core implementation. Call him at (517) 373-3400 or email him via the form on his website.

School employees have spent the better part of three years preparing for the launch of Common Core. Unless Snyder vetoes the Legislature’s budget language and restores funding for Common Core implementation, all of the prep work put in by educators will be for naught.

MEA members successfully push for increased investment in early childhood education

Thanks to the hard-fought efforts of MEA members, the state Legislature on Wednesday voted to increase the state’s investment in early childhood education funding.

More than 1,400 MEA members called and emailed their legislators in recent weeks to urge them to support more funding for early childhood education. Because of the outreach conducted by teachers, education support professionals and higher education employees, the Legislature sent an education budget to the governor’s desk that includes $65 million in additional funds for early childhood education.

“The MEA has long championed greater investment in early childhood education programs, because these investments help prepare our students for success,” MEA Vice President Nancy Strachan said. “The additional investment for early childhood education is a critical step to help our low-income students have access to high-quality preschool opportunities and enter kindergarten prepared to learn.”

“Research has clearly shown the direct correlation between early childhood education programs and increased graduation rates, reduced crime and a healthier economy,” Strachan said. “The MEA will continue to support this and other increased early childhood investments so that all Michigan children have the opportunity to succeed.”     

Michigan Teacher of the Year awarded to Grosse Pointe North High School science teacher

Grosse Pointe Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Harwood, Trustee Cindy Pangborn, Trustee Brian Summerfield, Michigan Teacher of the Year Gary Abud, and Trustee Judy Gafa pose at an event Thursday honoring Abud.

Grosse Pointe North High School science teacher Gary Abud Jr. has been named the 2013-14 Michigan Teacher of the Year by the state Department of Education.

Abud, who received the 2012 Science Teacher of Promise award from the Michigan Science Teachers Association, is a proponent of project-based learning, combining service experiences, digital learning and social media to provide his students with a broad palette of learning experiences.

“It has been my philosophy that all students can learn and achieve in the classroom,” Abud said. “Finding the right combination of strategies to match various learning styles is essential.”

Grosse Pointe Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Harwood said Abud is “a teacher amongst teachers; an innovator of instruction, a supportive guide of knowledge, and a creator of dreams for students who wish to further explore their understanding of science.”

“Gary displays every day in his classroom what great teachers in Michigan do — lead by example and help every student find the ways to learn,” state Superintendent Mike Flanagan said. “He sets a high standard not only for himself, but for his students and fellow educators.”

“He has followed his passion to continue learning and share what he learns with others,” Flanagan said. “I cannot think of a greater gift a person can give to Michigan’s next generations.”

Despite help from state, Buena Vista School District refuses to pay its teachers Friday

Without warning, the Buena Vista School District did not pay its 28 teachers Friday — despite it being a pay day and despite the state of Michigan’s sending $400,000 to the struggling district to keep it open for the remainder of the school year.

“The teachers in the Buena Vista School District have made numerous sacrifices on behalf of their students, and they deserve to get paid for the work they do so they can feed their families,” MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz said. “Teachers and their students should not be made to suffer for the school district’s financial mismanagement and Gov. Rick Snyder’s lack of support for public education.”

Friday was a scheduled pay day for the teachers, who haven’t been paid since May 10.

Sick teachers have also been barred by the district from calling substitute teachers, resulting in crowded classrooms.

Students and school employees in the Buena Vista School District are innocent victims of gross financial mismanagement by district and state administrators, as well as Gov. Rick Snyder’s reckless $1 billion in cuts to school funding.

Despite help from state, Buena Vista School District refuses to pay its teachers Friday

Without warning, the Buena Vista School District did not pay its 28 teachers Friday — despite it being a pay day and despite the state of Michigan’s sending $400,000 to the struggling district to keep it open for the remainder of the school year.

“The teachers in the Buena Vista School District have made numerous sacrifices on behalf of their students, and they deserve to get paid for the work they do so they can feed their families,” MEA Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz said. “Teachers and their students should not be made to suffer for the school district’s financial mismanagement and Gov. Rick Snyder’s lack of support for public education.”

Friday was a scheduled pay day for the teachers, who haven’t been paid since May 10.

Sick teachers have also been barred by the district from calling substitute teachers, resulting in crowded classrooms.

House panel passes merit pay bill that ignores teacher experience

Despite objections from numerous education experts who testified in opposition, the state House Education Committee passed legislation Wednesday that would make performance the “primary” factor in determining pay for teachers, rather than its current status as a “significant” factor.

House Bill 4625, which now goes to the full House, would also prohibit school officials from considering experience or advanced degrees as factors in setting pay for teachers, except for a few limited exceptions.

As originally introduced, the bill would have applied only to future teachers. However, the committee passed an amendment offered by Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township, that would also apply merit pay to current teachers who opt in.

The committee also passed an amendment from Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, that would delay implementation of the bill until the completion of a new educator evaluation system being developed by the Michigan Council on Educator Effectiveness. For more on the MCEE’s evaluation system, see the April edition of the MEA Voice.

Statement by MEA President Steve Cook on Oklahoma tornado and school employees' heroism

(The Oklahoma Education Association has set up a relief fund to assist teachers, education support professionals and school administrators impacted by the tornado that struck Moore. Click here to donate to the OEA Tornado Relief Fund.)

EAST LANSING, Mich., May 22, 2013 — The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steven Cook in reaction to Monday’s tragic tornado that struck Moore, Okla.:

“At least 24 people — including nine children — are dead, following the devastating tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., wiping out most of the town. Some of the dead children were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was flattened by the storm.

“In the midst of this tragedy, I want to convey how proud MEA’s 150,000 members are of our colleagues in Oklahoma.

Statement by MEA President Steve Cook on Oklahoma tornado and school employees’ heroism

EAST LANSING, Mich., May 21, 2013 — The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steven Cook in reaction to Monday’s tragic tornado that struck Moore, Okla.:

“As I write this, at least 51 people — including 20 children — are dead, following the devastating tornado that tore through Moore, Okla., wiping out most of the town. At least seven of the dead children were students at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which was flattened by the storm. The death toll is expected to rise.

“In the midst of this tragedy, I want to convey how proud MEA’s 150,000 members are of our colleagues in Oklahoma.

“Reports continue to pour in of school employees in Moore who put themselves in harm’s way to save their students. Some used their bodies as human shields to protect children from falling rubble. Others carried children in their arms and out of collapsing schools.

“Still others lost their lives inside of their schools — a horrible end to what began as a routine day in the classroom."

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