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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."

Increased funding necessary for early childhood education

Early childhood education has been underfunded in Michigan for years, and it is time that Michigan’s lawmakers increase our children’s education opportunities by expanding early childhood education programs.

​Gov. Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to increase funding for early childhood education programs by $130 million over two years, beginning with a $65-million increase in 2013-2014 budget.

​Increasing funding for these programs would provide more opportunities for low-income preschoolers to enroll in early childhood education classes.  JUMP

There's currently $109 million allocated for the Great Start Readiness program, serving 32,000 of Michigan’s children. Another 29,000 children are eligible, but cannot be served.

​If the Michigan Legislature adopts Snyder’s plan, 16,000 more children could enter this program next year, and an additional 18,000 could enter a year later. This means 66,000 openings would be available for these children to enter preschool, more than doubling the current number of openings available.

Urge reps to support flexibility and local control for high school graduation requirements

MEA President Steve Cook sent a letter Tuesday to all state representatives expressing MEA’s support for House Bills 4465 and 4466, which seek to provide more flexibility and local control for districts in establishing graduation requirements for students.

In the current legislative environment, bills worthy of MEA support can be rare, but sponsors Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and Joel Johnson, R-Clare, were inclusive of a variety of education stakeholders, including MEA, in developing these bills.

“Aside from our support, I offer our thanks and appreciation for the efforts of Representatives McBroom and Johnson as they ushered this legislation through an exhaustive and transparent process that engaged many different stakeholders in the education community,” Cook wrote in his letter. “Those discussions led to better bills and our ability to support them. MEA continues to stand ready to similarly engage on other education issues with representatives from both sides of the aisle.”

The bills maintain the high graduation standards adopted by Michigan, including Algebra II, but provide districts, educators and parents the flexibility through “personal curriculum committees” to customize the standards to meet individual students’ needs.  This addresses problems with programs like fine arts, career and technical education and agricultural sciences, which were inadvertently harmed by the establishment of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

GOP’s merit pay bill ignores factors outside the classroom

 

Legislation introduced by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo, would make it illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and advanced degrees, except for few exceptions.

Republican lawmakers are ignoring external factors that affect student learning by introducing a bill that would make teacher “performance” the primary factor in determining educators’ pay, education advocates told the Associated Press in an article published over the weekend.

House Bill 4625, introduced May 7 by Rep. Pete Lund, R-Romeo, would make it illegal to pay future educators based on their experience and advanced degrees, except for few exceptions.

Instead, the bill would make teacher performance the “primary” factor in determining pay, as opposed to its current status of being a “significant” factor. Performance would be primarily measured by student growth on standardized tests.

The AP reported Sunday that “such a policy could lead to competition in schools where cooperation and idea-sharing is essential, and punish teachers working in low-income areas where factors beyond the teacher’s control can hinder student growth.”

Basing teachers’ pay on high-stakes testing can force educators “to engage in a competitive, sort of cutthroat nature with one another,” said state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights. “I don’t think that cultivates the type of environment we want in the classroom.”

In addition, doling out pay to teachers based on their students’ test scores could unfairly punish teachers who serve academically- or economically-challenged students, state Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said.

Buena Vista teachers laid off, despite voting to continue working without promise of pay

Buena Vista teachers met Monday and decided to continue working this week, even though they learned on Friday that the district had run out of money to pay their salaries on time. Despite the teachers' selfless action, the Buena Vista School Board voted Monday night to lay all of the teachers off.

At an emergency meeting last night, the Buena Vista Board of Education voted to lay off its employees, effective May 31. This action came mere hours after teachers voted to continue working this week, despite having no guarantee when they would get paid for that work by the cash-strapped district.

“Yesterday, we again saw proof that Michigan’s educators put their students first, with the decision by the teachers of the Buena Vista Education Association to continue working this week,” MEA President Steve Cook said. “These dedicated educators wanted what is best for their students — to give their school district and the state the time and assistance necessary to work out a plan to keep school open for this final month of the year.”

“But last night, we yet again saw proof that politicians, administrators and other so-called ‘leaders’ consistently put money first and our kids last,” Cook said. “Faced with a selfless offer of help from their employees to continue working, without the guarantee of a paycheck next payday, Buena Vista’s school board and administration gave up on their students and employees and laid everyone off. “

Ironically, the Buena Vista Board of Education’s move comes during the launch of national Teacher Appreciation Week.

Will Secretary Duncan bring news of ‘skunk works’ controversy back to D.C.?

MEA President issues statement in response to U.S. Education Secretary’s visit to Detroit and Ypsilanti with Gov. Snyder

EAST LANSING, Mich., May 6, 2013 — The following statement can be attributed to MEA President Steve Cook in response to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit Monday to schools in Detroit and Ypsilanti with Gov. Rick Snyder:

“It was certainly an honor for students and school employees in Detroit and Ypsilanti to get a visit from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today, and we appreciate the attention he and Gov. Rick Snyder are paying to the critical issue of early childhood education, which research proves is key in helping students become lifelong learners. 

“But just because Gov. Snyder agrees with investing in early childhood education doesn't forgive the fact that he's thrown research out the window in countless other education decisions he’s made in the past two years —  especially the recent revelations about his administration’s secret ‘skunk works’ plan.

“While he’s talking now about putting money into early childhood programs, Gov. Snyder continues to stand by his $1 billion in cuts to local schools, which shortchanges the education of our children from kindergarten through college.  And now his corporate special interest allies, already benefitting from massive tax breaks, could make more profit off our schools, thanks to skunk works.

Education community roundly pans Snyder’s secret ‘skunk works’ group

Members of the education community are roundly panning Gov. Snyder’s secret “skunk works” voucher workgroup.

As outrage continues to spread throughout the education community, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan announced Wednesday he is taking over the previously secret education “reform” taskforce established by the Snyder administration and a Mackinac Center official.

Members of Snyder’s administration had been holding secret nighttime meetings with corporations to develop a school voucher plan for Michigan. The group, dubbed “skunk works,” purposefully excluded educators from the discussion in favor of benefitting the information technology corporations that would profit from the scheme.

Earlier this week, Flanagan pulled his staff from the workgroup after realizing its controversial agenda to develop “value schools,” which would replace traditional public schools with a voucher system.

As MEA President Steve Cook explained: “Their goal to create so-called ‘value schools’ would spend less than half what we currently spend to educate a student, putting those remaining meager funds on debit cards for parents and students to purchase their learning – not unlike food stamps. Such schools would use long-distance video conferencing instead of qualified, professional teachers working with students.”

Education community roundly pans Snyder’s secret ‘skunk works’ group

Members of the education community are roundly panning Gov. Snyder’s secret “skunk works” voucher workgroup.

 

As outrage continues to spread throughout the education community, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan announced Wednesday he is taking over the previously secret education “reform” taskforce established by the Snyder administration and a Mackinac Center official.

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