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.

Snyder administration holding secret meetings to develop school voucher plan

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has been holding secret meetings with corporate special interests to develop a plan for introducing school vouchers in Michigan.


Members of Gov. Rick Snyder's administration have been holding secret meetings to develop a school voucher plan for Michigan, the Detroit News revealed Friday in a special investigative report.

The clandestine meetings have been taking place since December, and are being headed by state employees and one of the leaders of the far-right Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The workgroup is developing a "model for K-12 public education with a funding mechanism that resembles school vouchers," the News reported.

School vouchers allow already-dwindling public education funds to be diverted to for-profit private schools, leaving Michigan public school students to struggle with overcrowded classrooms, less instruction and fewer basic supplies like books and pencils.

As is stands, school voucher plans violate the Michigan Constitution, which bans public aid to nonpublic schools. Because vouchers rob kids of the resources they need to succeed, voters overwhelmingly rejected a 2000 constitutional amendment that would have allowed the use of vouchers. Voters rejected a similar proposal in 1978.

It appears the will of the people and the state Constitution matter little to the Snyder administration's secret workgroup, however. The group is hatching a plan under which Michigan would open a number of so-called "value schools," which would replace the instruction students receive from teachers with long-distance video conferencing, the News reported.

Senate Appropriations Committee passes education funding bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed three education funding bills for the 2013-2014 budget year, covering K-12, higher education and community colleges, despite universal opposition from Democrats on the committee.

Like Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal, the Senate bills come nowhere close to restoring the $1 billion that Snyder and his Republican allies raided from our kids’ schools — just to help fund more than $2 billion in tax cuts for corporate special interests.

Click here to find contact information for your legislators. Tell them to put Michigan kids first and restore every penny they robbed from local schools.

Senate Republicans reject right-to-work penalties

Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, told the Detroit Free Press, “I’m not going to punish anybody for something they did legally.”

Penalizing school districts and higher education institutions that negotiated “fair share” agreements with employees prior to the implementation of Michigan’s so-called “right-to-work” law is not on the agenda of Republicans in the Michigan Senate, who this week passed education appropriations bills out of committee without the penalties.

That’s in sharp contrast to the state House, where Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee voted recently to eliminate grants for K-12 districts, penalize universities by 15 percent and not increase funds for community colleges — all because they followed the law and negotiated in good faith with school employees.

Between last December’s passage of right-to-work and its March 28 effective date, many school districts, colleges and universities negotiated fair share agreements with their employee associations. The agreements require that employees who benefit from union representation pay their fair share toward the cost of representation. Michigan’s new right-to-work law bans fair share agreements, but only for contracts not in place by March 28.

Extremist politicians have relentlessly attacked employers for negotiating fair share agreements, insisting they should have followed a law that wasn’t yet in place. Those attacks have included being called before McCarthy-style committee hearings in Lansing about the agreements, as well as threats of funding cuts for schools or universities that entered into contracts with employees prior to the implementation date.

While Republicans in the House are attempting to follow through on their threats and take away much-needed resources from students and school employees, Republicans in the Senate seem to be taking a more measured and responsible approach to the issue.