Feature

Contact your legislators now — House panel could take up EAA legislation today

The state House Education Committee may vote Wednesday on House Bill 4369, which would create a statewide “takeover” district called the Education Achievement Authority.

MEA members are urged to contact their lawmakers and urge them to oppose the EAA legislation. Click here to find contact information for your legislators.

The committee is meeting at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room 519 of the Anderson House Office Building, 124 North Capitol Ave. in Lansing.

Currently a pilot program in Detroit, the EAA would be allowed to take over up to 50 public schools across the state that are deemed by arbitrary and flawed rankings to be in the state’s bottom 5 percent. The bill would also allow the EAA to create new charter schools within two miles of a so-called “failing” school.

Contact your lawmakers and tell them:

  • Rather than addressing specific problems facing local school districts, House Bill 4369 would eliminate the time-honored tradition of neighborhood schools, allowing state government bureaucrats to impose their will over local parents and communities.
  • Proponents tout the Detroit EAA’s alleged effectiveness, even though it has only been in place for a few months and has already demanded a government bailout. Under this legislation, taxpayers could be forced to bail out the statewide EAA at the expense of their own local schools.
  • The Legislature just took steps to stabilize the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, but House Bill 4369 would destabilize the state’s pension plan by reducing the number of employees paying into the system.
  • The bill strips away basic employment rights of school employees in buildings put under EAA control, taking away their ability to provide meaningful input on issues like curriculum, class sizes and school safety. In addition, school employees transferred to an EAA school would unfairly lose the retirement benefits they’ve already paid for.

EAA school takeover legislation re-introduced

 

Months after similar bills died in the Legislature’s lame duck session, Michigan House Republicans have reintroduced legislation to create a statewide “takeover” district called the Education Achievement Authority, or EAA.

MEA members are urged to contact their lawmakers and urge them to oppose the EAA legislation. Click here to find contact information for your legislators.

House Bill 4369, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, would allow the EAA to take over up to 50 public schools deemed by arbitrary and flawed rankings to be in the state’s bottom 5 percent. It would also allow the EAA to create new charter schools within two miles of a so-called “failing” school.

HB 4369 would allow Lansing bureaucrats to assume many of the responsibilities currently entrusted to local school board members, parents, teachers and education support staff — all while essentially eliminating the time-honored tradition of “neighborhood schools.”

The bill fails to include an in-depth audit of existing issues in both the school building and district that are causing the lack of performance.  Rather than finding and addressing specific problems through audits, the bill simply assumes that a board and bureaucrats appointed by the governor can simply do a better job than those already doing the work – regardless of the challenges they face.

The bill removes local communities’ ability to establish education policy, direct curriculum and manage community resources, by shifting power to state and federal bureaucrats. It also does not provide any substantive local controls to establish standards, create missions and goals, monitor performance, or audit finances of new schools created by this legislation.

Cat in the Hat makes a ‘purrfect’ Friday for kids at two Michigan schools

 

Children, teachers and education support professionals at two Michigan schools had plenty to meow about Friday, as Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat” made stops at Green Acres Elementary School in Warren and Pattengill Middle School in Lansing as part of NEA’s Read Across America Day.

Now in its 16th year, the NEA’s Read Across America program continues the NEA’s ongoing commitment to building a nation of readers and mobilizing school employees around an issue they care deeply about: making sure all students have access to books and the skills and support they need to read and learn.

Numerous local and national dignitaries joined about 200 students at Warren’s Green Acres on Friday morning for a special reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” by NEA Executive Committee Member Christy Levings and former Detroit Pistons forward Earl Cureton.

“I thought it was a wonderful event,” said Warren EA President Jon Fielbrandt, who along with every student and adult donned a towering red-and-white stovepipe hat as part of the festivities (his favorite Seuss books are “Green Eggs and Ham” and “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”) “The students were very excited to have everyone come to Green Acres to be a part of the celebration.”

New survey finds educator satisfaction at an all-time low

Teacher job satisfaction has plummeted to its lowest level in 25 years, according to a new survey released last week.

Only 39 percent of teachers report being satisfied with their jobs, according to the annual Metlife Survey of the American Teacher. This figure has dropped 23 points since 2008, according to the survey.

Teachers reporting low levels of job satisfaction were more likely to be working in schools with shrinking budgets, few professional development opportunities and little time allotted for teacher collaboration.

“This news is disappointing but sadly, there are no surprises in these survey results,” National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said. “Teacher job satisfaction will continue to free-fall as long as school budgets are slashed. Educators are doing everything they can to prepare their students to compete in the global economy, but the rug just keeps getting pulled out from under them.”

Pontiac students and educators benefit from generous school supply donations

Pontiac Education Association member and Whitman Elementary School teacher Linda Puas said of the supply drive and Saturday’s event, “This is so sad and yet so heartwarming. You really feel ‘not alone’.”

MEA organized supply drive in response to supply shortages caused by education funding cuts

PONTIAC, Mich., Feb. 16, 2013 — On Saturday, MEA members from across Michigan stepped up to help the students and educators of the Pontiac School District. In response to a critical school supply shortage caused by education funding cuts, MEA coordinated the donation and delivery of more than $12,000 in cash and gift cards, as well as thousands of dollars more in school supplies.

A truckload of these donated supplies was distributed to Pontiac Education Association members on Saturday at UAW Local 653 in Pontiac. Donations came from MEA teachers and support staff from around the state, as well as other allies such as the United Auto Workers and even contributions from other public school students, like the student council of Utica’s Flickinger Elementary.

The massive underfunding of public education by Gov. Snyder and the Michigan Legislature has created an untenable crisis for educators and students in Pontiac.  Last year, MEA members conducted a similar supply drive for teachers and students in the Benton Harbor Area Schools.

Snyder's budget restores fraction of funds raided from schools

Gov. Rick Snyder released his proposed 2014 budget Thursday morning, and while it includes small increases in school funding, it comes nowhere close to providing local schools with the resources they need to give Michigan students they education they deserve.

Snyder's budget proposal includes the following:

Increasing the K-12 budget by 2 percent, which includes bringing the state's minimum foundation allowance to $7,000 per pupil

Doubling state funding for early childhood education

Increasing state support for public universities by 2 percent

Increasing community college funding by 2 percent, which includes more investments in skilled trades programs

Despite the small increases in funding for K-12 schools, community colleges and universities, the amount of state support provided to education is still far less than it was before Snyder took office in January 2011. In his first budget, Snyder cut K-12 funding by more than $1 billion and increased taxes on the middle-class, just to provide a $1.8 billion tax break to corporate special interests.

MEA and others file lawsuit to invalidate illegal ‘right-to-work’ law

EAST LANSING, Mich., Feb. 1, 2013 — Michigan’s new “right-to-work” law should be overturned because the state Legislature violated state and federal open government laws when passing it, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Michigan Education Association and others in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Without a single public hearing, the state House and Senate passed legislation on the afternoon of Dec. 6 to make Michigan a right-to-work state. Simultaneously that afternoon, state police barred citizens from entering the Capitol, despite state law that requires the Capitol to remain open when the Legislature is in session. In addition, partisan legislative staffers were also ordered to fill the public galleries in the House and Senate to stop regular citizens from observing the votes.

According to the lawsuit, Michigan lawmakers violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the state Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"By allowing state police to block citizens from entering the Capitol, Lansing politicians not only violated the basic American principles of open and transparent government, they also violated specific state and federal laws designed to protect the rights of citizens," MEA President Steven Cook said. "We're confident the courts will agree that the Legislature's actions on the afternoon of Dec. 6 constituted a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act and should be invalidated."

Teachers boycott high-stakes standardized test

In what National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said is a “defining moment within the education profession,” teachers in Seattle are boycotting a district-mandated standardized test because it would have the ultimate effect of harming student learning.

Teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle unanimously decided on Jan. 9 not to administer the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) standardized test, a move that has garnered national attention and support from educators, parents and students. Other Seattle-area teachers have followed the Garfield teachers’ lead and are refusing to give the test.

The MAP is a computer-administered test that is supposed to measure math and reading skills. It’s intended to be used for high-stakes evaluations of teachers. What it really does, however, is rob students of critical class time and tie up computer labs, all while failing to measure what students are actually learning in the classroom.

Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference fast approaching -- register today!

Registration is still open for the 2013 MEA Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference, which will be held Feb. 7-8 at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Click here to download a printable program and registration form.

The Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference will feature numerous educational and informative sessions geared toward collective bargaining, public affairs and professional development.

The theme of this year's conference is "Advocacy Through Member Engagement," and will feature keynote speaker Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education.

The conference will also feature a two-day session called the Blended Learning Institute. The session will provide educators with options for bring blended learning into their classrooms to create a more dynamic learning experience. 

Registration still open for 2013 Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference

Registration still open for 2013 Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference

Registration is still open for the 2013 MEA Bargaining and Public Affairs Conference, which will be held Feb. 7-8 at Cobo Hall in Detroit.

Click here to download a printable program and registration form.

The theme of the conference is "Advocacy Through Member Engagement," and will feature keynote speaker Deborah Loewenberg Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness and dean of the University of Michigan's School of Education.

Ball, an expert on teacher training and development, serves as director of TeachingWorks, a national organization dedicated to improving teacher education. Ball convincingly argues that policymakers must place more focus on developing current teachers -- both experienced and those just starting out. Skillful teaching is not common sense, Ball says. Instead, skillful teaching can -- and must -- be taught.

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