Michigan Education Association

Previous NextDear Gov. Snyder: Our ideas to help Michigan

 

Dear Governor Snyder:

Let me begin by congratulating you on becoming the new governor of the greatest state in the entire United States of America. I believe that you will do a great job and get our state back on track.  Everyone is aware of the horrible economic shape our beautiful state is currently in.  With that being said, it’s obvious that you truly have your work cut out for you but I know you will be very successful because you’re “One tough nerd!”

Mr. Governor, let me give you a little background about myself so you can have a better idea of who I truly am.  I was born and raised in this amazing state.  I have spent 27 of my 28 years in the magnificent state of Michigan.  Unfortunately I was forced to spend one year (2007) in the state of Illinois because I couldn’t find a teaching position in my home state.  After leaving this great state for a year, I had a year of public school teaching under my belt and landed the amazing job I currently have now; teaching seventh grade social studies and language arts in the terrific Chippewa Valley School District!  I believe I have truly found my calling. Teaching and working with young people is a true passion of mine.  People who are close to me know this fact is very evident.

My first three years of college were spent at Michigan State University. There I began to major in supply chain management. During the summers, when I wasn’t in East Lansing, I worked at a summer camp for the Boys & Girls Club of Troy. Immediately I fell in love with the job and the children. I simply loved interacting with the kids and I knew the feeling was mutual! After my second summer working at the Club, I had decided that I wanted to do something that would leave a positive impact on the world; I had decided that I wanted to become a teacher!  To make a long story short, I transferred to Oakland University where I obtained a bachelors of science in elementary education along with a major in social studies and a major in language arts.

Needless to say I have obtained quite a bit of college debt.  After three years of paying over $300 per month on my college loans, my current college loan debt is down to $30,038.76.   Also, I’m currently working on a masters of education in curriculum and instruction: technology, which again will add nearly $17,000 dollars to my total college debt for a grand total of $47,038.76.  Currently my annual salary is $47,149.00.

Governor Snyder I was raised by a very caring mother and father who raised four children.  My father was in charge of one of my grandfather’s restaurants.  Needless to say, my father worked many, many hours.  In 1998, at the age of 44, my father’s life was cut short due to his battle with stomach cancer.  Long before my father passed away he made us keep a promise with him to obtain a college education and not continue on with the family restaurants.  I’m extremely proud to say that all of my siblings and I have kept that promise with my father.

This past year I was able to fulfill one of the American dreams, owning my own home.  I wouldn’t have been able to purchase it if it wasn’t for the Oakland County Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  With that being said, it’s obvious that I live on a very tight budget.  I’m a single 28 year old male living in a home with one roommate (to help with the mortgage).  I’m basically living pay check to check just to make ends meet.  From paying for all of the monthly bills that come with a home to paying over $300 in student’s loans monthly (which will increase once I gain my graduate degree), one can see that money is very tight.  On that note, Mr. Governor please don’t think that during the summers I “sit back and take it easy.”  During the summers, and even during holiday breaks, I work at the Boys and Girls Club of Troy.  There is no way I can afford to take the summer off in order to meet my financial commitments.

Mr. Snyder, I’m sharing all of this information because lately the state made all public employees pay three percent of our salary that is “supposed” to go into a fund for our retirement.  The problem I have is that it is not guaranteed when I retire.  On top of that, many politicians such as newly appointed Treasure Dillon want to cut my benefits.  Governor, I’m hoping to get married in a few years and start a family but how can I do that if politicians keep putting their hands in my pocket?  I’m a very honest person and truly believe that I along with the thousands of other public school employees, are making positive impacts on thousands of young people.

Newly elected Governor, I’m sure you are aware that lately public employees, especially public educators, have been under extreme attack.  Many politicians believe that teachers have an easy job, make too much money, and they are “given” amazing benefits.  Public educators spend countless hours “out of the office” planning lessons/units, grading, taking professional development in order to stay up-to-date with best practices, spend our own money on classroom materials, and meet with parents and students before school or after school.  I recently had a student who couldn’t afford glasses so I went to see my cousin (who has his own ophthalmology practice) and he was able to fit her with a brand new pair of glasses.  Two weeks later my student’s glasses were damaged by her younger siblings. My student’s mother doesn’t have a car so I went to see my cousin again to have them fixed.  This is just one small instance where I have made a difference not just in the classroom but outside as well.  I’m not the only teacher who does this; this is what we do as teachers.  I know all the teachers in my building do very similar acts of kindness day in and day out.    It comes naturally for us to give to students, it’s just who we are.

Mr. Governor, I would personally like to invite you or any of your colleagues to shadow me or to a sit down so I can truly explain what the true profession of being a public school teacher is all about.  I remember your campaign very well; you said you were not another political but a businessman and “One tough nerd.”  So please, I beg you to actually sit down with public teachers, observe their classrooms, see the amounts of time, energy, passion, and patience truly going into teaching.  There is a great deal of work that is done both inside and outside the classroom in order to create an environment where children feel safe, secure, happy, and most importantly a place where they learn.

If politicians keep attacking our profession and our means of income, the profession will not attract quality teachers.  I know that if politicians make any more cuts I may have to seriously think about another career opportunity that will allow me to provide for myself and a family.

Sincerely,

Anthony M. Locricchio
Teacher
Chippewa Valley School District

 

Dear Governor Snyder,

I have sat for weeks trying to decide what kind of letter to write to you.  Should it be philosophical?  Should it be religious?  Should I beg?  Would the type of letter matter?  Will the letter I write find its way into your hands?  Will you even read it, or will it just be thrown out?  When I asked my wife, she told me to just start writing and it would come to me.  "Just write from the heart", she said, because she knows that we have been in this situation before...many times.
As a current public school teacher, and parent of two children who attend public school, I have a very real interest in Michigan’s school system.  My name is Patrick Koneval and I am proud to say that I am a middle school computer teacher at Smith Middle School, in the Troy School District.  My wife is also a teacher in the district.  Not only am I tired of always defending my profession, but I am tired of trying to find a way to fix something that I did not break! 
In the Detroit Free Press article from December 22, 2010, you stated "Private-sector companies and workers have made many sacrifices, and we all need to share in this. So it's now the public sector coming into more alignment with what the private sector has already done."  In an article dated October 29, 2010, by Michael Van Beek on “Don’t Believe the Hype: The School Employee Concession Myth”, he stated, " School employees earning more than the rest of the taxpaying population is nothing new in Michigan.  Michigan’s economy and the economic well-being of its population have declined dramatically over the last decade. Contrary to union claims, however, there has been no “shared sacrifice” by school employees. If anything, compared to the rest of us, their relative well-being in economic terms has likely never been better."  In an article dated November 18, 2010, by Mike Wilkinson on "High teacher salaries under scrutiny in Michigan", Senator Mike Bishop stated"(Teaching) is an awfully nice job to have for that kind of pay,".
Three different articles, but they all have the same theme.  I have always been taught that there are three sides to every story.  Yours, mine, and the correct side.  If teachers are to be constantly compared to the corporate world, then just once I think it might be fair to list the top salaries of other professionals with the same education and experience, and really take a look to see what kind of money we make compared to other professionals.  If we do, maybe, just maybe, we may see the correct side.
 
In every news conference I have seen, or article I have read, you have said that you want to reinvent Michigan.  You want to invoke change and this will require sacrifice.  You said we all need to share in that sacrifice, and now, you are targeting public employees, specifically teachers.  Why?  In your mind have we not sacrificed enough?  In the twenty years that I have been teaching, my fellow teachers and I have sacrificed plenty.  Our benefits, salary, working conditions, and too many other things to list.  Just last year I was told that I had to pay 3 percent into the state retirement.  Because both my wife and I teach, it was 6 percent.  Money that we will never see again.  I believe this is a “shared sacrifice”, don’t you?  Also, please explain to me why every other public employee is capped at three years and teachers are not?  As one of my colleagues said, "In essence, we as public school employees have always seemed to remain ‘level’ and don’t want that to change.  When economic times were good we did not receive the 5, 6, 10 percent increases other areas were getting (we were getting .5, 1, etc). Now that times are bad ‘they’ want us to contribute, I do not feel that way…if we were level during good times than we should remain stable during ‘bad’ times"!
What you and many other politicians fail to realize is that we need to invest in education, not keep taking away from it.  If you cut all public employees pay by 5 percent or more, you will see more quality teachers moving out of Michigan to find better paying jobs, or leave the teaching profession altogether.  You will also find a lower quality of life for those who stay here, and of course, a lower quality of education for our students.  It is tough enough to be a student today and suicide is currently the third leading cause of death for our teenagers.
Why the big rush to enact the executive orders?  Why not bring in a few teachers to get their point of view or ask for their suggestions?  I am not talking about having suggestions sent to you in the MEA Voice, but actually sitting down face to face with a few teachers to let them know exactly why cutting 5 percent of our salary is a good idea.   Especially for families where both parents are teachers.  These are life changing cuts to real people, who have real families, real hopes, and real dreams!  Being impatient can be devastating.  It is actually one of the root causes of failure, but very few realize it.  I suspect that you have made your share of mistakes by being impatient, but you have learned from them to become a very successful businessman as well as our next Governor.  Please do not be impatient with these executive orders.
Governor Snyder, may I ask you a few questions?  Have you ever sat down with a teacher and asked them how they would improve our current educational or economic system?  Have you ever asked a teacher what they need to be successful?  Have you ever thanked a teacher?  The teaching profession is not perfect, but I cannot think of any other profession where change is made without first consulting those it affects.  If you were performing surgery for the first time, would you ask a doctor who has performed the same surgery a hundred times, before making any changes?  If you were building a house, would you not go through the builder to alter your plans?
 
Part of the problem with our society is people are so far stretched, and are trying to do so much, they cannot seem to do anything well.  Teachers are no exception, as we are not only teachers, but care takers, psychologists, mediators, social workers, foster parents, etc.  Our parents demand excellence and have very high expectations, and we must find a way amongst all the political rhetoric to meet those expectations.
Governor Snyder, if you really want to reinvent Michigan and make the changes I feel you are sincere about making, why not try to be different as you have said.  Why not stand on the steps of the Capitol and say that education will play a huge part in reinventing Michigan and we will need the help of all teachers to do this. You would be the first Governor to do so.
In 2004, Tom Watkins, Superintendent of Public Instruction, wrote a letter about how we should all thank a Michigan teacher today.  He wrote, “Investing in our schools and our teachers is the best economic investment we can make as a state.  Our teachers are touching our collective future today.  The viability of our society, the strength of our economy, the quality of our lives, and the vibrancy of our democracy all depend on our public schools and teachers.  Political rhetoric from the left or the right has never educated a single child.  Only a highly qualified teacher with skills, tools, and support can make the lasting differences we want for our children.”
This was written in 2004 and we are no further today, than we were six years ago.  In fact, I think we are more behind.  Why, I believe because we have not invested in education.  However, I believe together, we can make Michigan great again!

Thank you for reading this letter and I look forward to hearing from you.  I know you just took office, but I would love to meet if you have the time.

One last thing...

Sometimes, the most important decisions we make, are not by the things we decide to do, but rather the things we decide NOT to do.

Patrick Koneval
Teacher
Troy School District

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Updated: February 10, 2011