The Truth About Pension “Reform”

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The DeVos family is at it again – Amway billionaires plan public pension attackpdf-version

Amway President Doug DeVos recently announced a plan to move Michigan public employees to a 401(k) style defined contribution retirement plan. He labeled his proposed elimination of public employees’ defined benefit pension plans as the No. 1 priority of his West Michigan Policy Forum, adding “It sends a message to all of our elected officials. We take these votes very seriously.”

The DeVos family contributed nearly $1.5 million to Republican legislative candidates in the August primary—which is a down payment on the votes needed to gut school employee and municipal government employee pensions.

Visit  Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s Donor Tracking   to see how much the DeVos family has given to your legislator.

The pension system is not broken

Ten years ago, the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System (MPSERS) was fully funded. Now we have an unfunded liability (which has been improving) as the result of the devastating economic downturn of 2008, combined with decisions made in Lansing to balance the budget with unrealistic projected rates of return. Like any investment, it simply needs time to rebound — and is on track to do so.

Recent changes have dramatically increased employee contributions into MPSERS. PA 300 of 2012 placed school employees hired after its effective date into a “hybrid” system, combining elements of a traditional pension and a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. It also eliminated retirement healthcare benefits for new hires. The savings to the state stemming from this change will not be fully realized for several years. As with any investment, if left alone the system will heal itself.

The hybrid system is fully funded. Why would we eliminate a system that’s working?

Pensions provide important economic benefits

45% of public school employees receive a pension of less than $14,500 per year. Pension income is spent in Michigan and supports more than 77,000 Michigan jobs and $11.1 billion in economic output in Michigan.


A pension system distributes both the risk and reward evenly – vs. the winners/losers system of the 401(k). We don’t need a competitive system that creates winners at the expense of others; we need retirement security for all.

Numerous studies have shown that, in addition to being much less secure than a traditional pension, any savings to the state for making such a change would not be realized for more than 30 years – and the immediate cost to close MPSERS would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Hedge fund managers and other Wall Street corporations are the real winners in eliminating traditional pension plans and moving money to their 401(k)’s. Why would a billionaire attack public employee pensions?


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Pension Attack: What Is The MEA Doing? And What You Should Do.

Reblogged from MEAMatters

In the past few weeks, rumors have been confirmed that an attack on our pensionspdf-version is being planned for this fall. The form of this attack is likely to be an attempt to remove new school employees from the pension system, which will cause the system’s under-funding to skyrocket, leading to its inevitable failure.

The attack on MPSERS is expected to occur in the next legislative lame duck session. This is the period after an election and before the new legislature is seated in January, a time period when a significant number of legislators are still in power even though they have been term-limited or were just defeated at the polls. Lame duck sessions are marked by threats and deal-making by the party in power during late-night sessions with a deadline looming. The 2012 Right to Work bill was forced through during such a lame duck session.

What Is The MEA Doing?
MEA staff has raised awareness of this and other attacks through in-person presentations across the state, in schools, field offices and conferences, to both active members and retirees.

MEA lobbyists spent the summer meeting with Republican legislators to track down these rumors and to educate them on the facts about MPSERS. The only legislators who knew these “reforms” were being planned were in a very small group of Republican leaders and DeVos legislators.  This information void represented an opportunity to influence other Republican legislators.

MEA is also working with a coalition to oppose the legislation that includes labor and school management as well as local government groups who are also under attack, and is beginning a program to connect member constituents with Republican legislators it identifies as persuadable on this issue. (More on this program below.)

MEA is preparing for lame duck but can only succeed if the groundwork is in place. This is a political attack. It calls for a political response. Convincing persuadable legislators often requires focusing their attention on how their voting constituents feel. Which is where MEA members come in…

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Report: Teacher Shortage Crisis Can Be Averted by Keeping Educators in the Profession

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The United States is facing a major teacher shortage, as schools are scrambling to fill positions in math, science, special education, bilingual education, and other fields. The most severe deficit can be found in nearly all – 90 percent – of our highest-need schools.

According to new research, attrition is fueling the teacher shortage crisis.

The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) recently released a package of reports that that provide the most comprehensive look to date at the causes and consequences of teacher shortages and offer evidence-based policy recommendations to develop a strong and stable teaching workforce.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the school-going population will increase by roughly three million students in the next decade. But while the number of students is growing, enrollment in teacher preparation programs is down significantly – falling 35 percent nationwide in the last five years.

The shortage, says Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of LPI and co-author of A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the U.S., is only going to get worse unless steps are taken now to address why so many are leaving the profession.

“The teaching profession continues to be a leaky bucket, losing more than 200,000 teachers each year,” Darling-Hammond explains. “And the gross numbers mask what already has become a critical shortfall in qualified teachers assigned to low-income and high-minority schools.”

Teaching Conditions At a Low Point

The attrition rates driving the teacher shortage crisis cannot be explained by retirements. The lion’s share leave because of dissatisfaction, LPI researchers found.

It comes as no surprise that many teachers are dissatisfied with their profession. Teacher salaries have been declining since the 1990s, and in thirty states around the country, a teacher who has a family of four is eligible for government assistance, including free or reduced-price lunch for their own children in school.

“Teaching conditions have hit a low point in the United States in terms of salaries, working conditions and access to strong preparation and mentoring — all of which would attract and keep a stronger, more sustainable teaching pool,” noted Darling-Hammond.

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Devos to Legislature: Time to End School Pensions

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The Mackinac Center has pushed for years to shut down the state pension system, but pressure has been building. Giving substance to rumors of a push during the next lame duck session, Amway President Doug DeVos announced to attendees at the West Michigan Policy Forum that ending public employees’ pension benefits is the No. 1 public policy priority.

Killing pensions and replacing them with 401k-type plans allows investment firms to make billions managing them. Central to this plan is the need to convince the public that the cost of these pension plans is bankrupting cities and states.

This is a nation-wide attack, led by Enron billionaire Tom Arnold, whose Arnold Foundation is flooding right wing think tanks across the nation with funding to do this work. The Enron meltdown cost public pension funds $1.5 billion in losses.

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Anniversary of the Ida Teacher Strike

Twenty-six years ago today, Ida teachers went on strike. This was the last teacher strike in Monroe County.

Teachers: Check Accuracy of Your Evaluation Data Now Reported in MOECS

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Starting this month, K-12 teachers will need to check the accuracy of their evaluation data from the last five years that will be uploaded to the state’s online database known as the Michigan Online Educator Certification System (MOECS).
New state rules will tie some types of teacher certificate renewal and progression to effectiveness labels teachers received during the most recent five-year period. The change is part of the new Michigan educator evaluation law, Public Act 173 of 2015.
The evaluation data will be available Aug. 19 to view in MOECS. If teachers find their evaluation data is inaccurate, they will need to work with their district to file a data appeal to correct it. Appeals to correct errors can be filed from Sept. 1-Dec. 1, 2016.
PA 173 maintained the requirement that annual year-end evaluations assign one of four effectiveness labels based on the tools and measurements used in a district’s educator evaluation system: highly effective, effective, minimally effective, or ineffective. In addition, the law creates new requirements for the renewal and progression of certain certificates based on the effectiveness labels.
The only immediate change involves teachers who wish to pursue a purely optional level of certification known as the Advanced Professional Certificate. In addition, after July 1, 2018, teachers applying to progress for the first time from a Provisional Certificate to a Professional Certificate will be affected by the changes.
Under the law, evaluations will not play a role in the issuance or renewal of a Provisional Certificate or in renewal of a Professional Certificate.
In order to progress to or renew the optional Advanced Professional Certificate, beginning immediately, a teacher must have 
  • Received a highly effective rating on three out of the five most recent annual year-end evaluations; AND
  • Not been rated ineffective within the five most recent years; AND
  • Met additional criteria, such as the completion of National Board Certification or an approved teacher leader program.
In order to progress to the initial Professional Certificate on or after July 1, 2018, a teacher must have  
  • Successfully completed three years of teaching; AND
  • Received effective or highly effective annual year-end evaluations for the 3 consecutive school years immediately preceding his or her application for the professional teaching certificate; OR
  • Received three nonconsecutive effective or highly effective annual year-end evaluations and have received a recommendation for certificate progression from his or her chief school administrator.
For additional information, visit or email MDE-EdEvals@