Calendar Bill Stopped – Pension Moves to Governor’s Desk

Reblogged from mea.org

The bill that would ban school calendar and schedule as topics of bargaining did not come up for a vote yesterday – your calls and emails to lawmakers ensured the state House leadership could not rally enough “yes” votes to forward HB 4163 to the Senate.

The House adjourned just before midnight without taking action on the measure that would silence educator voices on issues that affect student learning conditions – matters such as school start and end times, parent-teacher conferences, and prep periods, among others.

And in addition to the calls and emails – for the second week in a row – MEA members and leaders traveled to Lansing to personally lobby legislators against a bill with destructive consequences for public education.

Sue Ziel, president of the Romulus Education Association, said she volunteered to lobby both times. The experience was exciting and eye-opening and hard to describe, especially given the success in fighting off a planned vote on the calendar/schedule bargaining ban, she said.

“Members who are being told ‘Make the phone calls – write the letters’… they need to hear – it does work, and (politicians) are listening,” Ziel said. “They may have their agenda, but they’re also listening to what’s coming at them.”

The House is not scheduled for another session day until July 12 and is unlikely to return for any significant length of time until September.  House lawmakers did vote yesterday to concur in SB 401, the pension legislation we fought last week, which now goes to the governor for his signature.

Read our preliminary analysis of the legislation here.

We wrote last week about political takeaways from the pension battle – including video reminders that many legislators fought a good fight on our side.

Recent polling shows a solid majority of Michiganders do not support reducing educator benefits, MEA President Steven Cook pointed out in his Detroit News column today.

And in a Detroit Free Press  op-ed, Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing) criticized the pension changes as the result of an influx of big money from special interests interested in undermining public education.

Still it’s important to note our strong and sustained opposition to the original bill – which would have closed the hybrid plan altogether – pushed many Republicans to oppose it and led to a compromise in which the hybrid plan remains as an option, along with a beefed-up 401(k) plan.

“Things aren’t exactly how we’d like them to be, but that’s for next time, right?” Ziel said.

One of the benefits of giving up two days of her summer for lobbying is that the middle school social studies and language arts teacher can back up what she’s long told her members: There are MEA people fighting for you in Lansing every day, so you can do the job you want to do – educating students.

“I tell my people – while you’re in the classroom doing what you love, there’s a voice of yours talking to people, talking to the House, talking to the Senate. But to actually see it in action, to see the skill of our MEA lobbyists firsthand… I was very fortunate to be able to witness that.”

It’s a message she’ll take back to her members, Ziel said: “I’m very thankful that I have this union, MEA, to be that voice when we can’t. It frightens to me to think it would ever go away.”

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ACT NOW: House Vote Likely on School Calendar/Schedule Bargaining Prohibition

Reblogged from mea.org

Republican leaders in the House are trying to corral enough votes to push through another damaging piece of legislation aimed at public schools – a ban on bargaining school calendar and schedule.

We’re hearing a floor vote could happen as soon as tomorrow – Contact your representative now to urge a NO vote on House Bill 4163.

Lawmakers undoubtedly hope end-of-school-year fatigue will keep educators from speaking up – Let’s make sure our concerns are heard! And share with family, friends, and concerned parents how HB 4163 could prevent issues from being negotiated that affect student learning conditions.

Educators are the experts on the front lines who know what their students and communities need in terms of calendar and schedule. From special schedules, such as exam weeks, to school start and end times, and employees’ shifts and duties – the bargaining process allows for collaboration and problem-solving

The bill could negatively affect a number of issues that influence students’ learning conditions and school employees’ job satisfaction.

  • Teachers could lose prep time used to plan, grade, and collaborate.
  • The bill would impact education support professionals as well, limiting bus drivers’ input in scheduling routes, for example.
  • School hours could be altered without regard for educational needs.
  • Holiday breaks and year-round schools could be established without consulting those who know best what will and won’t work.

Educators need a seat at the table, not constant attacks on their ability to have a voice. At a time when dissatisfied teachers are leaving the profession and the number of college students choosing to enter the field is dwindling, we must do everything in our power to retain and recruit high-quality professionals in education.

We’ve won this fight before—our calls and emails helped to stop this same measure from advancing to a House vote last year. Step up and make a difference, and encourage interested parents and community members to get involved.

Contact your state representative today to say educators are the experts on the front lines, and we know what our students and communities need in terms of calendar and schedule.

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Teacher Reports on Child Abuse in Kindergarten in Ohio

Reblogged from Diane Ravitch’s blog

A comment by a teacher:

“Young students in kindergarten are now labeled as having specific learning disabilities if they do not receive a certain score on district universal screeners(STAR, iReady, MAP), which are taken on computers. I watch this happen in my district. I’ve watched it happen in other districts in which I’ve worked. First graders are given Reading Improvement Plans if they do not receive a certain score on district universal screeners the first time they take the test in August, in the state of Ohio. Once on a Reading Improvement Plan (RIMP), they are expected to receive instruction from a prepackaged, “research based,” scripted program…with fidelity. Without real books. Kindergarten teachers talk more about close reading strategies, than they do about Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Dr. Seuss, or Stone Soup. Even the interactive read aloud has become a thing of the past. What did you think would happen to unstructured play? Literacy is being systematically killed. The blood is on our hands.”

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Demand the Ida School Board Spend Surplus Funds on Students

THE TRUTH ABOUT SPENDING AT IDA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

FACT: Your education tax dollars are supposed to be spent on instructional supplies and personnel for the education and benefit of students.

FACT: Tax dollars that should be spent on the students, supplies, and instructors are being held in a “savings account.” According to The Michigan School Business Officials, Ida has twice the savings it needs.

FACT: If the district were to spend your withheld tax dollars on the students, each classroom would have an additional $67,000 to spend toward improving the students’ education.

FACT: A recent analysis of Ida’s finances compares Ida Public Schools to 7 other comparable school districts. The study reveals that although Ida has the highest fund equity (“savings”) of all districts surveyed, it spends less on its instructional staff than 6 of the other schools.

FACT: From 2013 – 2016 an average surplus of $689,00 has been essentially hidden within the district’s budget. In 2016, alone, the district had a surplus of $1,000,000 which it misrepresented in its budget. This is done by shifting money from the General Fund to a “Capital Projects Fund.” The shifting of assets creates the illusion of an insolvent General Fund.

FACT: The Ida School Board wants to increase the fund surplus even more by eliminating some teachers and classroom aides. Fewer teachers and aides will result in increased class sizes. This means less individual attention for each student.

FACT: The proposed cuts are aimed, in part, at Special Education, which is funded almost entirely (90%) by the Monroe County Intermediate School District (ISD), not by Ida Public Schools. Why cut a desperately needed teaching position that costs the district almost nothing?

Ida is hoarding money that should be spent on students. Tell the Board to focus on the students, not on growing the fund equity. Stand with us in saying, “Keep all teachers and classroom aides.” Spend education tax dollars on students!

Sign the petition>>