Thursday, December 02, 2010

Act NOW before it's too late!

Contact your state representative TODAY -- Urge NO vote on tenure, evaluation changes

Tenure and evaluation are coming under attack today in the state House of Representatives -- and we need your help to stop it.

A last-minute, lame-duck deal is in the works that would enact tenure and evaluation changes that were first proposed before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Learn more about what's happening -- then please contact your state representative IMMEDIATELY and urge him or her to vote NO on HB 4410 and SB 638 (or any other bills during lame duck that change tenure or evaluation law). Point out to your representative that:

1) Evaluating and maintaining a professional teaching force is a complex matter. A two day "lame duck" session where late night deals are rammed through the Legislature is not the way to address these critical issues. That requires time, hearings, input from all sides and careful deliberation.

2) Right now, to get votes, all kinds of deals, earmarks and back-room enticements are being offered. This kind of "politics as usual" is not the way to secure and maintain the kind of professional teaching force our children deserve.

3) We believe that these bills will actually slow down the process of removing unsatisfactory teachers and also add substantially to the cost of the process, something that does not benefit the students, the schools, the state or educators.

Please contact your state representative right away -- there is still time to stop these attacks from coming to fruition.

Reminder: Many school districts have policies about communicating with legislators on school time and equipment, so wait until you are away from school to contact your legislators or use your personal cell phone when you are off duty.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vote on Nov. 2

The Nov. 2 election is especially important because those elected to the state Legislature and the governor's office will oversee redistricting, a contentious decennial process that will impact elections for the next decade. Redistricting can shift power from one political party to another simply by moving district boundaries by a few streets or miles to include voters who are more (or less) likely to lean Democrat or Republican.

These elected officials have an impact on how much you earn, or whether you have health benefits or a pension. If you care about these, then you must vote this year! To see a list of recommended candidates, click here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tell Lawmakers, "ME TOO!"

MEA calling on Legislature to match sunset provision granted to state employees last week

Last week, the Legislature passed a retirement bill for state employees similar to what passed for school employees last spring. However, since then, lawmakers have heard your angry reaction about the additional 3 percent of salary going toward retiree health insurance, forcing them to think twice about the state employee bill. This prompted a compromise in last week's action -- a three-year limit on the 3 percent retirement health insurance contribution by state employees.

This week, lawmakers need to hear from school employees again, this time with a simple message -- "Me too!"

In the interest of fairness and consistency, MEA is calling on the Legislature to amend school employees' additional 3 percent retirement contribution to include the same three-year limit they included for state employees. If it was the right thing to do for state workers, then it's the right thing to do for school employees and their families, many of whom are now struggling with total payments into the retirement system of between 7 and 12 percent!

Contact your state representative and senator today and urge them to take up this issue and do what is right for Michigan's dedicated school employees and communities.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Update: School employee lawsuit over pension change.

A Michigan judge issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by five MEA members against the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). The state will have to escrow the additional three percent MPSERS contribution that school employees must make beginning July 1, and it cannot use the money for any purpose until further order of the court.

Five MEA members recently filed the lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims against MPSERS, challenging the legality of Public Act 75 that requires all school employees to pay an extra 3 percent of their compensation into a fund for retiree health insurance with no guarantee that the benefits will be available to them upon retirement.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge James Giddings’ preliminary injunction has the effect of requiring the state to escrow the additional three percent MPSERS contribution beginning July 1. MPSERS cannot use those funds for any purpose until further order of the court. Giddings found that the MEA members who brought the suit raised important issues that need to be addressed prior to the state spending the money.

The case will proceed while the additional revenue that is collected is protected, in case it ultimately needs to be refunded to school employees. It is unclear whether the state will appeal Giddings’ ruling.

The three-count lawsuit alleges that Public Act 75 violates school employees’ federal and state constitutional rights and asks the court to place new retirement contributions in an interest-bearing escrow fund until the matter is decided by the court.

The complaint maintains that Public Act 75: violates the contract formed when the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System was set up in 1980; causes the Legislature to impair an existing contract; and unlawfully abridges the pension system’s financial liabilities.

The five members who filed the suit are: Deborah McMillan, a Lansing teacher; Thomas Brenner, a Novi teacher; Theresa Dudley, a Grand Rapids head secretary; Katherine Daniels, a Tuscola Intermediate School District school psychologist; and, Corey Cramb, a Huron teacher.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

URGENT!!! Contact your legislator now!

Legislature expected to vote on pension reform tonight


Lawmakers have apparently reached a deal on a retirement plan that would hurt thousands of school employees.

At this time, MEA members are urged to IMMEDIATELY contact their state legislators to urge them to vote NO on Senate Bill 1227. Please also tell them to vote NO on House Bill 4073, legislation that would create an insurance trust.

A vote is expected late tonight or during the night, according to legislative sources and media reports.

The "compromise" includes:

A 1.6 percent multiplier (up from the standard 1.5 percent) for those currently eligible to retire, if they retire this summer.

A 1.55 percent multiplier for those who are not currently eligible but who meet the rule of 80 -- that is, their age and years of service total 80 -- if they retire this summer.

All who do not retire will pay an extra 3 percent of salary above what they currently pay toward retirement and this money will be put in a trust set up by House Bill 4073.

House Bill 4073 will be amended to indicate that NO ONE IS GUARANTEED HEALTH BENEFITS IN RETIREMENT.

Employees hired after July 1 will be placed in an inferior "hybrid" retirement plan proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Here's why your legislators should vote NO on the conference report for Senate Bill 1227 and on House Bill 4073:

This plan attempts to balance the school aid budget on the backs of employees. There will still be massive cuts in state aid to schools next year.

The continued erosion of the number of employees participating in the system because of outsourcing and privatization and the exclusion of charter school employees will continue to drive up the contribution rate in future years.

The proposal places future employees in a vastly inferior retirement plan and forces them to pay almost 10 percent of their salary to that plan.

All school employees will be required to pay a tax of 3 percent, which totals almost $2,600 a year for experienced teachers.

PLEASE ACT NOW! Don't wait! Your legislators need to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Teachers rally at the Capitol!

More than 600 MEA members attending the association's Spring Representative Assembly on Friday marched to the Capitol to deliver a unified message: Enough is enough!

"Parents, educators, and taxpayers from across the state are fed up with Lansing politicians and their continued attacks on public education and public school employees," said MEA President Iris K. Salters, who announced the launch of a new television ad that demands politicians "stop treating teachers and school employees like punching bags."

The HEA was well represented at this event and hand delivered over 270 postcards to our legislators expressing our frustration with their inexcusable actions towards teachers and education. The students and teachers of Michigan deserve to be treated better. Enough is enough!

Friday, April 23, 2010

MEA supports amended SB1227

The state House may vote as early as Tuesday on a more employee-friendly version of Senate Bill 1227, legislation that would encourage thousands of public school employees to retire early.
School employees would receive a slightly higher pension if they retire this year under the latest draft of the bill. Numerous negative provisions in earlier drafts have been removed, including the proposed loss of dental or vision insurance for retirees and a hybrid retirement plan for new employees.
MEA now supports the legislation as rewritten by Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing, which includes an incentive to those who retire by July 1 or Oct 1.
Under Meadows' proposal, school employees who apply to retire on or before July 1, 2010, would receive a 1.7 percent multiplier to determine their pension amount; those who apply to retire after July 1 but before Oct. 1, 2010, would receive a 1.6 percent multiplier. (Those who apply to retire after Oct. 1 would receive the standard 1.5 percent multiplier, a figure that is multiplied by an employee's final average compensation times their years of service to determine an individual's pension.)
The bill would require all school employees to contribute an additional 3 percent of salary above what they currently pay, but the money would be placed into a special trust to fund retirement health benefits. Without this provision, health insurance for you and other future retirees will remain under attack.
Notably, the bill no longer contains the following:

  • A 30-year cap on service credit accumulation;
  • A hybrid retirement for new employees;
  • An automatic reduction of the employer's contribution toward retirement;
  • Loss of dental or vision benefits for retirees.
Stay tuned for the latest developments on Senate Bill 1227 next week. If we need your help to encourage lawmakers to pass this version of the bill, we will let you know as early as possible.
Please note: MEA members who are eligible for retirement are advised to wait to submit any paperwork until the Legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm pass a final bill.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Attacks on your future!

Two things that we need to take action on;

#1 We have received word that the full Senate intends to discharge SB 1046 and SJR P (Senate Joint Resolution) from the Reform Committee to the full Senate. SB 1046 is the bill limiting public employers to paying no more than 80% of health care premiums for employees. SJR P is a proposed constitutional amendment to authorize the State to do this.

#2 Yesterday, the Retirement sub-committee of the Senate Appropriations Committee moved the school employee retirement bill, SB 1227 to the full Appropriations Committee with some changes. We expect the full Appropriations Committee to move it to the floor of the Senate for fast action either today or tomorrow.

As it now stands, the bill provides:
1. The increased pension multiplier for folks who retire between July 1 and September 1, 2010 IS ELIMINATED AS IN GONE, KAPUT, NULLIFIED. In this version of the Senate bill, there is not a sweetener to get people to retire early.
2. The punitive elimination of dental and vision coverage for those who retire after September 1, 2010 is still in the bill.
3. The outrageous increase of 3% of salary to pay for the mismanagement and under funding of the pension by the State is still in the bill.
4. The cap of 30 years on earned service credit is still in the bill.
5. The “hybrid” pension plan for new hires is still in the bill although the Senate version changes the minimum retirement age in the plan to 60 (the Governor proposed the age at 65).

Make the calls and send the e-mails today. Focus on your state Senator for now.

Senator Wayne Kuipers – 517-373-6920 (Ottawa county)

Senator Patricia Birkholz – 517-373-3447 (Allegan county)

Representative David Agema – 517-373-8900 (Coopersville/Jenison)

Representative Joe Haveman – 517-373-0830 (Holland/Zeeland/Hudsonville)

Representative Arlan Meekhof – 517-373-0838 (Rest of Ottawa County)

Representative Bob Genetski- 373-0836 (District 88, Saugatuck)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A message from MEA's team at the Capitol

A message from MEA’s team at the Capitol:

Thank you for your calls and other efforts on the retirement legislation today -- thanks to your speedy action in contacting your state representatives, the House will not be taking up the shell bills this afternoon.

Because of our collective actions, we stopped the House from rushing to judgment on a bad idea that would impact thousands of our members across the state.

The fight is not done -- lawmakers will be back at it next week. You can stop the urgent calls on the shell bills, but please continue contacting all our leaders in Lansing -- the governor, your senator and your representative.

Keep telling them that the retirement proposal put forth in HB 5953 is wrong for our state because it forces dedicated school employees to retire before they’re ready while continuing to balance the budget on the backs of working families. Enough is enough! It’s time for real, balanced solutions to our decade-long budget crisis -- not more games and gimmicks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tell Lansing what you think of the attack on your retirement

Call your state senator and representative & the Governor today

On Jan. 29, Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced yet another attack on public workers, this time calling on school employees to pay even more out of pocket for retirement and pushing veteran teachers and other educators to retire before they're ready. This "reform" is really just another gimmick that won't actually fix the state's antiquated tax structure and broken school funding system.

Her proposals were finally introduced as legislation last week. Now is the time to make sure your state senator and representative, as well as the governor, know your feelings on this latest scheme to balance the budget on your back.

Take a moment to pick up your cell or home phone or send an e-mail Share your thoughts -- here are some ideas to start with:

  • Withdraw this most recent attack on half a million Michigan public employees and their families.
    • It's wrong to put a special tax on public employees -- taking 3 percent out of their checks to run government is the definition of a tax.
    • It's wrong to force people to choose between early retirement and losing benefits they've counted on.
  • Reject the flawed concept that continuing to take from public employees will fix our broken tax structure.
  • Show real leadership and call for implementing a balanced solution that doesn't ignore the need for more revenue.

Take time to make this important contact -- now is the time for every HEA member to stand together and tell our leaders in Lansing that it's time for real solutions, not more games and gimmicks.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Holland Teachers Deliver Excellent Instruction

Holland teachers deliver excellent instruction. Instruction doesn't always take place in a classroom or in front of a chalk board but often before and after school, in the hallways between classes or evenings at community events. Here are more examples of that "excellent" instruction we deliver every day.

  • Compiled Christmas boxes
  • Various activity nights
  • Homework clubs
  • Jungle Party helpers
  • Ski Clubs and trips
  • Taking students to community events such as Hope basketball games
  • Girls on the Run coaching
  • Total Trek coaching
  • Book fairs
  • Parent nights
  • March is Reading Month
  • Kindergarten parent workshops
Keep coming back, our list is growing every day.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Holland Teachers Deliver Excellent Instruction

Teachers at Holland High provide excellent instruction through;

1) Accelerated and advanced instruction through honors and AP classes.

2) Teachers regularly use their duty-free lunch to tutor students or help students make-up work.

3) Teachers stay late every afternoon to work with struggling students.

4) Teachers come in early to meet with students or run test/exam prep sessions.

5) Teachers have donated band instruments, clothing, even money to needy students and their families.

6) Teachers who coach volunteer weekend time to come in and supervise "open gym" for pre season or off season student athletes.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Here we go again...

Retirement Benefits Attacked

The state budget director, Bob Emerson, has outlined proposed changes to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.

The proposed changes:

Public school employees who are members of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) will be subject to the following changes effective October 1, 2010:

* To ensure MPSERS is financially sound, employee contributions to the plan will increase by 3 percent for all employees except those in the MIP Plus program whose contribution was increased in 2008. MIP Plus members' contribution will increase by 0.9 percent.

* Elimination of subsidized retiree vision and dental coverage for school employees retiring with an effective date after October 1, 2010. Retirees will be able to purchase this coverage for a monthly fee through the plan.

* The retirement multiplier will be increased from 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent for employees who retire with an effective date between July 1 and September 1, 2010, which will be paid by the applicable school districts.

* A new, more cost-effective hybrid retirement plan for new employees hired on or after October 1, 2010, will be created. New employees will participate in both a base defined benefit plan and a defined contribution plan.

* Phased retirement option for retiring employees age 60 or older. Phased-in retirement will be allowed for up to three years, enabling employees to collect their DB plan retirement with a workload of no more than 20 hours per week for a previously full-time employee. This option is available to the employees at the discretion of the school districts.