MEA - Retired
Large Education Issues Loom as Legislature Approaches End of Session
From MEA Capitol Comments
The Legislature is moving toward a mid-June summer recess with daunting education issues unresolved, so MEA members should stay closely tuned to Capitol Comments and the MEA Facebook page for the latest information and member action alerts.
The biggest of those looming issues is a fix for Detroit Public Schools. Negotiations continue behind the scenes as legislators - senators, at least - prepare for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference May 31-June 3. At least 25 Republicans who registered to attend the conference sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber - where work on a DPS solution had been planned - might be prevented from going because Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) scheduled conflicting floor votes.
The House and Senate have been at odds over how to help DPS get out from under crushing debt and start fresh. After Senate leaders spent months crafting a bipartisan plan, House Republican leaders broke away to pass an anti-union, anti-public education package of bills opposed by nearly every constituency group in the city.
The package of bills rammed through the House along mostly party lines following an all-night session earlier this month would allow uncertified teachers in the classroom; strip away existing unions and contracts; force dedicated employees to reapply for their jobs; eliminate plans to bring order to the siting of new charter schools; and fall $200 million short in financial support.
In contrast, the bipartisan Senate plan would fully fund the new district, bring a quicker return to local control, and create the Detroit Education Commission to bring rationality to the Wild West atmosphere of charter schools opening and closing with little oversight or accountability.
The flood of money from anti-public school pro-charter forces such as the DeVos family, the unfairness of educational opportunities in Detroit, and the prospect of similarly destructive legislation being proposed statewide, has led to many newspaper editorials and citizen activism in recent weeks, including a PTA-sponsored walk-in Monday at Rochester schools.
MEA members are encouraged to continue contacting lawmakers to urge passage of the Senate DPS package. Members who live in the Rochester or Niles areas - or those willing to travel there - also have upcoming opportunities to speak in person with Republican legislators.
MYTHS ABOUT MEA SCREENING AND RECOMMENDATION PROCESS
Many myths get passed around about the MEA S & R process. We get feedback on a regular basis that indicate these myths have risen to almost the status of urban legends. Myth number one is “MEA is telling me how to vote.” That is not true. A local committee of your fellow MEA members interview all candidates who are willing to be interviewed for an elected position. The committee is generally comprised of seven to nine members including, ESP, Higher Education, EA and retired members. MEA staff do not have voting rights on the committee. Great efforts are made to have all employee categories represented; additionally, all coordinating councils who have school districts or colleges which are wholly or partially contained in the legislative district have an equal right to participate in the screening. After interviewing all of the candidates in a race, the committee decides which candidate to recommend. Sometimes the committee votes to not recommend any candidate. If the committee makes a recommendation, it is passed on to the entire MEA membership who reside in the legislative district, both retired and active members.
Myth number two is that the recommendations are made on the basis of social issues such as “Right to Life” or “Gun Control”. Again that is not true. The questionnaire that candidates fill out only asks about two issues: support for public education and support for labor issues (such as prohibited topics of bargaining and Right to Work). The S & R booklet also contains a series of “Sample” questions for the committee to use in the interview, or committee members can fashion their own questions and frequently ask about things that are relevant to the local situation. In either case, the questions are only about support for public education and employee rights.
Moody's Warns of Looming DPS Disaster
Moody's Investors Service is warning state lawmakers of unprecedented financial troubles ahead if they can't agree on a rational plan to restructure Detroit Public Schools, and MEA members are urged to continue adding their own pressure on legislators negotiating a potential solution.
House Republicans passed an anti-union, anti-public education package of bills along party lines last week following a marathon overnight session. The House Republicans' plan includes just $500 million to reduce existing debt, instead of the $715 million supported by the Senate, Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan Department of Treasury and Judge Rhodes, the new DPS emergency manager, to fully address the problem.
On Tuesday, the bond rating service issued a report detailing the expected financial woes if a fix is not found soon, noting the significant differences between the plans that have passed the House and Senate. DPS is expected to run out of money by the end of June if no action is taken before then.
"While progress toward a workable solution to the district's fiscal situation is credit positive, the differences between the House bills and the package of Senate bills, passed in March, remain stark," the Moody's report said.
"We anticipate that lawmakers will begin to reconcile the bills soon because the district is quickly running out of resources to operate. The Legislature now has less than two months to compromise on a reform package or the district's financial position will possibly force a bankruptcy filing."
In addition, the House package would strip away unions and contracts from DPS employees; allow privatized instructional staff and uncertified teachers; and force dedicated teachers and support staff to reapply for their jobs.
House Republicans have made no secret of their desire to extend similar anti-union provisions statewide. MEA members should contact state senators, urging them to not pass the House version of the Detroit education legislation.
Click here to locate contact information for your state senator. Let him or her know that you are an MEA member and that we are committed to a bi-partisan legislative solution that - rather than attacking school employee rights - focuses on the following:
- Paying off the debt incurred while DPS was under state control,
- Ensuring employees are paid and have a voice to speak up about what's best for kids,
- Fixing unsafe and unhealthy conditions in Detroit schools, and
Implementing an oversight body for both traditional and charter schools that will ensure students receive a stable, quality education for years to come.
2016 Verification of Coverage Coming Soon
The Office of Retirement Services reports that members who have Blue Cross Blue Shield will be receiving the Verification of Coverage form sometime in May. This form must be completed for yourself and anyone else covered by your retirement system health plan. You must respond to the survey even if you do not have other coverage. If you do not respond, your retirement system medical and prescription coverage will be canceled.
The Verification of Coverage survey asks you to identify any other health coverage you or your dependents might have in addition to your retirement system coverage. The information you provide is used to coordinate your coverage with other plans. The coordination helps to insure that you are using all of your coverage in the right combination and that each of your health plans share the cost of your health care appropriately. Watch for your Verification of Coverage in the mail. This ONLY applies to members who have Cross/Blue Shield.