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MEA-Retired Members Lobby Legislators

Mar 01, 2015

MEA-Retired members were a key component of MEA's Lobby Team who met this week with selected legislators to get their feedback on current education issues. Team members Ranae Beyerlien, Cathy Boote, Sigrid Grace, Sid Kardon, and Jack Schneider shared MEA's position on third-grading reading, retirement changes, and teacher and administrator evaluations.

The Lobby Team was organized last fall to meet regularly with legislators other than their own to discuss MEA's legislative agenda and specific legislation impacting both active and retired MEA members. This is the Team's third meeting. 

Team members shared MEA's position on third grade reading legislation which focuses on early intervention instead of retention.

Sigrid Grace said, "Several legislators I spoke with agree with MEA's position that holding back third graders who can't read at grade is level is not a constructive way to deal with the issue. There was a suggestion that all students should go to a grade-level reading class as an intervention step."

MEA has proposed a program where individual reading plans (IRP) be developed for every child who is identified as reading below grade level. The IRP would include intervention and remedial recommendations, along with steps to engage parents.

Lobby team members also wanted to know how legislators viewed changes to retirement that are currently being considered by the Legislature. There is talk again of moving new hires to a defined contribution plan. Before such a move is considered, MEA wants to be sure that the definite cost of such a move has been determined; that the current MPSERS system remains financially stable; and that retirement benefits are attractive enough to make qualified candidates want to enter the profession. 

"The legislators I talked to seem to think that a defined contribution pension system is inevitable because the current legacy costs are so high. One legislator suggested having such a plan as a choice instead of just forcing people into it. Regardless, it's something we need to be watching carefully," suggested Sid Kardon.

Legislation has been proposed that would allow retirees the chance to teach in "critical shortage areas," without losing their pension or benefits. That got a more favorable response from legislators the Team talked with.

Last session's House bills to establish a statewide teacher and administrator evaluation died in lame duck without Senate approval. The issue has come up again in the Senate Education Committee and Team members were interested in what legislators thought.

Ranae Beyerlein said, "There were divided opinions among the legislators I met with. Several talked about the need for more local school district control in the evaluation process, while others thought we should be addressing teacher preparation." 

MEA still supports a statewide evaluation system that provides feedback and growth models for teachers and extensive training for administrators. SB 103, proposed by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) severely waters down previous legislation and doesn't' include the elements MEA supports.

Right now retirees are being tapped to "lobby" legislators, but MEA members and staff will be called in to lobby during critical legislative periods.