Wednesday, December 7, 2011

MCHIC Cheer Gym

My sister and I own the MCHIC Cheer Gym, a gymnastics gym designed for cheerleaders. We offer gymnastics lessons for 3year olds through college aged girls. We also have birthday parties, team lessons and sleep overs.
Stephanie Stephenson

Okay How About?


Revised Title: KEA Member Shop Local Services

Hey, how's that for a new and improved name for our links?

We have a new addition and link!

I am a consultant for Thirty One Gifts and my website is: I sell handbags, wallets, purses, thermals and much more. I would love for you to check it out...and even better if you buy!

Lindsey Szczepanek

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

KEA Self Sell Service

Hey Staff,
Do you have something you or your family has to sell? Carolyn Schaner is a photographer that has some stunning nature pictures to sell at She is the daughter of Chas Schaner, 7th grade teacher at Pinewood. Her website has been added to a new spot on the blog called KEA Self Sell Service. Now that is a goofy name, and may need to be changed, but if you would like your services added to the list, send Chas an email with the URL and it can be done! Shop online with Kentwood staff members and it's a win-win!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ARE THERE ANY DOUBTS? What will you do?

If they can take away your bargaining rights, why would they not want to take away your livelihood so that a corporation can make a profit in the name of "lower cost". Your neighbor the bus driver, your neighbor the custodian, your neighbor the food service worker have taken the hits. Who is next? What action will you take?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Performers at the Rally for Democracy

Don't Forget about the Rally for Democracy on July 31 from 6-11 p.m. at the Orbit Room!

Rachael & Dominic John Davis
In the time of her 10 year solo career Rachael has released 4 albums including one live record with long-time musical partner Brett Hartenbach and Shout Sister Shout!, a collaboration with the Lansing, Michigan-based American roots band Steppin’ In It. Davis has lent her voice to countless other recordings including tracks for film, television and guest vocals on other records.

Together with her husband, accomplished Steppin' In It bassist Dominic John, she has immersed herself in her latest project…. Three-year-old Virgil Ryman Davis.

Karisa Wilson
Karisa Wilson is an award-winning singer-songwriter based in West Michigan. Her music is an eclectic blend of folk, blues and jazz, or Americana for short. Moving away from a rock-based four piece, her new ensemble is a tribute to the folk tradition: banjo, mandolin, and upright bass featuring musicians Joey Schultz, Jason Wheeler and Max Lockwood (and Karisa on acoustic guitar and violin).

"I was a public school teacher in Grand Rapids for four years. I and my colleagues worked very hard year round (despite the myth of summers off!) to serve the students in our community. We spent hours outside of class one on one with students, preparing lessons, volunteering for sporting events, buying supplies with our own money, communicating with parents, not to mention adding to our own education with summer classes. Cutting money to our schools handicaps both teachers and students. We need to INVEST in them!"

Casey Stratton
Born and raised in Michigan, Casey Stratton trained at Interlochen Arts Academy, released records with major label Sony Records, and now records and releases albums on his independent Sleeping Pill Music imprint. He's scheduled to perform "A Tribute to Tori Amos" as part of the Wealthy Theatre Centennial Concert Series, August 25.

The New Midwest
The New Midwest, winner of this year's “Local Spin of the Year” by the Grand Rapids Press, has worked diligently over the last year to promote social justice in Grand Rapids. Proceeds from their recent record ”Commonwealth” have been supporting Access Food Pantry, a local organization fighting hunger in our town. The band includes teachers, local professionals, and families, all of which are being affected by current political decisions in Lansing. They are pleased to be a part of this exciting event, and look forward to contributing to the conversation.

Big Dudee Roo
Big Dudee Roo believes that music can be more than mere entertainment—it can be inspiration for people to think about the world and their place in it, and to work for something better. The songs often center around themes such as resisting the dominant culture’s ideologies and structures, deeper connection with other humans and the natural world, feminism, social justice, and the many emotions that arise when confronting these issues.

We are appalled by the actions of Rick Snyder and company (and other governments throughout the Midwest) to take away some of the most basic freedoms of Michiganders, particularly in the appointment of all-powerful Emergency Financial Managers in towns such as Benton Harbor. But something larger is happening here as well. A capitalistic and corporatist culture based on domination and exploitation is beginning to heave its last dying breaths, and those at the top, who benefit from the misery of those at the bottom, can sense that things are changing, and are trying desperately to preserve this system at any cost. So it is up to us, the living and loving, to actively create the cultures we want to replace this one, and prevent fascists from creating the culture they want!

Josh Rose
Soul for the now and after. A public school teacher/writer/singer-songwriter who believes in what he does, the lives he impacts, and the importance of his role in society.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Recall Rick Petition Locations

3205 Eaglecrest (just off the East Beltline, north of Leonard, first side street on the right)
Thursday 11:00-7:00
Friday 11:00-7:00

Taste of GR at John Ball Zoo
Friday 6:00-9:00

Farmer's Market Saturday
possibly 11:00-2:00

Blockbuster at 28th and Michael
Saturday 10:00-12:00

Recall Rides the Rapid
Monday at main bus stops around the city beginning around noon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Protesting Cuts in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security


What: Protest cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security

Who: Michigan Citizen Action, Health Care for America Now, senior organizations, consumer groups, labor partners, and other community members

When: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Rally from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Press Conference to begin at 4:30 p.m.

Where: Gerald R. Ford Federal Building (Ottawa side of the building)
110 Michigan St. N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

For more information, contact Erin Knott at 616.901.9649 or email at


Right now lawmakers in Washington, DC are busy negotiating an agreement to pay our country’s debts and avert economic disaster by raising the national debt ceiling before the August 2nd deadline. We must firmly oppose any deal that includes cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security while billionaires and corporate CEOs continue to get tax breaks that drain money from the budget.

We can’t run away from our responsibility to seniors, children, people with disabilities and middle-class families. Join Michigan Citizen Action on Tuesday, July 19, 2011 from 4 – 6 for a rally and press conference to let Congressman Amash know that seniors, children, and struggling families should not bear the brunt of reducing the deficit when millionaires and billionaires get a free ride.

We need a reasonable plan for deficit reduction that reflects our values, that protects our families and neighbors, and that doesn’t shift more burdens onto middle class families and states. We must demand a budget plan that reduces the deficit responsibly and works for all Americans – not just millionaires and big business.

Rally for Democracy

Rally for Democracy

Sunday, July 31 · 6:00pm - 11:00pm


The Orbit Room
2525 Lake Eastbrook Dr SE
Grand Rapids, MI

Fight Against:
*financial cuts to the middle class to fund tax cuts for business
*raid on K - 12 school aid fund
*placement of Emergency Financial Managers (resulting in the displacement of elected officials)
*attacks on unions, public employees, collective bargaining, binding arbitration
*attacks on teachers: tenure, pensions, insurance

Join with hundreds of like-minded people to celebrate and protect our precious democracy! Recall Rick Snyder petitions available to sign!

Confirmed Speakers:
Father C. Peter Dougherty - 2009 Winner of Ghandi International Peace Award ("Capitalism: A Love Story")
Bill Freeman - Interfaith Congregation of Holland
Dr. Mike Shibler - Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools
Jeff Smith - The Bloom Collective
Drew Stoppels - The LGBT Network of West Michigan
Poet Randy Smit

Confirmed Performers:
The New Midwest
Casey Stratton

Family friendly. Cash bar available.
Donations encouraged!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Unemployment Workshop

The Unemployment Workshops

Monday, July 11, 2011
11:00 a.m.

KCEA Assembly Room
3205 Eaglecrest Drive NE – Suite 100
Grand Rapids

Thursday, July 7th
Michelle Woznicki
Phone: 616/957-1944

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


UPDATE: Tenure votes may come TODAY! Call senators NOW!

Reports are coming in that the state Senate may vote THIS AFTERNOON on the House package that dismantles teacher tenure and attacks the collective bargaining and due process rights of all school employees.

PLEASE ACT NOW! Call your state Senator and urge them to vote against House Bills 4625-4628. Ask them not to strip good teachers of their rights in order to get the very few bad apples out of classrooms. Tell them we need common-sense tenure reform – which MEA supports through Senate Bill 503.

Contact your Senator right away – before it is too late.
Read more about these bills and what else is happening in Lansing today.

Doug Pratt
Director of Public Affairs
Michigan Education Association

Because we anticipate that the Legislature will try to push through insurance caps and tenure bills tomorrow [June 30], they need to see hundreds of MEA members watching them and encouraging them to do the right thing. Please take time to travel to Lansing to hold your legislators accountable.

MEA will provide briefings at 8:30 a.m. in Room A of MEA HQ (East Lansing), 10:00 a.m. in Room 428 of the Capitol, and 1 p.m. in Room 428 of the Capitol.
Your presence will make a difference!

Thanks – Tom
Tom Ferris
Southern Zone Field Services Director
Director of Organizing
Michigan Education Association

Disclaimer: website is “a free public service of the Mackinac Center of Public Policy”. Please read any legislation descriptions with this in mind. The links to who voted “yes” and who voted “no” are valuable.

From the website: About descriptions: The descriptions on this site are assembled by the editor from a variety of sources. Bill sponsors, legislative analysts, and policy specialists from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and from many other organizations are often consulted to provide background and context for particular bills or votes. Many descriptions contain verbatim passages from bill analyses created by the House Legislative Analysis Section, House Fiscal Agency, Senate Fiscal Agency, and other non-copyrighted public sources.

Update received from
House Bill 4625: Make it easier to fire ineffective teachers
Reported in the Senate on June 28, 2011, with the recommendation that the substitute (S-1) be adopted and that the bill then pass.

House Bill 4626: Make it easier to fire ineffective teachers
Reported in the Senate on June 28, 2011, with the recommendation that the substitute (S-1) be adopted and that the bill then pass.

House Bill 4627: Ban laying off more effective but less senior teachers first (“LIFO”)
Reported in the Senate on June 28, 2011, with the recommendation that the substitute (S-1) be adopted and that the bill then pass.

House Bill 4628: Ban school unions bargaining over staffing decisions
Reported in the Senate on June 28, 2011, with the recommendation that the substitute (S-1) be adopted and that the bill then pass.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Recent Attacks

Listed below are recent attacks on MESSA and on the rights of our fellow union members.

Senate Bill 446: Increase MESSA and other government insurance disclosures
Introduced by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R) on June 15, 2011, to increase the amount of detail required in the insurance claims information that schools and local governments are required to report under a 2006 law that among other things required MESSA, the MEA teacher union's insurance affiliate, to release individual school district claims history data.

Senate Bill 446
Reported in the Senate on June 16, 2011, with the recommendation that the bill pass.

House Bill 4752: Increase MESSA and other government insurance disclosure
Introduced by Rep. Deb Shaughnessy (R) on June 14, 2011, to increase the amount of detail required in the insurance claims information that schools and local governments are required to report under a 2006 law that among other things required MESSA, the MEA teacher union's insurance affiliate, to release individual school district claims history data.

Senate Bill 165: Ban project labor agreements
Introduced by Sen. John Moolenaar (R) on February 17, 2011.
Passed 26 to 12 in the Senate on June 16, 2011, to prohibit project labor agreements in state, school and local public construction, road projects, etc., or as a condition of selective tax breaks granted for private projects. Project labor agreements require a contractor to mandate that each employee must join a union as a condition of working on a project. Note: Projects using any state money would still be subject to the “prevailing wage” law, which prohibits awarding government contracts to the lowest bidder unless the contractor pays so-called "prevailing wages" based on union pay scales, which are generally above actual market rates. Senate Bill 95 and House Bill 4224 would repeal “prevailing wage”.
See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Upcoming Events

Don't forget the Whitecaps baseball game at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. Wear red and bring the flyer sent to you on Groupwise for a deal on your ticket. This is a fun way to support unions!

Also remember to picket the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce (111 Pearl Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, June 20. The key issues are attacks on pensions, the poor, and the working poor. This is a great opportunity to support all the unions that are supporting us!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Reduction in Staff

The questions and answers below are intended for general informational purposes only. Please contact Main Office, Dan Magennis, or Michelle Thomas with more specific questions.

Question: How does the recall process work and when does it begin?
Answer: The recall process has no set beginning or end, if it occurs at all. The Administration is under no contractual obligation to start recalling by a certain date or to stop by a certain date. If they do recall pink slipped employees, they must start at the top of the recall list (the most senior person who is highly qualified for the position).

Question: If a person gets hired into another district throughout the summer, do they remain on the seniority list so they could still get a call back? (I am assuming this question comes from the fact that person would like to still be here if possible.)
Answer: Yes, you will remain on the call back list (more information below on the call back list) for the required time (explained below) or until you decline Kentwood's call back.

Question: When do my benefits end if I do not get recalled?
Answer: Contact Main Office for specific information on benefits.

Question: Do you get compensated for your sick days when you are pink-slipped?
Answer: No, pink slipped teachers do not get compensated for their sick days. On page 16 of our contract, unused accumulated sick leave is only paid upon the severance of a teacher who has taught 10 or more years, and those teachers only receive compensation if they have 25 or more sick days.

Question: If I am pink slipped, by what date do I need to have my personal items removed from my classroom?
Answer: The district will let you know this information.

Question: If I collect unemployment and get recalled, do I have to pay the District back?
Answer: According to our contract page 49, "Any teacher who collects unemployment compensation during the summer months and who is recalled as a teacher by August 1, shall reimburse the District the amount of benefits through payroll deduction or direct payment to the District". Also, you may face a tax liability if you take unemployment and have to pay the district back! Suggestion: If you decide to collect unemployment, place that money into a separate account that remains untouched until you know it is yours to spend.

Question: When can the pink slipped staff begin to collect unemployment, etc.?
Answer: Check the pink slip letter you received from Administration; the effective layoff date is listed on that letter. If you choose to file for unemployment, keep that date in mind. Also, check out the state's website identifying requirements to qualify. There is a lot of information for you to read (more than what will fit here!!). Don't forget that to read the question and answer above about repaying unemployment!!

Question: With a one year contract that is up and not being renewed...Do you know if I would be eligible for unemployment?
Answer: Check the website listed above to see what is necessary to qualify for unemployment.

Question: How long do I remain on the District's recall list if I do not get recalled this year? When is the start date for that period of time?
Answer: The recall list shall be maintained by the Board for three full school years or a period equivalent to the individual teacher's accumulated seniority, whichever is greater (contract page 50). So, for example, if you are pink slipped this spring , your name will remain on the recall list for the next 3 full years: the '11-'12 school year, '12-'13 school year, and '13-'14 school year.

Question: How does pink slipping work if I share the same hire date with others?
Answer: Seniority is based first on starting date, second on Board confirmation date, and third on the date on which the written contract was signed. So if you share a starting date, then the Board confirmation date is looked at. If you share a starting date and Board confirmation date, then the date of the signed contract is looked at. If you share all three of those criteria with other people, then your names are put into a drawing and pulled to determine "seniority". If callbacks occur, the most senior person with the qualifications for the open position will be called back first and then on down to the least senior person for jobs in which that person is qualified (refer to page 48 of our contract).

Question: While I haven't been pink slipped, my position has been eliminated. Do I have "bumping rights"?
Answer: "Bumping rights" means that an employee whose position has been eliminated can choose to push (bump) a less senior person out of a desired position. Kentwood does not have bumping rights for its employees. Your seniority gives you a position in the district, but the Administration chooses where to place you. So if your position has been eliminated, yet you have enough seniority that you are not receiving a pink slip, the Administration will determine a placement for you. You may make a request for placement, but the Administration does not have to honor that request (see contract pages 23-24).

Question: I opted for 26 pays. If I am pink slipped, do I still get my 26 paychecks?
Answer: Yes, you still get all 26 paychecks. The paychecks teachers receive during the summer are deferred money from paychecks during the school year. Money is taken from each paycheck during the school year and set aside so teachers can receive paychecks during the summer.

Unemployment Information

How to file a claim for unemployment benefits

A claim begins the week it is filed. Therefore, you should file your claim during your first week of unemployment. There are two ways to file a new claim or reopen an existing claim:

1. telephone - 1-866-500-0017 Your scheduled time for filing by telephone is based on the last two digits of your social security number.
Mon. 8:00 am to 12:30 pm 00-15
Mon. 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm 16-33
Tues. 8:00 am to 12:30 pm 34-48
Tues. 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm 49-66
Wed. 8:00 am to 12:30 pm 67-81
Wed. 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm 82-99
Thurs. and Fri. Open Call-In

2. internet - website is available from 7:00 am Monday through 7:00 pm Saturday.Once you file a new claim, you will be mailed:
a determination showing if you qualify based on the wages you have earned, the amount of weekly benefits and the number of weeks you may receive
if there is an eligibility issue with your claim, you will receive a separate notice
a booklet with detailed information about your rights and responsibilities for unemployment benefits - read the materials carefully.

There is much more information about claiming unemployment benefits in Michigan. Visit the website listed above for general information. If you have any questions or problems with your telephone or internet-filed claim, you can inquire about the claim by calling 1-866-500-0017 and selecting Option 3. This is a toll-free number open weekdays from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. There are also problem resolution offices in Gaylord, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Livonia, Marquette and Saginaw for in-person assistance with any problem you have with your claim (see website for locations).

Please note that members of the Kentwood Education Association are not experts on unemployment. This information is provided only as general information and should not be taken as advice, recommendations, or expert information on the topic.

Information above taken from Fact Sheet #36, January 2008, Claiming Unemployment Benefits in Michigan, State of Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth, Unemployment Insurance Agency

Cost of Economic Security

Cost of economic security
What one worker in a family with two schoolchildren must earn to be economically secure:

Hourly Annual wage income
Kent County: $22.23/hour $46,944/year
Ottawa County: $22.29/hour $47,076/year
Allegan County: $22.64/hour $47,820/year
Barry County: $21.91/hour $46,284/year
Ionia County: $22.51/hour $47,544/year
Montcalm County: $20.43/hour $43,140/year
Newaygo County: $20.53/hour $43,368/year
Source: Wider Opportunities for Women and Michigan League for Human Services

Friday, June 10, 2011

Current Legislation

Please note that the following legislative actions have been taken.
House Bill 4625: Make it easier to fire ineffective teachers
Amendment offered by Rep. Kate Segal (D) on June 8, 2011, to eliminate the tie-bar the bill to House Bill 4628, which prohibits this bill from becoming law unless that one does also. HB 4628 would prohibit teacher unions from bargaining over staffing decisions, including assignments, promotions, demotions, transfers, layoffs, methods for assessing “effectiveness,” discipline and merit pay systems. The amendment failed 47 to 62 in the House on June 8, 2011, to eliminate the tie-bar the bill to House Bill 4628, which prohibits this bill from becoming law unless that one does also. HB 4628 would prohibit teacher unions from bargaining over staffing decisions, including assignments, promotions, demotions, transfers, layoffs, methods for assessing “effectiveness,” discipline and merit pay systems. See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

House Bill 4625: Make it easier to fire ineffective teachers
Introduced by Rep. Bill Rogers (R) on May 10, 2011. Passed 70 to 37 in the House on June 9, 2011, to revise the standards for granting a public school teacher “tenure,” and streamline the procedures for taking it away. Among other things the bill would extend from four years to five years the "probationary" period before a new teacher is granted this privilege; require the dismissal of a probationary teacher who is twice rated “ineffective” in one school year; eliminate certain automatic presumptions that a teacher is “effective;” limit the number of “second chances” (and third ones) for teachers placed on probation; and more. For more details see House Fiscal Agency analysis. This is part of a package comprised of House Bills 4625 to 4628. See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

House Bill 4626: Make it easier to fire ineffective teachers
Introduced by Rep. Paul Scott (R) on May 10, 2011. Passed 61 to 46 in the House on June 9, 2011, to revise a provision that prohibits firing or demoting a public school teacher except for "reasonable and just cause,” changing this to “for a reason that is not arbitrary and capricious.” Also, to only pay a suspended teacher for 90 days, unless the suspension is reversed in an appeal hearing. Finally, to revise the definition of a “demotion” of a teacher (which triggers a host of procedural mandates), from a loss of pay equal to three days of employment to a loss equal to 30 days, or a 15 day suspension. See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

House Bill 4627: Ban laying off more effective but less senior teachers first (“LIFO”)
Amendment offered by Rep. Roy Schmidt (D) on June 8, 2011, to exempt from the proposed policy teachers who are rated either "effective" or "highly effective." In other words, a school could still lay-off a "highly effective" teacher with less seniority ahead of an "effective" one who has more years on the payroll. The amendment passed by voice vote in the House on June 8, 2011, to exempt from the proposed policy teachers who are rated either "effective" or "highly effective." In other words, a school could still lay-off a "highly effective" teacher with less seniority ahead of an "effective" one who has more years on the payroll.

House Bill 4627: Ban laying off more effective but less senior teachers first (“LIFO”)
Introduced by Rep. Margaret O'Brien (R) on May 10, 2011. Passed 68 to 39 in the House on June 9, 2011, to require public schools to make teacher layoff decisions on the basis of whether a teacher is more or less “effective,” and prohibit using seniority as the primary or determining factor(“last in first out,” or LIFO). Among other things, “effective” would be measured by evidence of increased student achievement. If a school district’s current employee union contract prohibits these criteria, they would only go into effect after it has expired. See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

House Bill 4628: Ban school unions bargaining over staffing decisions
Introduced by Rep. Ken Yonker (R) on May 10, 2011. Passed 59 to 48 in the House on June 9, 2011, to prohibit public school employee unions from bargaining over staffing decisions, including assignments, promotions, demotions, transfers, layoffs, methods for assessing “effectiveness,” discipline and merit pay systems. Current law already bans bargaining over privatization, school schedules and several other items. See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at promotes Government Transparency and Government Accountability.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


From the Kent-Ionia Labor Council On April 19, 1911, despite different languages, ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs, more than 6,000 furniture workers came together and walked off the job, protesting working conditions and pay. They became ONE for a common cause. On April 19, 2011, advocates for civil and human rights will be walking as ONE for the rights of all workers to stand as one for our middle class way of life, a voice in the political process and the respect that all working men and women deserve. WE ARE ONE WALK APRIL 19, 2011 4:30 P.M SPIRIT OF SOLIDARITY MONUMENT (303 Pearl St., N.W.) PLEASE BRING SIGNS WITH YOUR OWN MESSAGE GUEST SPEAKERS: John J. Egan, President, Labor Heritage Society of West Michigan, Inc. *Brandon Dillon, State Representative, 75th House District *Roy Schmidt, State Representative, 76th House District After a short program we will walk from the Spirit of Solidarity Monument to 420 Alabama, the J.S. Hyatt building in SOLIDARITY AS ONE! This building, rich in history was known in 1911 as the Fritz Manufacturing Company and was one of the many furniture factories targeted by the Striking Workers in 1911. We are walking as ONE in protest of the current anti-worker agenda and as a celebration of respect to the 1911 Furniture Workers. There is a city ramp on Scribner near the half way point with ample parking. PLEASE JOIN US (RAIN OR SHINE) ON THE 19TH! *If Representative Dillon or Schmidt cannot attend they will send a Legislative Aide

Capitol Comments April 14, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

Banning Payroll of Union Stewards

House Bill 4059 (Ban putting union stewards on public payroll )Introduced by Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R) on January 13, 2011. Passed 59 to 47 in the House on April 14, 2011, to ban government employee union contracts that pay employees who are union officials for time they spend on the job conducting union business. Among other government employers, many public school districts give local union officials full teacher salary and benefits but do not require them to teach or perform any other educational function. See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

Friday, April 8, 2011

Michigan Parents for Schools

An email from a fellow MEA member:

Colleagues, Michigan Parents for Schools is a parent-sponsored website fighting for public education and educators. I'm forwarding this to you in the hope you'll forward it to your fellow MEA members and to your sympathetic parents. It's action links below (blue) send you to a page where you can build your own email by clicking pre-written talking points and/or writing your own. Your single email then goes to Snyder and your two MI legislators... press send, three emails sent. This is an amazingly easy and quick way to keep pressure on Lansing via emails. I plan on using this site like I take vitamins... every day... it's that easy. MIPFS also sends out periodic in-depth updates on edu-legislation, very detailed background info. They are among the best info sources I've found for late breaking Lansing wonkisms... factual, analytical, insightful. I recommend MIPFS to you for your info arsenal, or at the very least for periodic reminders that intelligent caring parents are out there fighting at our sides for our students and for us.

Brit Satchwell (AAEA) on behalf of Steve Norton, Exec. Dir. of Michigan Parents for Schools

Everyone who values public education in Michigan needs to speak out NOW

Join MIPFS in this Important Moment to Protect Our Schools

Let your lawmakers know how YOU feel about their plans for public schools!

Dear Friends and Supporters of Education,

This is an extraordinary moment for public education in the state of Michigan. The full impact of the Great Recession, and of years of trying to ignore funding problems in education, are hitting our communities all at once. Dramatic changes are proposed, because "dire times require drastic measures." Over $1 billion would be cut from education under the Governor's proposed budget, most of that from K-12 education. These cuts would dramatically affect our schools, and limit the education we can offer to our children for years to come. Do the changes make sense? Do they reflect the real needs and values of the people of Michigan? We're not so sure. You haven't heard from Michigan Parents for Schools in a while, but we have been busy behind the scenes. Most importantly, we've been "eating our own cooking" by building alliances to support public education at the local and regional level. All of us have learned a lot, and we hope to share what we've learned with interested citizens across Michigan. But right now, the most pressing action is in Lansing. And while the problem is at the state capitol, the solution rests in communities all around the state. None of us can go it alone. Only by joining together can we ensure that our State continues to invest in education - to invest in the future of our children and our communities.

Tell our political leaders that huge cuts to education do not reflect our values and will not move our State forward! The problems are huge, and the answers are not easy. But the proposals currently on offer in Lansing - that rely on slashing funds for education and increasing the burden on the most vulnerable members of society, including children - will not get us where we need to go. We need to remind our fellow citizens of our common commitment to invest in the future of our children and our communities. Excellent public schools are a centerpiece of that commitment. Those of us who value our public schools - parents, educators, citizens - need to lead that critical effort.

You will be hearing more from us soon, as we work to build alliances across the state. In the meantime, make sure to let your state lawmakers know how you feel! Please join us as we reach out to people all around Michigan who share our commitment to education and our vision of a better future for everyone in our state.

With thanks, Steven Norton Executive Director Michigan Parents for Schools


Make Your Voice Heard - Take Action at the State Capitol WHAT: Rally to protest attacks on middle class families WHO: Students, seniors and workers from across Michigan WHEN: Wednesday, April 13 Protest, Legislative Action from 1-6:30 p.m. Speaking programs at 2 and 5:30 p.m. WHERE: State Capitol Building 100 Capitol Ave, Lansing, MI WHY: Politicians are unfairly exploiting Michigan’s economic crisis to attack students, seniors and working families. Join us on April 13 to fight back and let the politicians know that We Are The People, and it’s time to start protecting the middle class – not the CEOs. NOTE: Please bring a canned good to donate to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Legislation Out There

The latest in legislation attempting to bully union workers:

House Bill 4465 (Suspend or revoke teaching certificate of illegally striking teacher ) Introduced by Rep. Bill Rogers (R) on March 22, 2011, to suspend for two years the teaching certificate of a public school teacher who engages in an illegal strike. If the teacher did not show up at a hearing on the suspension, the license could be revoked permanently.

Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH), Tim Scott (R-SC), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Dan Burton (R-IN), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) have introduced legislation that would cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer. This would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions - things that would allow them to meet their families’ needs without food stamps.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Keeping Informed

Here are a couple of ways to keep informed of legislative updates.
Go to

Select the “Legislative and Political Information” tab.
Select the “Cyberlobbying System” tab.
Scroll to the middle under “Michigan Legislative Action Center”.
Select “Action E-List”. Complete the form.
This allows you to “Get an alert when your involvement can make a critical difference.”

On the same page, scroll to the bottom under “Election”.
Select “MegaVote”. Complete the form.
This allows you to “Get your reps’ votes by e-mail weekly.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blueberry Story: A Businessman Learns a Lesson

BLUEBERRY STORY A Businessman Learns a Lessonby Jamie Robert Vollmer

"If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!" I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of in-service. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle 1980s when People Magazine chose our blueberry as the "Best Ice Cream in America." I was convinced of two things.

First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society."

Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly.

They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement! In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced equal parts ignorance and arrogance.

As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant - she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload. She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, Ma'am."

"How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"

"Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.

"Premium ingredients?" she inquired.

"Super-premium! Nothing but triple A." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.

"Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap. I was dead meat, but I wasn't going to lie. "I send them back."

"That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them all: GT, ADHD, ADD, SLD, EI, MMR, OHI, TBI, DD, Autistic, junior rheumatoid arthritis, English as their second language, etc. We take them all! Everyone! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school!" In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"

And so began my long transformation. Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the surrounding community.For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.

Please forward THE BLUEBERRY STORY to teachers, parents, politicians and everyone interested in education

Diane Ravitch Clip

From South Redford EA: This is a link to an interesting interview on the Daily Show with Diane Ravitch about her book about public education and not placing blame on the "bad" teachers.

NY Times article: U.S. Is Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status

Check out this article.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Current Legislation

Please note that the following legislative actions have been taken.

Senate Bill 157 (Increase power of school and local emergency financial managers )Introduced by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R) on February 16, 2011. Passed 26 to 12 in the Senate on March 9, 2011, to exempt schools placed under a emergency financial manager with the enhanced powers proposed by Senate Bill 153 from also being placed under the supervision of state school reform/redesign officer (a position created for academically failed schools under legislation intended to make Michigan eligible for federal “Race to the Top” grants, which it did not get). Among other things, SB 153 would give the EFM the power to cancel existing government or teacher union contracts.
See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at Senate Bill 158 (Increase power of school and local emergency financial managers )Substitute offered in the Senate on March 8, 2011, to replace the previous version of the bill with one that revises details but does not change the substance as previously described. The substitute passed by voice vote in the Senate on March 8, 2011, to replace the previous version of the bill with one that revises details but does not change the substance as previously described.
House Bill 4152 (Limit certain automatic government union employee pay hikes) Introduced by Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R) on January 26, 2011. Passed 63 to 47 in the House on March 10, 2011, to establish that when a government employee union contract has expired and no replacement has been negotiated, any seniority-based automatic pay hikes for individual employees (“step increases”) may not occur. Also, that any increase in health benefit costs above the former contract be borne by the employee, and establish that the wages and benefits under a new contract may be made retroactive to the expiration date of the old one.
See [Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"] at

Disclaimer: This bit at the bottom is from
MichiganVotes is "Transparency 1.0" applied to the legislature. Experience "Transparency 2.0" with the new Michigan Capitol Confidential Daily ( Reporting the unreported news from Michigan's Capitol.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Upcoming Rally

From Doug Pratt, MEA Director of Public Affairs

Yesterday in Capitol Comments, we announced the next major Working Michigan coalition event in Lansing next Wednesday -- two afternoon protests at the Capitol to stand up against the many attacks on Michigan's Middle Class. The first begins at noon, the second at 4 p.m. The goal of the noon protest is to show the state House of Representatives the same show of force the Senate saw earlier this week in Lansing -- and to keep that energy going throughout the afternoon. If we have retirees and other members available for that earlier event on Wednesday, we'd love to have them in Lansing. The 4 p.m. protest is designed particularly to allow for involvement of our members who work during the day. We hope as many members as possible will head straight from work to the Capitol steps in Lansing to make their voices heard to lawmakers, the media and the public. The intent is to keep building the numbers and energy of this rally well into the evening. Even if members can't arrive by 4, they should DEFINITELY still come and add to the protest whenever they can. By Monday, I hope to have more details on the Wednesday protests to share. For now, please pass the word to your members to join us on Wednesday afternoon in Lansing as we continue to ratchet up efforts to make the voices of the Middle Class heard at the Capitol and beyond.

Tips from MEA

Michigan Legislative Protocol –
Communicating With Your Michigan Legislators

The information here is provided to assist you in communicating effectively with members of the Michigan legislature. This is not a definitive guide to legislative communications. It is meant to provide the foundation for effective grassroots advocacy.

Michigan Legislative Protocol - Tips for Writing Your State Legislators

The letter is a direct way to communicate with a state legislative office. When writing a letter, this list of suggestions will improve its effectiveness:
• Individually written letters, rather than mass generated form letters, make a greater impression on your legislator. Type your name, address, and phone number at the top.
• Most state legislatures are only in session part of the year. The Michigan State Legislature is in session January 12, 2011 through TBA. When the legislature is out of session, it may be more effective to send your letter to your legislator's district office, if the legislator has one.
• Addressing correspondence:
To the State Senate

The Honorable (Full Name)
State Capitol, (Room Number)
Michigan Senate
Lansing, MI 48909

To the State House of Representatives

The Honorable (Full Name)
State Capitol, (Room Number)
Michigan House of Representatives
Lansing, MI 48909
• Be specific. Your purpose for writing should be stated in the first paragraph of the letter. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, be sure to identify its full name and number, e.g. House Bill: HB_____, Senate Bill: SB_____.Try to send your letter while the issue is still alive.
• State your position. Explain why you support or oppose this particular issue. Keep in mind that local examples concerning the impact of this legislation are very powerful. Be courteous and to the point, keeping your letter focused on one issue.
• Ask for a response. Indicate to your legislator that you would appreciate a reply containing his/her position on the issue. "Sincerely yours" is a proper way to conclude your letter.
Follow up. If you agree with your legislator's vote, take the time to let him/her know that. Similarly, if you disagree with his or her vote, inform your legislator.

Michigan Legislative Protocol - Tips for Calling Your State Legislators

To find your state legislator's phone number, you may use our searchable online state legislature directory or call your state's switchboard at 517-373-1837 and ask for your Senator and/ or Representative's office.

Keep in mind that most state legislatures are only in session part-time, so try to get the number for your legislator's district office. Telephone calls are often taken by a staff member and not the actual legislative member. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue to which you wish to comment. If they are not available, you may also leave a message. If you speak with someone other than your legislator, take down their name and title.

Upon reaching your state legislator on the phone, it's easiest to follow these four basic steps:
• IDENTIFY yourself by name and the organization (if any) that you represent or the town from which you are calling.
• EXPLAIN why you are calling: "I am calling to support/oppose House Bill: HB_____, Senate Bill: SB_____. " Be polite and concise. Creating 1 or 2 talking points will focus the content of your message. Too much information may confuse your message. Ask your legislator his/her position on this issue. Don't assume that your legislator has prior knowledge of your issue. Be calm, respectful, and be prepared to educate, using local examples to accentuate your point.
• REQUEST a written response to your phone call if you did not speak to your legislative member. If the legislator requires further information, provide it as soon as possible.
THANK the person who took the phone call for their time and consideration.

Talking Points

I received a copy of this letter. I believe it is quite informative and can offer some good talking point for contacting your legislator or even when talking with family and friends.

Disclaimer: This information is from SOS Michigan and is being distributed by MASB. With that said, the text is still pretty good.
Last year, when the legislature shifted $208 million from the School Aid Fund (SAF) to the General Fund for community colleges it was sold to the education community as a one-time transfer being used under a tight deadline and extreme circumstances. Now the proposal is coming from a different end of the Capitol. Gov. Snyder has proposed an unprecedented shift in School Aid resources from the K-12 schools of Michigan to universities and community colleges. Allowing the use of School Aid dollars for higher education, a $900 million transfer, will result in a minimum $470 per pupil cut for every district. Some districts will see much deeper cuts due to long-standing appropriations such as declining enrollment and special education payments to ISDs that the governor has proposed eliminating. These cuts are on top of the increase in state mandated costs for retirement, which will cost schools another $230 per pupil. Adding these together, the governor’s budget proposal would in essence reduce every school’s revenues by a minimum of $700 per pupil. Not many schools can absorb that type of reduction without devastating their educational programs.

In 1994 Michigan voters decided to set up a state funding model for schools. The promise to the people was that the state would shoulder the responsibility of funding the K-12 system in exchange for limiting the ability to levy local school operating millages. Since that promise was made, it’s been routinely broken. Since the passage of Proposal A, the SAF has seen an annual disinvestment by leaders in Lansing. General Fund contributions to the SAF have decreased from $664 million in 1995 to $18 million last year. Additionally, as money became tight in the state’s General Fund, programs from other departments have slowly become the very expensive obligation of the SAF. These transfers total $223 million annually. When you combine those two very large items with last year’s unprecedented shift of $208 million from schools to community colleges, the total in shifts, transfers and disinvestment creeps up over the billion-dollar mark.

Before last year the state had NEVER used School Aid funds for higher education. It was never even proposed. Now Lansing is preparing to use hundreds of millions of dollars from the SAF for non-K-12 programs. Enough is enough. It’s time we hold our elected officials accountable and demand that they keep the promise to the taxpayers, the children of Michigan and the future of our state. We can’t cut our way out of this problem, we need a solution that invests in education and seeks to prepare every child in Michigan for the 21st Century economy and workforce.

If the legislature would simply keep the promise of Proposal A and use the School Aid Fund for K-12, schools could see about a $260 per pupil increase next year. That’s right, if the legislature would reject the governor’s proposal to use School Aid Fund money for higher education our foundation allowances can go up rather than down.

What Can You Do??
With the very real threat of a $700 reduction facing our schools, it’s imperative that we let legislators know the importance of rejecting Gov. Snyder’s shift of community colleges and universities into the School Aid budget. Members of the legislature need to hear from education supporters not just in Lansing, but also in your district. Contact your state representatives and senators to find out when they’re available in the district to discuss the governor’s proposal. Tell them exactly what the proposed budget cuts will mean for your school and let them know you’ll be informing your community about the broken promises from Lansing.

The governor has talked about "shared sacrifices" but proposed a budget with nearly $2 billion in tax reductions for business paid for, in part, by huge reductions in education. SOS has supported sacrifices by school employees with reduced pensions and increase payments. We also support having all school employees share in the cost of their health care premiums. We absorbed reductions in various aspects of our school funding over the past several years. We’ve moved from being one of the highest funded K-12 systems in the country to being below average. Let’s be fair. We’ll make sacrifices but Lansing is going too far with this proposal.

When you talk with your legislators stress the importance of keeping the promise to the voters and children of Michigan. We’re asking superintendents and school boards to work on documents to help explain the budget scenario to the public. We’ll be providing you with templates and ideas over the coming weeks.

Keep this fact in mind, if the legislature rejects Gov. Snyder’s proposal to shift money away from schools, there’s enough in the School Aid Fund to avoid cuts this year. Lawmakers must work on a solution that stabilizes the General Fund and keeps the promise of Proposal A.
~ Michelle Thomas

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Emergency Financial Manager Package Passes

From an e-mail sent to local leaders:

Thank you to all that helped us fill the capital, the phone lines or email boxes of legislators yesterday and today. Some of us went back this morning to make one last push. As you have probably heard the Emergency Financial Manager package passed about 1:30 today. Now some will say that was a waste. I say NO, it was not. I have never seen so much solidarity between unions here in Michigan. It was not just at the top level but all through labor. Standing on the second level of the rotunda, the positive energy was amazing. Brothers and sisters together united for one cause.

A big thank you goes out to our Democratic legislators. They offered every trick in the book to slow the train and derail the legislation. Hats off to them! If you have a chance thank them for their efforts.

We lost the battle but the war is not over. I attended the second hearing on SB. 4306. This is the bill that requires the bidding and privatizing of support staff in school districts. They did not get to all of the testimony and will be continuing it next Wednesday. There is more legislation just as degrading. I believe the war is winnable but it will call for our highest level of solidarity not only with other unions but within our own.

Keep watching your email for updates and checking the web site for current information.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

More Scary Stuff - Now in Ohio

Checkout the following websites:

Ohio EA:

These are frightening times in which we are living.

Rally at the Capitol

Attention MEA members and retirees!


Tuesday, March 8 – 9 a.m.
at the State Capitol in Lansing

Working Michigan, a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting working families and Michigan’s Middle Class Dream, will be holding a rally to protest the package of “Emergency Financial Manager” bills that is currently in the state Senate.

MEA is proud to stand with that coalition.

There will be a vote on the Senate floor on Tuesday, March 8 – and we will be outside the Capitol building to tell our lawmakers to oppose Senate Bills 153 through 158 and any further attacks on Michigan workers.

These bills echo the anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin that has caused thousands to stand up in protest. These Michigan bills propose to strip away collective bargaining rights from public workers in school districts and municipalities that are in financial emergencies – emergencies that our state lawmakers caused by not funding our communities!

State-appointed “takeover czars” would be able to void your contracts – imposing your wages, benefits and working conditions without your input. Additionally, these bills would essentially nullify the people's vote, stripping your elected officials of their power and allowing removal of those officials from office without any checks or balances from voters.

This package of bills is moving very fast through the Legislature!

Make your voice heard in opposition to these anti-worker, anti-democratic bills!

Stand with us on Tuesday, March 8 at the Capitol!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Get Involved!

MEA Voice Online -- Feb. 21, 2011

Standing up for public education and public school employees

Here's what you can do to help NOW
While the ongoing political assault on public workers continues to be fought in and around the state Capitol in Wisconsin, that isn't the only battle going on for America's public schools and the middle class. Similar fights are well underway in Indiana and Ohio -- and Michigan.

MEA members need to stand up for public education and public school employees -- here in Michigan and across the country. Here's what you can do to help:

Wear red on Tuesday to show your support for public education and the rights of the public school employees who make our schools great. This effort is part of NEA's "Wear Red for Public Ed," which encourages members to wear red every Tuesday for the rest of the school year.

Sign a national petition supporting the rights of educators and other public employees -- go to and click on "National Petition."

Use your Facebook and Twitter accounts to show support for public education and workers. Share messages of support on your own pages or add to comments on MEA's pages or the pages of state affiliates in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.

This Tuesday, Michigan unions are organizing a lobbying effort in Lansing around Gov. Rick Snyder's budget proposal and a package of emergency financial manager bills that could gut employee rights. If you can join in the effort starting at 9 a.m. at the Central United Methodist Church (215 N. Capitol, across from the Capitol building) in Lansing, email right away for more information.

And, as always, continue talking with lawmakers back home in your districts -- let them know how you feel about these issues as a constituent. Stay tuned to for updates.

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.

Stay informed -- get updates from MEA
If you're looking for regular updates on education-related happenings in Michigan and elsewhere -- including efforts in Wisconsin to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights, be sure visit MEA on Facebook and Twitter.

We're posting daily updates there -- and on MEA's website, -- to provide information and opportunities for you to get involved.

Become a fan of MEA on Facebook at .

Come tweet with us -- follow MEA on Twitter at .

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Support for Wisconsin

Note passed on from Iris Salters.

Here is the latest request from NEA which is coordinating the efforts in Wisconsin. Please feel free to pass it on. Iris

Hello, Everybody.

All of our MW members can help their colleagues in Wisconsin by signing a national petition in support of them. The petition can be accessed at

I know our Wisconsin colleagues will appreciate the support.

Dennis M. Friel
NEA Midwest Regional Director
202-822-7408 (office)
202-255-0907 (cell)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Talking Points

Need some help with talking points for discussing education with family and friends? Need some ideas for writing letters to the editor to express your concerns about the direction our state is taking education? Want to write a letter to your representative but not sure what to say? Check out MEA's website:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Contacting Legislators and Governor is EASY!

Well, it took some time, but I think the links to our area legislators and the "Gov" are ready to go. Check out the sidebar, click, and then sound off. It was kinda tricky finding our Commander in Nerd's email address. But after a bit of searching departments, I got it! His Homepage does not have any contact information! But instead has where you can sign up to receive emails. Guess it is better to give than receive, so let your voice be heard and give them your thoughts. Remember, do it from your personal and home emails, and not KPS Groupwise. Happy Emailing!