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!