Labor Voices: Treat Michigan school employees fairly

By Steven Cook

‘Average Michigan teacher salary drops for the 4th consecutive year,” read newspaper headlines across the state earlier this summer. This news comes from a Center for Educational Performance and Information report about non-inflation-adjusted salary data. Actual salaries and take-home pay for many Michigan teachers have dropped every year for the last four years.

Jennifer Young, a teacher from southeast Michigan, wrote her legislators about the problem:

“As a teacher for over two decades, I have learned to make do and to expect change — change in curriculum, change in testing and change in the classroom are all par for the course. The unfortunate change is the one happening in my wallet. As the cost of living increases every year, my take-home pay is less than what it was seven years ago! As my experience and abilities grow, my paycheck shrinks.”

School districts and employees are still feeling the effects of the $1 billion cut in public education Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature handed them in the 2011-12 budget, which helped to fund a $2 billion reduction in corporate taxes. Since then, wage freezes and, in some districts, wage reductions have put increasing financial pressure on educators and their families.

In almost every Michigan school district, you will find employees — especially support staff and newer, younger teachers — who qualify for Bridge Cards (the modern version of food stamps). Without that assistance, they would not be able to feed their families.

In Algonac, 16-year teacher and football coach Jeff Smith recently qualified for a Habitat For Humanity house. Such levels of financial hardship are unthinkable but all too common for the dedicated professionals serving Michigan’s students.

Policymakers compounded the financial stress on employees in 2012 by capping the amount school districts could pay for health care benefits.

As the cost of health care has risen, so too has the amount deducted from paychecks of teachers like Young, who also wrote: “With the stroke of a pen, the Legislature and governor took thousands of dollars from my family’s budget every year. Since the state imposed cap on health care funding, my contribution has increased by $4,000, while my wages have remained stagnant.” Thousands of school employees across the state share Young’s frustration.

Stagnant wages, exorbitant health care premiums and increased contributions by employees to the pension system — combined with high student loan debt — are forcing out many new educators. Teachers with less than five years’ experience are leaving the profession at record levels, and enrollment in college and university teacher preparation programs has declined by nearly 40 percent in the last five years.

The best and brightest who dreamed of inspiring the next generation of leaders in business, government and industry are finding out that if they choose teaching as a profession, they may not be able to support their families and secure a spot in the middle class. When asked by their students if they should consider becoming a teacher, many educators are finding it more and more difficult to encourage such aspirations. The effects of Michigan’s teacher shortage are only beginning to be felt — the worst is yet to come.

Politicians often talk about valuing public education, students, and those who work in public schools, especially in an election year. But actions speak louder than words. Continued attacks on school employees and public education have harmed not only school employees, but schools and students across the state.

It is up to us to demand that those who make the laws treat Michigan schools and school employees fairly. They can start by removing the cap on school district health care premiums and restoring school funding.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.

Source: Treat Michigan school employees fairly

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In tight Wisconsin race, Johnson and Feingold take different paths to similar warchests | from OpenSecrets Blog

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and his challenger Russ Feingold have raised almost exactly the same amount of money in their race for a Wisconsin Senate seat. But they’ve done so in very different ways.

In terms of fundraising, the race is among the tightest in the country, not to mention one of the few where a challenger has raised more money than an incumbent. The pair is currently separated by less than a million dollars, with the Democrat Feingold and his $15.6 million narrowly ahead of the Tea Party-backed Republican Johnson and his $14.8 million … read more at link below…

Source: In tight Wisconsin race, Johnson and Feingold take different paths to similar warchests | OpenSecrets Blog

Harry Reid’s retiring? Enter piles of dark money | from OpenSecrets Blog

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s looming retirement leaves quite the vacuum to fill in Nevada. The contest to replace one of the body’s longest-serving Democrats is labeled a toss-up between former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Republican Rep. Joe Heck. And with Heck running for a promotion, he leaves behind an open playing field for his District 3 seat.

Adding even more intrigue to the races: A whole lot of money coming from undisclosed sources.

The Sagebrush State’s Senate contest has attracted $3.4 million so far from groups that don’t identify their donors … read more:

Source: Harry Reid’s retiring? Enter piles of dark money | OpenSecrets Blog

Spoiler: Most congressional contests not contests at all | from OpenSecrets Blog

Despite a seemingly never-ending stream of news reports about the November election, the election of many federal lawmakers has already been decided.

OpenSecrets has shown that the better-funded campaign nearly always wins, a finding that dovetails with the fact that incumbents, also, usually win. And incumbents tend to have an easier time raising money than the candidates who challenge them. Even though there are some elections that will almost certainly be nailbiters, and even though occasionally a challenger surprises an incumbent with an upset, we can be fairly confident about the outcomes of many races.

In 135 races, only a single candidate is running (defined here as having submitted a financial report to the Federal Election Commission). In some cases, the real contest took place in the primary, but in others there’s no challenger who has raised or spent more than $5,000. Seven states have not yet held their primary contests, so the number of uncontested general election races could increase closer to Nov. 8.

Click here to read the full article

Source: Spoiler: Most congressional contests not contests at all | OpenSecrets Blog

CURMUDGUCATION: Do Rock Star Teachers Really Need A Union???

 

Do Rock Star Teachers Really Need A Union???

Posted by Peter Greene: 19 Aug 2016 07:01 AM PDT

Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr., is a teacher-blogger who put in some years in the Baltimore school system and who now is working a charter gig. And in a recent post, he asks the question that lots of union critics think, but don’t always have the nerve to articulate.

The question often comes from people not working in public education– why do you need a union or tenure or a lock-step pay grid? Isn’t all that stuff for the crappy teachers, to protect them from the consequences of their own crappiness? Wouldn’t school districts do their best to hold onto super-duper rock star teachers and pay them super well?

That kind of kibbitzing is typical in every field that draws backseat drivers with no experience or expertise (“Doctor, why don’t you just prescribe exactly the right dose of exactly the right drug the first time?”). But it’s always a little bit of a surprise to hear it coming from teachers. At the risk of sounding like the aged fart that I am, I can’t help notice that teachers who pose this rhetorical comment are most often “less seasoned” or “newly minted” or “young.” Not that all young teachers have this issue– the vast majority know better. But some still want to ask this question, so let me try to answer it.

First of all, the question presumes that the rock star teacher works for a rock star principal and a rock star superintendent. This is a large presumption. The rock star teacher may in fact be working for a complete Lawrence Welk administrator, a school leader who hasn’t got a clue.

In fact, since school administrators these days turn over at a faster rate than teachers, chances are the rock star teacher is working for someone who had no hand in hiring her. I don’t know that anyone has done the research (or could) but it would be interesting to see how many teachers are working for someone that didn’t hire them in the first place. I’m going to bet that the percentage is huge. That means that even if the teacher is a rock star and the administrator is a rock star, the teacher was hired as part of a vision of the school that is no longer in play.

Oh, but excellence is excellence and anybody with half a brain knows a rock star when they see one. Sure. That’s why all elections in this country are settled quickly and easily and everyone listens to the same music and watches the same movies and tv shows– because excellence is something that we all totally agree on.

No, sorry, young rock star, but one person’s rock star is another person’s “Oh my God how can you listen to that dreck!!” Find me any awesome rock star teacher in the country, and I guarantee you– no matter how beloved and rock starry and awesome that teacher is, we can find ten people who would say… (read more of this post at the link below)

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Do Rock Star Teachers Really Need A Union???

CURMUDGUCATION blog: Education and Profit go together like a horse and carriage?

Education and Profit

Posted by Peter Greene: 21 Aug 2016

Even as many charter fans are backing away from the idea of for-profit schools, last month found US News running this piece arguing that profit-making and education go together like a horse and carriage.

The author is Ian Lindquist, a 2009 graduate of St. John’s College (the read great books people), former charter school teacher, and current fellow at AEI. Lindquist wants us to know that the profit motive is completely compatible with sectors that provide public goods. In fact, in response to the criticism that “this profit motive renders for-profit schools incompatible with public education,” Lindquist has a simple response:

This is nonsense.

Lindquist’s argument would have been better off if he had quit there. But he didn’t. Here’s the rest of the nonsense paragraph.

Education is not the only sector that provides public goods. Indeed, there are many public goods handled by private companies: hospitals, prisons and transportation systems operated by for-profit providers ensure public health, public safety and public transportation. In none of those cases does profit motive necessarily dispose the company to abdicate its mission of serving the public. In these cases, companies’ ability to provide the best product possible is aligned with their ability to make money and pay their shareholders. Far from giving up their social missions to seek profit, they need to serve the public both to accomplish that mission and gain profit. Without mission, no profit. The mission is and must be primary.[emphasis mine]

Um, no. The health care industry in the US has been ranked among the worst in the developed world for a few years now, but if you don’t want to have that debate, let’s consider a few other points.

Follow the link below…

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Education and Profit

Policies of Cruelty

Policies of Cruelty
by wboyler
So the word is out that the state of Michigan, through its School Reform Office, is aggressively looking to close schools that it calls “chronic failures.” It measures so-called “failures” as those that are mired in the bottom 5% of state schools as measured by test scores.

With that background in mind, there are many, many problems with this approach to “school improvement.” (Of course, one place to begin might be to question the logic of improving a school by closing it. I’m a Lions fan, but, then again, they make money.) I could write about the fact that in 2015 Michigan’s Governor Snyder moved the School Reform Office from the Michigan Department of Education into the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Yes. That’s weird.

I could write how many of the so-called “failing” schools are under the auspices of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), a state-run school district that was created to turn around so-called “failing schools.” We know how that has worked.

Etc., etc. (See other excellent critiques here and here.)

But most interesting to me are the assumptions that go into what we call “failing.” These assumptions… (please read more of this blog post!)

educarenow

So the word is out that the state of Michigan, through its School Reform Office, is aggressively looking to close schools that it calls “chronic failures.” It measures so-called “failures” as those that are mired in the bottom 5% of state schools as measured by test scores.

With that background in mind, there are many, many problems with this approach to “school improvement.” (Of course, one place to begin might be to question the logic of improving a school by closing it. I’m a Lions fan, but, then again, they make money.) I could write about the fact that in 2015 Michigan’s Governor Snyder moved the School Reform Office from the Michigan Department of Education into the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Yes. That’s weird.

I could write how many of the so-called “failing” schools are under the auspices of the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), a state-run school district that…

View original post 1,088 more words

On Being Human and a Writer Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

Being human is complicated. And, being a human who writes adds a whole other layer of complexity to your existence.

Unlike animals who live simple lives that inhabit a single identity, we humans must constantly shapeshift between myriad roles, sometimes changing who we are multiple times over the course of a single day. In any given twenty-four hour span, I am mother, lover, daughter, sister, neighbor, mentor, and friend. I am a professional freelance content creator, an aspiring fiction writer, and a nascent entrepreneur. I am a caretaker, housekeeper, and accountant, a cook, laundress, and student.

We slip in and out of these skins in a matter of seconds, like chameleons adapting to the colors, textures, and shadows of a rapidly changing environment. With each transition, we must rebalance ourselves around a new set of expectations and priorities. We change our behavior and make choices based on new criteria, which are defined by a reordered set of obligations and responsibilities.

I wonder sometimes if writers, and perhaps actors, are… (Please read more of this blog post!)

Live to Write - Write to Live

multiple identitiesBeing human is complicated. And, being a human who writes adds a whole other layer of complexity to your existence.

Unlike animals who live simple lives that inhabit a single identity, we humans must constantly shapeshift between myriad roles, sometimes changing who we are multiple times over the course of a single day. In any given twenty-four hour span, I am mother, lover, daughter, sister, neighbor, mentor, and friend. I am a professional freelance content creator, an aspiring fiction writer, and a nascent entrepreneur. I am a caretaker, housekeeper, and accountant, a cook, laundress, and student.

We slip in and out of these skins in a matter of seconds, like chameleons adapting to the colors, textures, and shadows of a rapidly changing environment. With each transition, we must rebalance ourselves around a new set of expectations and priorities. We change our behavior and make choices based on new criteria, which…

View original post 1,244 more words

Kristina Rizga: Why Did Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Call for a Moratorium on Charter Schools?

Kristina Rizga, staff writer at Mother Jones, wrote about the decision by Black Lives Matter and the NAACP to call for a moratorium on new charter schools. Their statements agitated Democrats for Education Reform, and its executive director Shavar Jeffries expressed his disappointment, as did the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which supports both charters and vouchers. US News & World Report treated the disagreement as a fissure among communities of color and asked (in the link, if not in the article), “who speaks for communities of color?” A provocative question since DFER is comprised of white hedge-fund managers, who hired Shavar Jeffries–an African-American lawyer, as its spokesmen. It would be a reach, if not a bad joke, to say that the hedge fund managers of DFER speak for communities of color. BAEO is headed by Howard Fuller, an articulate African American who was trained as a social worker and served for a time as superintendent in Milwaukee; BAEO is funded by the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation, and other rightwing advocates of school choice. Who speaks for communities of color?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Kristina Rizga, staff writer at Mother Jones, wrote about the decision by Black Lives Matter and the NAACP to call for a moratorium on new charter schools. Their statements agitated Democrats for Education Reform, and its executive director Shavar Jeffries expressed his disappointment, as did the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which supports both charters and vouchers. US News & World Report treated the disagreement as a fissure among communities of color and asked (in the link, if not in the article), “who speaks for communities of color?” A provocative question since DFER is comprised of white hedge-fund managers, who hired Shavar Jeffries–an African-American lawyer, as its spokesmen. It would be a reach, if not a bad joke, to say that the hedge fund managers of DFER speak for communities of color. BAEO is headed by Howard Fuller, an articulate African American who was trained as a social worker…

View original post 682 more words

Following the charter school cash in the Washington State Primary: The latest money scheme

Following the charter school cash in the Washington State Primary: The latest money scheme
by seattleducation2010
Nowhere is the chasm between the hard reality of our political system and the American ideals of merit, choice, and freedom more on display than during an election cycle. Money matters – a lot. The challenge for large money donors is how to spend big on your candidate(s) without offending the voters you’re trying to […]

Read more of this post…

Seattle Education

untitledUPDATE: Two mistakes have been corrected from the original post.

Voters for Washington Children spent $15,000 in digital ads AGAINST Luis Moscoso in the District 1 Senate race. In addition, Voters for Washington Children spent $10,ooo AGAINST Branden Durst in the Legislative District 29, Representative race.

Our sincerest apologies to Luis Muscoso and Branden Durst.

————————————————————————-

Nowhere is the chasm between the hard reality of our political system and the American ideals of merit, choice, and freedom more on display than during an election cycle.

Money matters – a lot.

The challenge for large money donors is how to spend big on your candidate(s) without offending the voters you’re trying to persuade. Voters understand politics is a dirty game, but they still believe in the idea that democracy should work for everyone.

Big donors have come up with a practical two step solution to this problem:

  1. Keep the money moving through various…

View original post 760 more words