Lameduck Week Update

Dear Jeffrey L Salisbury,

Three days down, six to go. The Michigan Legislature is in the final days of the 2015-2016 legislative session, and lawmakers are scrambling to pass as much legislation as they can before bills expire for the term. There are a number of issues that affect PreK-16 teachers, paraprofessionals, and school support personnel, and on which we are working diligently.

AFT Michigan members have sent almost 9,974 emails to legislators on issues of concern in the past five days, made thousands of phone calls, and held dozens of meetings with legislators.

This is the power of education employees, standing in solidarity  for their students, their schools, and their professions.

The Legislature comes back on Tuesday next week. But AFT Michigan members will be working all weekend to phone bank, write letters, engage the media, and meet with legislators to stand up for the schools our students and education employees deserve.

Click here to join us.

Thank you for everything you do.

In solidarity,

Julie Rowe

Senate Bill 102: Eliminating Pensions for New School Employees

At the behest of the DeVos family, the Republican leadership of the Michigan Legislature is mounting an attack on educator pensions and AFT Michigan is fighting hard to protect the ability of former, current, and future educators to retire with security and dignity.

The bill would eliminate the defined benefit/defined contribution hybrid option for new employees hired after July 1, 2017, and provide them with a significantly lower benefit, higher risk 401k-style defined contribution pension.

This scheme would actually have astronomical costs to the state – and subsequently our schools and our students. The non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates that over the next five years, the plan will cost schools $1.6 billion, and $33.1 billion over the next several decades. This will mean an annual per pupil cut of at least $250, a cut which will worsen every single year. For a detailed breakdown of how this will hurt every school district in the state, click here.

Bottom line: this switch provides a smaller, risker retirement for workers and a higher cost to the state. It’s a lose-lose scenario, and it’s being pushed as part of a larger campaign to defund and dismantle public education and demonize and threaten educators.

Bill Status: On Wednesday, November 30, the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve Senate Bill 102, which would close the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System to new hires, and put all employees hired after July 1, 2017 into a 401k-style defined contribution retirement plan. The bill passed 9 to 8. All Democrats (Senators Gregory, Hopgood, Hertel, Knezek, and Young) voted against the bill and were joined by Republican Senators Hansen, Nofs, and Knollenberg. These senators deserve our thanks.

While Republican Senate leadership indicated they wanted to pass the bill out of the Senate this week, they adjourned before taking a vote on SB 102. This indicates that they are short of the votes they need to pass the legislation — which means what we’re doing is working. We will continue to work to shore up opposition to the bill and the Senate and the Michigan House over the weekend and throughout next week.

Click here to find your state representative’s phone number: Find your state senator’s office number here:

Income Tax Shell-Game Scheme to Cut School Aid Fund Revenue In the Works

Rumors have circled in Lansing that Republican leadership has a plan to wants to change the way income tax refunds are sourced, which would have serious consequences for the School Aid Fund.

Currently, about 23 percent of the state income tax revenue from employer withholding is routed to the School Aid Fund. When a person files their tax return and is owed a refund, all of that refund is paid from the General Fund. This proposal would split the refund between the School Aid Fund and the General Fund. Based on last year’s refund total, this would mean a cut of more than $400 million in school funding revenue. That would mean a cut of approximately $273 per student.

While no legislation currently exists, the consequences of such a change are dire and the threat is real. We urge members to call their state representatives and urge them to oppose any change that would hurt school funding. Click here to find your state representative’s phone number. And to make your call specific to your legislator and your community, click here to look up the cost to your school district if this change were made.

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