Message of Support for Our Students and Families

Responding to POTUS’ immigration executive order, one Grand Rapids area K-12 school superintendent directs his school administrators and staff “to refer any inquiries from any federal, state or local law enforcement officials regarding student records and/or the immigration status of any of our students and their families directly to me. It is my intention to uphold the federal protections that already exist. No confidential access to any student records will be allowed without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order, unless authorized by the student’s parent(s) or required by law. I will consult the district’s legal counsel in the event any inquiries regarding immigration status are made by outside agencies.”

Read his full blog post here:

Superintendent's Notes

A lot of confusion and concern surrounds many of the messages and orders that have come out of the White House during President Trump’s first week in office. It is unfortunate because much of it is creating fear in our children and their families, as well as uncertainty throughout our entire district and community.

As has been already said by a number of school districts around the country, our schools are and will continue to be safe zones for every child and every family member. Under federal law, it is the right of every child, regardless of immigration status, to access a free public K-12 education and Godfrey-Lee Public Schools welcomes and supports all students.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly known as “FERPA,” prohibits school districts from providing third parties, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), information contained in student records.

I have directed…

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Retired School Employees Newsletter: ‘Watch for Bills That Might Destroy Health Care and Retirement in 2017’

February 2017 MEA-Retired Tribune Newsletter
Watch for Bills That Might Destroy Health Care and Retirement in 2017
THANK YOU to all of you who contacted Michigan legislators during the Lame Duck session!
Legislators finally got the message -the issues of pension reform and retiree healthcare are too important and complicated to take up in the lame duck session. Plus, Republican Senators and Representatives could not gather enough votes to get their pension reform bills through to a final vote in the lame duck session. The bills died in lame duck but probably will be resurrected in the 2017 session.
SB 102, 1177, and 1178
SB 102 would have closed down the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) current hybrid pension system to new school employees hired after July 1, 2017 and put them into a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Employees currently in the hybrid plan-a combination of a defined benefit plan and a 401(k)-could remain in MPSERS, but those school employees who chose the defined contribution plan in 2012 would be moved into the new plan.
Under that plan, school districts would deposit 4 percent of the new employee’s salary into a 401(k) and match the employee’s contribution up to another 3 percent of salary-or a possible employer contribution of 7 percent. The cost of the match would be borne by the School Aid Fund.
Employees in the new 401(k) plan would be immediately vested in their own contributions; 50 percent vested in their employer’s contributions after two years; 75 percent vested after three years; and 100 percent vested after four years of service.
SB 1177 and SB 1178 dealt with the amortization period to pay off MPSERS’ unfunded liability.
It seemed that once the bills passed the Committee and moved to the full Senate, immediate passage would be inevitable since MPSERS pension reform was at the top of the Republican’s agenda. But the bills stalled because of discrepancies in the cost of transitioning to a new system and couldn’t get the necessary votes to get them passed.

The Senate Fiscal Agency estimates the additional cost of closing down MPSERS and moving new employees to a 401(k) to be $591 million in the first year to $3.8 billion in five years. In contrast, the Office of Retirement Services (ORS) estimates the cost to be $500 million in the first year and more than $24 billion in costs over 30 years-more than any unfunded liabilities. ORS didn’t support the Senate’s pension reform.
HB 6074-6086
HB 6074 was the main bill which created the Local Unit of Government Retirement Act. Starting in May 2017, new municipal employees would get 2 percent of their base pay annually for retiree health care to be paid into a tax-deferred savings account like a 401(k) or a health savings account (HSA) according to the Act. .
Retiree healthcare benefits would be a prohibited subject of bargaining, and retirement plans and HSAs would be excluded from arbitration awards for police and fire. Retirees who went to work somewhere else could not get municipal health insurance if coverage was available with their new employer.

MEA Acting on School Closure Threats
MEA is moving forward with a multi-pronged response to state threats of school closures in a number of Michigan communities – mostly in high-poverty areas – which have prompted fear and outrage among school employees and parents.
Our lobbyists will be actively supporting a bill to repeal the so-called “failing schools law” that is driving potential building closures. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) introduced Senate Bill 27

to eliminate a “chaotic” and “deeply flawed” process that has not improved academic achievement.

“In the six years this law has existed, it has produced more questions than answers and more controversy than solutions,” Pavlov said in a statement. “The initial goal was laudable: improvement of the state’s worst academically performing schools. Yet the evidence raises serious doubts about whether that has been accomplished.”

MEA members can help by contacting local legislators to encourage their support of Pavlov’s bill, and by asking parents and other community leaders to get involved.
Adopted in 2010 to compete for federal grant money, the current law requires the Michigan Department of Education to issue an annual top-to-bottom ranking

of schools based on test scores. Schools listed in the bottom 5 percent for three consecutive years are at risk of closure.

Last week, the state’s School Reform Office (SRO) issued the list of 38 schools at risk of closure as soon as the end of this school year

– a list dominated by communities with high concentrations of children and families living in poverty.

“It begs the question whether there isn’t a better accountability system, one that does more than simply flag high poverty schools,” Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice told reporters after the list came out with two KPS schools included on it.
Under the looming threat of school closures since last summer, MEA has been working with a number of organizations and stakeholders to fight back against ill-conceived policies that do nothing to serve the needs of children in struggling communities.
The group’s strategies will include legal action if school closures are ordered.
“MEA supports adequately funded, high-quality public schools and respect for community control,” said MEA General Counsel Mike Shoudy. “Closing neighborhood schools is bad for children, families, and the employees who serve them.

“MEA will take any and all appropriate legal action to protect the educational opportunities of our students and the employment rights of our members.” CLICK HERE

to


Wear Red for Public Ed on Tuesday 1/31/17 to Oppose DeVos
On Tuesday, a U.S. Senate Committee will decide if the full chamber should vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary despite being unqualified and unfit for the job. Join MEA and AFT Michigan members in demonstrating opposition that day-Wear Red for Public Ed on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
DeVos is no stranger to Michigan educators and students who have suffered under policies pushed by her and her billionaire family’s contributions to Republican politicians for years. Her support of unaccountable for-profit charter schools in Michigan has harmed children and communities.
Both of Michigan’s U.S. Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, have announced plans to vote against her.
“Betsy DeVos and her family have a long record of pushing policies that I believe have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children,” Stabenow said. “Therefore, I cannot support (her).”
In a speech on the Senate floor

, Peters pointed out DeVos’ only education experience has involved lobbying for the transfer of taxpayer money to private schools and the rapid expansion of charter schools without sufficient accountability to parents and students.

Most charter schools – about 65 percent – fail to significantly outperform traditional public schools in reading outcomes. In Detroit, 70 percent of charter schools are in the bottom quartile of Michigan’s schools-not the results we want to replicate at the national level, Peters said.
“I stand with the many educators and parents in Michigan and across this nation when I say: Mrs. DeVos lacks the experience, qualifications and the right vision to oversee our nation’s education system,” Peters said. “Simply put, our children deserve better.”
Keep up the fight against her confirmation through NEA’s Action Alert


Wear Red for Public Ed on Tuesday to show we remain united by our common belief in great public schools for all of our students!

Uptick in lobbying spending for merging companies facing antitrust scrutiny

With such marriages often comes an uptick in lobbying efforts, as the companies leave as little to chance as possible.

Source: Uptick in lobbying spending for merging companies facing antitrust scrutiny

Quite a few corporations floated multi-billion dollar mergers in 2016, including ag leaders Monsanto and Bayer, telecom titans AT&T and Time Warner and fantasy sports giants FanDuel and Draft Kings.

And with such marriages — which undergo scrutiny by antitrust officials and often Congress, a routine part of any merger process — often comes an uptick in lobbying efforts, as the companies leave as little to chance as possible in getting their version of the story out.

read more.

DeploraBalls, inaugural parties you won’t want to miss

“All politics is local,” – Tip O’Neill. On the eve of Donald Trump’s Presidency, this phrase seems to apply to inaugural party planning as well.

Source: DeploraBalls, inaugural parties you won’t want to miss

President Trump’s inaugural festivities included a host of official and unofficial celebrations — just about all of which had corporate sponsors. Read our roundup of the partying opportunities, including the very unofficial DeploraBall, here.

But Washington is often awhirl with political gatherings with food, drink, schmoozing and a price of admission; they’re called fundraisers.

Help us keep track of these by uploading invitations you receive to

We will not show your identifying info when we post them. Thanks! … read more

Lobbyists and donors get behind Democratic, GOP retreat

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are uniting for retreats this weekend. One highlight of the GOP retreat? Peyton Manning

Source: Lobbyists and donors get behind Democratic, GOP retreat

Peyton Manning made his political debut Thursday at the GOP retreat, which was intended to solidify the Republican party’s game plan and unite the moving pieces of the GOP-controlled White House, Senate and House.

Across the aisle, Senate Dems held a secretive retreat in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Several sessions were devoted to discussions on how to talk to people who voted for Trump; others focused on battling Trump on his Supreme Court pick and strategies for the midterm elections…. read more.

Donald Trump’s plan to tax Mexican imports by 20% would totally backfire—and American consumers would foot the bill — Quartz

“This tax would mostly be paid by US consumers, in the form of higher prices. How do I know? Basic economics.”

Read more here:

Donald Trump’s plan to tax Mexican imports by 20% would totally backfire—and American consumers would foot the bill — Quartz

Trump tries to squash ACA insurance enrollment but we can do the outreach ourselves | Eclectablog

Amy Lynn Smith has posted a new item, ‘Trump tries to squash ACA insurance enrollment but we can do the outreach ourselves’, at Eclectablog.

You may view the latest post at

Source: Trump tries to squash ACA insurance enrollment but we can do the outreach ourselves | Eclectablog

CURMUDGUCATION: Competition vs. Quality

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Competition vs. Quality

Competition vs. Quality

It is an oft-stated truism– competition creates excellence.

If you are running a race, you will run faster and harder to beat people who are also running fast. If you are playing football, you will train to be better than the team facing you on the field. It seems sensible.

There are some problems with this model just on its face. The people in the front of the pack, the winners, will get stronger perhaps, but the race will also separate out some losers, who will either have to either accept losing as their lot in life. Or they’ll figure out ways to cheat. After all, if the definition of winning too narrow, like “being first to cross the finish line”– well, there are plenty of ways to accomplish that without having to run the whole race faster than anyone else.

If we really believe that every student in America should get to attend a school that’s a winner, then a competition that only a few can win seems like a poor model.

Competition may deliver excellence for a few, but it will not deliver excellence for everyone.

But there are other issues. If we make the reward for winning something important like, say, your food, then by losing, racers lose the very thing they need to compete. Competition will make them weak and hungry, the very opposite of breeding excellence.

But competition often does not breed excellence at all– in fact, it can create the opposite effect.

Consider a market competition this way– that vendors are competing for the chance to sell their wares. When prime customers are scare, competition favors those who lower their standards– not those who raise them.

Colleges, for instance. As reformsters often point out while decrying the proliferation of remedial college coursework, colleges have responding to shrinking pol of college prospects by lowering their standards. They have competed for customers by admitting folks who would not have been considered customers at all in an earlier day, and since a college’s customers are also part of their process and “product,” they’ve competed by running away from excellence.

Wal-Mart did not conquer the retail world by pursuing excellence. “I want the very best product on the market, so let’s go to Wal-Mart,” said no consumer ever. Getting the greatest number of customers means lowering the bar as much as possible, both for the products on sale and the customers welcomed through the door.

The very term “exclusive” is associated with high quality. Clubs bill themselves as “exclusive” because everyone hears “selective” and “the best.” Private schools and charter schools have long understood that “excellence” is achieved by being careful about who gets in your front door. Other charters have understood that “success” (as in “enriching the bottom line”) can be achieved by lowering the bar as you open the front door.

In a system with too few resources, competition eats excellence and spits it out. In a city education ecosystem that contains many charter schools, where there are 200,000 seats for 100,000 students, competition for customers will be fierce, and schools will compete with whatever strength they have. If they can’t compete for the academically oriented crowd, they will compete for the folks who want a convenient school or an easy school or a school without Those People in it. They will compete by using creative advertising that ignores the truth. They will worry more and more about getting people in the door and less and less about what is waiting for them inside. And while Wal-Mart can’t afford to disappoint customers into never coming back, a school doesn’t have repeat customers– its customer base is always aging out every couple of years.

“Competition creates excellence” only seems true to people used to being in the front of the pack and setting the rules. For everyone else, competition is a reason to game the system, change the rules, move the finish line, or just lower the standards.

The goal of public education is excellence for everyone, but competition produces excellence for only a few, and sometimes not even that. It’s a lousy metaphorical framework for education. Better, say, to talk about a garden on which we focus the full resources of the community to plant and water and tend living things to grow and mature without worrying about which one is tallest, sweetest or most vibrantly colored, or how we could best deprive one flower of water so that another can win a greenery contest. Education is not a race, and competition will not improve it.


CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Local Control

Local Control

States are increasingly telling cities what laws they may or may not pass. The most famous example may be North Carolina’s HB-2, the notorious law that restricted bathroom access– but also, like laws passed in Alabama and other states, forbid cities to pass laws raising the minimum wage.

State legislatures are taking action to undo the choices of voters. North Carolina’s legislature decided they were unhappy about the election for governor, so they stripped power from the office. And just this week, South Dakota’s legislature is moving to throw out the law passed by the voters which would establish a host of ethics rules and oversight.

Throughout the nation, government is in the hands of the very rich, who since the advent of Citizens United have unbridled freedom to shop for the legislators who will provide the desired results. When the DeVos family couldn’t convince the electorate to pass a voucher law or elect Dick DeVos governor, the billionaire family decided that it was time to just do an end run around the voters. If democratic local voter control won’t provide the results you want, just circumvent it.

And what a week it has been. Herr Trump has declared that maybe he should send the feds into Chicago to clean things up. Government agencies, paid for with taxpayer dollars, have been forbidden to speak to those taxpayers. And we’re getting a wall, courtesy of an executive order (that curious method by which Presidents get to pretend that they’re actually the legislative branch and make laws).

And while Trump’s declaration to launch an inquiry into election fraud may be related to a frail and tender ego, it may also make a handy first step toward extending the tools of voter suppression that have been steadily encroaching on voters over the past few years.

Charter schools and choice– the good, the bad, and the ugly– are perhaps best understood in the context of the larger erosion of democracy in our country.

There’s no reason that charter schools have to be part of this problem. Charter schools can be run by and responsive to local taxpayers and voters. Just up the road from me is a community that lost their local school because the district felt enrollment had dropped too far; the community restarted their school as a charter school, owned, operated and controlled by a local board.

Charter schools do not have to mean the end of local control.

And yet, in the modern charter era, they almost always do. From Philly to Detroit to New Orleans, a signature feature of charter-choice systems is to do away with the local control of an elected board. Replace it with properly connected board members, or run it out of a corporate office– sometimes far, far away. Hold meetings in the dark. Make decisions in seclusion. Keep the financial operations under wraps.

Charteristas have not been shy about it. Reed Hastings, head of Netflix and well-muscled charter supporter, famously outlined how bad elected school boards are for the business plan, and how they should be done away with. To the investors and businessmen, it is only common sense– you do not let the help dictate how your business will be run and you do not let the customers see anything you don’t want them to see. And those “customers” will damn well settle for the choices that you decide to give them, that you think they deserve, that make business sense for you.

There was a time when faux Democrats provided protective cover for this, and neo-liberals were fre market wolves in progressive sheeps’ clothing. But that camouflage coalition is starting to show signs of strain, and it becomes increasingly obvious that this is a variant strain of Republicanism. I find that hard to face– I come from a long line of Republicans, and there are strains of the classic version that I still resonate to. The less government, the better. Let people get together with their own neighbors to deal with their own stuff.

But this is one of the mysteries that we live with. How did the party of small government, local control, and no federal overreach– how did they become the party of disenfranchisement, the party of government intrusion that works to disempower city governments and disenfranchise citizens. How did the party of Lincoln become the party that aims those attempts to disempower and disenfranchise mostly at citizens who are not wealthy and not white. How did the Grand Old Party end up providing a haven for a bunch of money-hungry power-grabbing racist sumbitches?

At any rate, school choice week is a frighteningly perfect time to reflect on how the worst of the modern charter movement is just a small part of a bigger movement, a sea change in which huge chunks of our elected government no longer holds the democratic process as a valuable or important part of our national life. If you want to pitch charter schools to me, your warm-up needs to be an explanation of how that charter will be a reflection of and responsive to local control, and if you can’t do that, give me a good explanation of why democracy and local control are no longer an important part of our national character.

Kellyanne Conway on Trump’s voter fraud claims, Mexico and the media | PBS NewsHour

“We, the Trump administration, and the media have to co-parent this country, have joint custody of the country, for the next eight years probably.”

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the first week of the Trump administration, including moves to build a border wall, a visit canceled by Mexico’s president, a plan to cut “sanctuary city” funding, the president’s stance on the use of torture, debunked allegations of widespread voter fraud and the administration’s relationship to the press.

Source: Kellyanne Conway on Trump’s voter fraud claims, Mexico and the media | PBS NewsHour