Dispatch from Michigan: Urgent. “All hell is breaking out here.”

“I hope that you can share with your readers the nastiness that is taking place in Michigan. People around the country need to be made aware of just what lengths these people will go to attack teachers.” – Dan Quinn

Hey Fred,

It is hard to believe that things in Michigan could get worse than they already were. I know that Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana have taken the brunt of the attack on workers rights, but Michigan might have jumped into the lead with our crazy, wacko, sicko legislature.

As you already know, Michigan has been under assault all year long. It began with the passage of the Emergency Financial Manager package, continued with the taxing of pensions for retirees, and culminated in the defunding of almost a billion dollars of education funding from K-12 schools; in exchange for $1.8 billion in corporate tax cuts. Tell me how any of these improves education or improves the unemployment situation in Michigan.

This summer we also saw the attacks intensify with a tenure “reform” package that eliminated due process and just cause for dismissals, eliminated seniority, added a list of prohibited subjects of bargaining, and imposed an evaluation system that will require 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on test scores. Tell me how any of those improves education or improves the unemployment situation in Michigan.

And last week, the Governor signed Senate Bill 7 which requires all education professionals and municipal employees to pay 20% of their health care, regardless of income or previous concessions to keep health care for members. Eventually, health care will cost some support professionals more than they take home in salary. Insane!

The attacks on public education intesified this week with yet another package of bills designed to erode democratically elected school boards, increase privatization, and destroy collective bargaining rights for workers.

The package of bills unleashed this week will do the following: allow for the privatization of all educators, removes the 150 charter school cap, allows community colleges to charter in Detroit, expands “cyber” schools and seat time requirements for students, creates and defines “conversion” charter schools (parents can petition for their school to be a charter school), expands the list of services that public schools can provide to parochial schools, and expands schools of choice.

In addititon there are bills that were introduced this week which prohibit districts from deduction of union dues, and that create a third tier of retirement where new hires will only be allowed to be part of a defined contribution plan (eliminating pensions from employees hired after July 2011).

Most of these bills have been discussed in some form over the past several years, but they’ve intensified the bills in recent weeks.

And on Thursday, it was reported that Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville plans to introduce something called “Right to Teach” which is a right to work law aimed just at teachers.

In short, Richardville has all but admitted that he’s going after MEA because of a series of recall efforts that have been gaining steam around the state.

MEA has been active in the recall effort behind House Education Chair Paul Scott. Scott’s recall petitions were successful and he faces a November recall election. In addition, educators have been active in the recall Rick Snyder campaign, and a petition drive to place the EFM on the ballot.

Scott would only be the third legislator in state history to be recalled. A recent poll from his home district found 60% in favor of removing the two-term house member. If Scott were to be recalled, it would send a strong signal to Republicans in moderate districts and weaken the strength that the GOP has had in passing legislation.

I believe that the most recent attacks are a direct consequence of the possible recall of Rep. Scott and the possibility that the pendulum may swing back in 2012.

They are afraid that their attacks may come back and haunt them, and to further weaken the base of the Democratic party, they are going to go after collective bargaining. Governor Rick Snyder and Richardville himself had been saying that Right to Work was off the table. Snyder declared in 2010 that he didn’t want to see his plans be derailed by a nasty fight with unions. In what looks like political payback for the recall efforts, Richardville singled out MEA and stated that they have “lost their way and public employees should no longer be forced to join them.”

Richardville singled out teachers beacuse he claimed that they haven’t recognized the states tough economic times like other unions have.

I’m at a complete loss for words, other than to say what is the matter with these people? I hope that you can share with your readers the nastiness that is taking place in Michigan. People around the country need to be made aware of just what lengths these people will go to attack teachers.

Tell me how any of these attacks improves education or improves the unemployment situation in Michigan?

-Dan Quinn

26 thoughts on “Dispatch from Michigan: Urgent. “All hell is breaking out here.”

  1. On Sept. 7th, I attended the presentation of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the so-called pension reform tax(2011 PA 38) signed by Gov. Snyder on May 25. Any retiree born AFTER Jan 1, 1946 will have their pensions taxed at the MI rate of 4.35%; those born before that date will not pay any tax on their pensions.
    The Michigan Supreme Court will give an Advisory Opinion on this and other issues regarding this law in 30-60 days.

    1. Why should retirement benefits be taxed at all. Social Security benefits, which teachers do not receive, are not taxed if they are the sole income of the retiree? What? There’s not enough millionaires who pay little if any taxes to make up the short fall?

      1. Retirement benefits should not be taxed, and until now, public pensions were exempt. That did not prevent the Michigan legislature & gov. from passing and signing this into law!

      2. Social Security IS taxed as it is disbursed. It’s taxed at near half in Colorado. My mother is a widow (my father was self employed and died 20 years ago), receives only HER social security, and it *IS* taxed. It puts her well below poverty level after the taxes are taken.

  2. Our retirement pensions are taxed here in PA, but there is also SS..This article is just mind boggling.,and I wonder what the public sentiment is there..Obama usualy doesn’t weigh in on state goings on, but after that “pro labor” speech he gave, it’d be nice to hear something- anything! So what’s the deal- you attempt to put Americans back to work then and tax them to death among other atrocities?

  3. You guys live in a dream world in education in Michigan. All of these things being done to save our education system in Michigan are necessary.

    The claim that a low paid support worker having to pay 20 percent of the cost only highlights the extreme high cost of teacher medical plans. A 20K dollar plan for a worker only making 30K. Benefits for these workers now exceed the compensation. This does not exist anywhere in the private sector.

    All of these so called attacks have taken place in private industry. Paying well over 20 percent of insurance, evaluations that impact pay individually, no tenure, frozen defined pension, and conversion to 401K, no medical benefits at retirement. You can see why a non union person like myself, would have little compassion for these claims.

    These reductions in costs will allow districts to hire more teachers, and reduce class sizes, so this would help unemployment in Michigan.

    1. You have drunk the Kool-Aid, sir. The private sector has been has been able to destroy much of the trade union movement and has driven down the salaries and benefits of private sector workers. Now a few workers in the private sector look at union folks in the public sector and say, “Why haven’t they screwed them too?” The question you should be asking is, “Why don’t we have it too?”

    2. Why didn’t you organize and fight for what you deserve? Drop your attitude of if I don’t have it I’m going to make sure you don’t either and join us to regain what you lost and what we are fighting to keep.the public sector employee is not your enemy but the greedy corporation CEO’s are. Just imagine what would happen if we fought for these RIGHTS together. Anyone who disagrees is most likely a paid troll and need not respond. Your words mean nothing. Know this we will fight until ALL workers have family supporting jobs. Yes that includes private workers who have the courage to join us.

    3. If you are so sure of your stance and opinion, why, then, did you write this as anonymous?

      I know support personnel that often get paychecks for less than $1 because they are paying for benefits for their families. Many of them have to do this because their spouses, who work in the private sector, have lost benefits. Yes, you are right. People in the private sector have also taken hits, but the question is, when is the madness going to stop? Why do you think it’s ok to attack teachers and school employees? Who do you think should go next? Retirees? Oh, that’s right, they are going after them. Fire, EMT’s and police? Oh wait, that’s been done. Government workers? Oh, yep, been there, done that.

      And since you so obviously don’t work in the education field, then you have no idea that “These reductions in costs will allow districts to hire more teachers, and reduce class sizes, so this would help unemployment in Michigan.” The opposite is true. The quality of education in Michigan will be sadly diminished and the only people who will suffer will be the children.

    4. When I worked in K12 in a tech support position half time, I had to pay for half of my healthcare. Yep, it swallowed up the majority of my wages. BUT the problem for me wasn’t that coverage was too good (too expensive). The problem was that as a single person with no dependents, my premiums were the same as someome with a spouse and five (or one, or seven) kids. They pooled the premiums and everyone paid the same whether you had coverage for one or ten. Crazy.

      The reason why benefits have been historically good is because they make up for the less-than-market-value wages. Later, as a full-timer at a university, I was making about a third less than the average in the private sector (and I hired in at the 40th percentile instead of entry level wages). I was also making just over half of what I had made a decade earlier in the private sector. At the time I hired in to the uni, I had over twenty years’ experience.

      Recently, my job was eliminated. I’ve returned to school, but dread my prospects on graduation.

    5. So, because you have crappy pay and benefits, you want everyone else to have them too? You should be fighting for their rights and your rights. Making these cuts doesn’t save education it only cripples it. Demand that money be distributed in a way that allows you to make a decent living AND get your kids a decent education. There is a certain portion of the population (about 10%) that has become extremely wealthy over the last 30 years and another portion (about 90%) that got poorer. Vent your anger in the right direction.

  4. Many Americans have been paying at least 1/2 of their health coverage for years!, not to mention no raises, not even cost of living increases in salaries. It has been a hard nut to swallow, but some Americans have done it for years. Don’t raise or decrease taxes leave them where they are. Ask your government to stop spending money until we get our country out of debt! What does a family do when their income is at a stand still or cut and cost keep rising? They cut back. It’s time we helped each other! Stop whining and bite the bullet. It would not take much time to payoff our debt if we started saying NO to every request for support and used our money at home and to pay our debt to countries who have helped us. When our bills are paid, then is the time to review our tax cuts and pay benefits. How can a country get back into fiscal shape by giving in to everyone’s demands?

    1. Don’t increase taxes? You mean the giant multi-national corporations who pay no taxes at all and the millionaires in the US who pay the lowest tax rate in the industrialized word, should continue to scam the system? Decent health care for all working folks could be paid for easily if we ended corporate welfare. You live in a country in which 400 people have more wealth than everyone else combined.

    2. Remember the ’90s when the economy was going great? Most classes of employees had anywhere from a 15% – 40% real income gain (source: bureau of labor statistics) between 1994 and 2001. Most Michigan school employees experienced a real wage loss during that time. So most employees were paying for medical out of increased income. School employees didn’t get to share in the good times, but are being forced to take cuts in the bad times. Last question: Did you complain about school employees not keeping up back then?

  5. Fred,
    For all we know, “anonymous” might be Mr. VanBeek of the Mackinac Center, or even Richardville, himself: definitely a tea-party flavored Kook Aid (intentional k) drinker, whoever Anonymous is.
    Despite the decimation that’s occurring in MI, we have seen too few of our own MEA and GPEA (the local in which Quinn is a member) members realize the significant impacts of the legislation on their careers but more importantly on the future of public education. Of those who do realize, too few are willing to do anything to stop it. Even Quinn here, has missed the salience of some of the legislation in his note above. We haven’t “lost” seniority with the legislation: it still exists, but it means little now. From our colleagues in the “real world,” seniority never existed, nor was it needed; raises and promotions are based on “merit.” And seat time accountability for students and parents has been virtually eliminated (double entendre intended) while accountability shifts to hold teachers’ careers hostage to students’ performance on pitifully-written, profit-making standardized tests as if they are like increased sales to be rewarded with bonuses. But while the sales increases may be attributed to the success of a marketing program (or not), changes in standardized test scores may or mostly likely will not be directly caused teachers’ work.

    Recently we held a PAC rally where our state legislators and school board candidates took time out of their busy schedules to mingle with our members about these issues. It was held in our district at a time when members could stop by after work, on their way out of town, at a time when teachers had no papers to grade and legislators were in their local areas. We served a free meal where members could enjoy a beautiful park with a pool and other amenities. Volunteers collected and we awarded valuable door prizes. It was embarrassing, though, how few of our members even bothered to stop by. Their excuses= “going Up North for the weekend,” or “had to get my room ready for school,” or even, “the weather was too hot!”
    Too many of our members delete Dan’s and my messages saying that they “don’t have time to read them.” Some teachers are so busy trying to keep their heads above water working in their classrooms, that they need advocates to do their political battles. They must realize soon, though, that we can’t win this battle without their enthusiastic participation. The stakes are much more important than their personal careers at stake in the current political arena. What’s at stake is Public Education.

    It’s telling that some of the most active players in opposition to the so-called reform movement, are retired teachers working alongside us in recall, retribution and referendum. They have the long view of public education and see the value of united activities.

    Our members need to become aware enough of the slogans and Koch Aid flavors (again-intentional) that they can speak with fluency about how our realities in public education don’t translate well from the business setting. Everyone realizes the stakes in our profession are of much greater significance because of the importance of educating our youth. Educators must realize that united in our efforts to maintain and create hopeful learning environments for all children, we will have the most success along this path.

    Ranae Beyerlein
    Grosse Pointe Education Association President
    Proud member of the MEA and NEA

    1. Fred, I cannot tell u how many times I’ve seen people say this on the Net- “I am your employer therefore…” “You people are living high off the hog at my expense,and the days of your fancy health plans are over, along with your free lunch.” I can say 2 things about that 1) the anti union folks have done one hell of an indocrination job and 2) there
      is a rabid jealousy over the benefits unions have fought for, coupled with the mistaken idea that public sector workers can’t be fired (your union protects all you bad apples.I also think a lot of this stems
      from the fear that if union policies and paractices are on the line
      then *I* must be next. YES, they should be striving for what we’ve worked for.

    1. wow you’re proud of bashing your fellow citizens thats crazy why can you not be secure in your beliefs to take on an honest debate with facts and figires instead of name calling

      1. It would be helpful of those who comment can be more specific about what or who they are responding to.

  6. here is a perfect example for you of what is REALLY GOING ON Mike.
    A union worker, a teapartyier (such as yourself, or we could substitute a private sector worker here as well), and a Corporate Bank Ceo are sitting around a table. In a box on the table are 12 donuts. The CEO scoops up 11 of the donuts puts them in his briefcase, then looks at the remaining donut and turns to the private sector worker saying “I think that union guy is going to steal your donut.”

    if you think that unions TAKE from you… if you think that families ONLY CUT SPENDING when times are tough and DO NOT look for ADDITIONAL income then NO ONE CAN HELP YOU! You are hopeless. Go to youtube watch the 45 minute video called “Money as debt” and then maybe…. just maybe… you eyes will begin to open to who is really to blame and what is the root of the problem.

  7. I think the issue here is that primary and secondary (k-12) education has been left out of the professionalism world. Teachers and education workers started off being classified as “second tier” and have sense left themselves there. Over years, teachers and edu. workers have said they are a true profession, yet when compared to other professions (Law, Medicine, Physician Assisting) K-12 education has never been able to match up. However, While its not fair to say that teachers aren’t good teachers because their students failed a test which doesn’t even measure true competence, every profession has bad professionals who fail at their job. Teachers should develop a system to determine this, not big politicians. While its not fair to take away someones higher voice, maybe teachers should take this bad and twist it into a good (professional associations). While its not fair that teachers have to take concessions while board leaders get bigger checks, teaching is not the only profession or trade, or career, or job to go through this annihilation. It happened, it happens, and it will never stop happening, but its how teachers who its happening to, its up to them how to address it

  8. I have skimmed the replies and articles because I don’t have a lot of time as I am spending all of my spare time fighting the very issues that this blog is addressing. I did not see any mention of ALEC in the article or on the replies. I’m in WI and we have been fighting this fascist agenda since February. Regardless of what party you are affiliated with if your concerned enough to be reading this blog or the comments you are a person who is at a minimum engaged and trying to figure it all out. alecexposed.org is one place to start. Earlier this year an insider dumped a great deal of information about this organization on to the internet. This information is hosted now under the ALEC Exposed website mentioned above. Here you will find 800 pieces of model legislation which is being rammed through in all republican controlled state legislatures. It is my understanding that Eric Cantor is proposing some of this legislation on a Federal Level as well. The school privatization, voter suppression, union busting, removal of child labor laws, anti-environmental laws are all examples of these pieces of legislation that have been written in Washington DC by corporations and are then handed to the legislators to take home and pass them off as their own. This is a national agenda not a state agenda and these people must be stopped or we will have no public schools, tolls on all of our roads and virtually nothing to protect us from the corporations. Some great resources to see what is going on in the world since everything on TV is corporate owned and run are;

    the nation
    common dreams
    Move to amend

    Get out, get active or get Screwed

    Solidarity from WI

    Important info if you want to see the US post office stay in business http://www.nalc.org

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