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michigan education association

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Michigan Republican legislators introduced legislation this week that they say will reform education in Michigan. The legislators call the seven bills they introduced the "Parent Empowerment Education Reform" package.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Eartha Jane Melzer of the Michigan Messenger summed up the effort this way: 

The seven bill package would remove limits on the number of charter and cyber schools, allow parents and teachers to force schools to convert into charters, and let districts hire teachers through private companies.

It also imposes new requirements on schools, specifying that students be allowed to simultaneously enroll in high school and college courses beginning in the 9th grade, that schools accept students from out of district, and that services be provided for homeschoolers and private school students.

In a statement on his website, State Senator Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), and the chair of the Senate Education Committee said he and his colleagues are following through on Governor Snyder's request to "expand the schools of choice program, empower parents and ensure that every student has access to a quality education."

From Pavlov's statement:

"Every parent in the state wants the very best for their children," said Pavlov.  "Unfortunately, when it comes to educating our kids, adult issues too often get in the way.  The Parent Empowerment Education Reform package is about freeing parents to pursue the opportunities that work best for their children and giving schools the freedom they need to innovate and excel."

The Michigan Education Association published a statement calling the reforms an "attack on public education" and an attempt to privatize the system:

Many of the concepts introduced in these bills were first mentioned by Gov. Snyder in his education message this spring. But it's apparent that the attacks on public education continue. None of these bills are meant to improve education. This is more of the same push to destroy public education: schools run by private entities, back-door vouchers, policies based on rhetoric rather than research, and more state mandates -- despite the Republican cut of $1 billion from public schools earlier this year.

(flickr stevendepolo)

Time is running out for the organizers of a recall petition against Governor Snyder to collect the signatures they need to put the issue on the November ballot. 

The Recall Snyder petition drive has until this Friday to collect more than 800 thousand signatures, so the voters can decide in November if they want to kick the governor out of office.    Those same voters elected Snyder less than a year ago. 

screen grab from YouTube video

The state’s largest teachers union says it will put its organizational muscle and money behind efforts to recall some Republican lawmakers.

The Michigan Education Association’s main complaints are cuts to school funding and new tenure rules.

Tenure rules adopted last week by the Legislature will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers.

Members of the MEA say they’re also angry at efforts to force them to pay more for their benefits. Doug Pratt, MEA spokesman, says the union has tried to work with some lawmakers on spending and education reforms:

"Our members across the state as well as the middle class at large have been under attack for six months now," said Pratt. "And we’ve done what we think we can do through the legislative process to reasonably work with people to come up with solutions that move the state forward. That’s not happening."

The MEA has 157,000 members and a large political action fund.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, one of the targets of a recall campaign:

"It’s not a surprise to hear the MEA is going public with its war on those who are fighting for change in Lansing," said Adler. "We have known for some time now that they’ve been working behind the scenes on recalls and it seems as though they wanted to go public before someone outed them."

MEA spokesman Pratt says some individual union members were involved early in recall campaigns. Pratt says the MEA has made a strategic decision to not name the lawmakers who will be union recall targets.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Senate may soon consider bills to make it easier to fire veteran teachers.   The state House has already passed the bills.  

The state House Education committee has approved a bill that would decertify a teachers’ union if the teachers vote to go on strike.  Individual teachers could also be fined or fired under the legislation.  It’s illegal for teachers to strike in Michigan. 

Doug Pratt is with the Michigan Education Association.    He says state lawmakers want to silence teachers.

Public school teachers protesting in Lansing on February 26th, 2011.
mea.org

Governor Rick Snyder says he hopes teachers won’t authorize their union to call a statewide strike in response to his budget plans.

The Michigan Education Association is in the process of collecting answers to a member inquiry.

The MEA is querying its 155,000 members and 1,100 local bargaining units.

Union members are mad over Michigan’s new emergency manager law that could threaten collective bargaining agreements in financially troubled school districts. And many of them oppose Governor Snyder’s proposed big cuts to K-through-12 education and requiring teachers to pay more for their pensions and health coverage.

The governor says he’s confident the controversies will not spill over to classrooms.

"We have fabulous teachers in our state and I have confidence that the teachers in our state understand, and really appreciate – because they’re doing it for a living – that the most important thing in front of them is the students they’re teaching, and I don’t think they’ll look at using their students as a pawn in a broader game," said Snyder.

It is illegal for teachers and other public employees to strike in Michigan, but the MEA says cuts in school funding and rollbacks in collecting bargaining rights may demand drastic actions.

They've asked its bargaining units to authorize job actions that could include picketing or walkouts.

They expect to have all responses in hand by mid-April.

dianeravitch.com

Diane Ravitch, education historian and author of the book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, spoke at the Novi Sheraton Hotel today at an education symposium about the current state of education and education reform in the country.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Michigan Education Association.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Ravitch had a welcome audience, getting a standing ovation before and after she spoke at the conference...She said national policy makers say they want to reform education. But, what they’re really doing “is tearing education apart and demonizing teachers.”

She alluded to Detroit as she talked about districts that are eliminating programs, laying off thousands of teachers, getting rid of art education and increasing class sizes, saying it’s kids in Detroit "who need much smaller classes."

Ravitch said poverty plays a big role in the success or failure of students in a school system.

The Grand Rapid Press had more on Ravitch's talk in which she said the United States is in an age of "national stupidity" in terms of how it views education.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

Ravich, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who had a role in developing No Child Left Behind and the charter school movement, renounced both reforms, saying they've given way to a culture of incentives and punishments through testing that does little to help students...Ravitch said the country can't improve schools by constantly cutting budgets and using standardized tests to paint teachers as ineffective in an attempt to “de-professionalize” the work.

She said that current reforms that rely on test scores are a mistake:

“I take standardized test scores with a grain of salt – make that a ton of salt,” she said. “We've watched a gaming of the system and an increase in cheating because the stakes are so high.”

USA Today and the Detroit Free Press had stories over the weekend on this very subject. Their investigation showed anomalies in standardized test score results - anomalies that suggest cheating may have taken place.

Here is a clip of Ravitch talking about education reform and her book on the Daily Show:

The Daily Show - Diane Ravitch

Governor Rick Snyder met with the state’s largest teachers union today to talk about funding and standards for the state's public school system.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, reports the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools.

Weber reports that Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure, but says now is not the time to expand the sales tax.

Even so, Iris Salters, the director of the MEA teachers union, said she's glad the new Governor was willing to meet with them:

"We’re encouraged by the governor’s willingness to garner a lot of input from people who not only work within the education system, but those who are consumers of the education system. And that’s got to be good."

Another reform being considered by the Michigan legislature is to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state, something the MEA opposes. Doug Pratt, with the MEA, told MPRN's Laura Weber that he is concerned about the push to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state:

"It is a false premise that has proven not to work in other places, it is wrong for this state. And we are heartened by the governor’s comments as well as comments from others in the business community that now is not the time to take such an action."

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