Contents of this issue:
- MEA letter generates strike talk
- Analyst: Bargaining may affect benefits more than wages
- Emergency manager bill draws protestors
- Harper Creek names itself insurance policyholder
- Bill would move school board elections to November
MEA Letter Generates Strike Talk
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Education Association says it
is not necessarily calling for a teacher strike in Michigan, but a state
legislator says that’s exactly what the union meant in a statewide letter to
local unit presidents, according to media reports. Teacher strikes are illegal
The letter from Iris Salters, MEA president, directs locals
to vote on authorizing the MEA to “engage in significant activities ? up to and
including a work stoppage," according to reports in Michigan Capitol
Confidential and The Grand Rapids Press.
The union opposes the state’s revised emergency financial
manager law as well as Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed cuts in school funding, The
Michigan Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac
Center for Public Policy, which also publishes Michigan Education Digest.
House Speaker Jase Bolger criticized Salters in a press
release, saying the union was putting its interests ahead of school children
and also endangering teachers’ jobs by asking them to participate in an illegal
activity, according to The Press.
The letter advises employees that they could be fired for
striking, but also that, "It is simply not possible to replace all or most
school employees in the state ..." The Press reported.
The letter also said, "There may be some inconvenience
for your students.”
The Grand Rapids Press, “Michigan
Education Association leaders criticized for asking members to consider strike
over ‘attack on people of Michigan,’” March 17, 2011
Michigan Capitol Confidential, “Illegal
Teacher Strike Rumored After Union’s ‘Job Action’ Letter,” March 17, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Make Unions Accountable for Illegal Strikes,”
Dec. 22, 2008
Analyst: Bargaining May Affect Benefits More than Wages
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Collective bargaining does not make a
big difference in teacher wages, but may influence benefit levels, according to
a report at the Education Next website.
Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute used
data from the National Council on Teacher Quality to compare teacher wages and
benefits in states where collective bargaining is illegal to those in other
states, he wrote in a blog post.
The database consists of 100 of the largest districts in
all 50 states, the report said. Detroit is the only Michigan district included.
Petrilli used the maximum salary a teacher with a
bachelor’s degree could earn as the baseline for the comparison, he reported,
and found that teachers in non-collective bargaining districts earn $64,500 on
average, versus $57,500 for those in unionized settings.
Comparing benefits, Petrilli reported that he found that
one-third of districts without collective bargaining offer free health
insurance to employees, compared to one-half of those with collective
Petrilli said that a deeper analysis would include more
districts and take into consideration cost of living, but wrote, "Still,
this is one indication that teachers, when stripped of their right to bargain
collectively, rarely get sent to the poorhouse.”
Education Next, “Losing
Their Bargaining Rights won’t send Teachers to the Poorhouse,” March 17,
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Benefits in Balance”
Emergency Manager Bill Draws Protestors
LANSING, Mich. — The point of Michigan’s revised emergency
financial manager law is to keep school districts and cities out of bankruptcy,
and to move quickly when they’re on the verge, state officials said last week.
But the changes served to rally protestors who called it union busting, the
Detroit Free Press reported.
Gov. Rick Snyder said the revisions give the state
authority to intervene before cities or school districts collapse and before
managers are appointed, the Free Press reported.
The Flint Firefighters Union offered new concessions as a
hedge against the prospect of an emergency manager there, a union official told
the Wall Street Journal.
At least 10 cities and districts currently may warrant a
state review, State Treasurer Andy Dillon said, according to the report.
Critics disagreed with the new powers granted to emergency
managers, including the authority to cancel union contracts, the Free Press
reported. About 5,000 people rallied at the Capitol, both to oppose the bill
and to use the debate to build momentum for 2012 elections, according to the
A list posted at the Michigan Department of Education
website indicates there were 43 public school districts in deficit as of June
30, 2010, and nine were expected to still be in a deficit position as of June
The Flint Firefighters Union has offered new concessions to
help ward off the prospect of an emergency manager there, a union official told
the Wall Street Journal.
Detroit Free Press, “5,000
rally at Michigan Capitol,” March 17, 2011
Michigan Department of Education, “Michigan
Public Schools with Deficits”
Wall Street Journal, "Michigan
boosts power to intervene in cities," March 18, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Mackinac Center
Recommendations Found In New Financial Emergency Legislation,” March 17,
Harper Creek Names Itself Insurance Policyholder
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Harper Creek Community Schools is now
the policyholder of the district’s health insurance plan for teachers, a move
that won’t change benefits but that a union representative called a power grab,
according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Previously, the Michigan Education Special Services
Association was the policyholder of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan plan
that Harper Creek provides to teachers, the Enquirer reported. MESSA is
affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.
Becoming its own policyholder means the district can
negotiate directly with Blue Cross Blue Shield on pricing, attorney Ray Davis,
told the Enquirer.
He said MESSA likely will not agree to continue to
administer benefits, the Enquirer reported. Davis is with the Thrun Law Firm
and is handling the district’s negotiations with the Harper Creek Education
Davis told the Enquirer that the switch does not allow the
district to change teachers’ health coverage or the cost to teachers; those
issues must be settled through negotiations.
Tara Wilbur, the MEA representative for Harper Creek
teachers, declined to comment to the Enquirer in a phone interview, but said in
an e-mail, "It's a matter of power and the board wants full control and
are willing to deny our rights to get it."
Battle Creek Enquirer, “Harper
Creek schools take over teachers' health insurance,” March 17, 2011
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michigan School
Agreement between the Harper Creek Board of Education and the Harper Creek
Education Association, MEA-NEA”
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “It’s up to
school boards to save insurance dollars,” Nov. 14, 2007
Bill Would Move School Board Elections to November
LANSING, Mich. — School districts would have to conduct all
school board elections in November starting in 2012 if the state Legislature
approves a bill now under consideration, according to the Michigan Information
& Research Service. Currently districts may conduct elections in November
Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, introduced House Bill 4006. He
said it would save money and increase voter turnout to add school board
elections to the general election ballot and split the cost among all
participants, MIRS reported. The districts could still conduct millage and bond
elections in May.
The House Fiscal Agency estimated the cost of school board
elections in November to be $5,000 to $10,000, while running a stand-alone
election costs $25,000 to $50,000, according to MIRS.
County clerks are split on the issue, MIRS reported. Kent
County’s Mary Hollinrake said she was concerned about the November ballot becoming
too long, while Macomb County’s Carmella Sabaugh said the bills would mean a
$400,000 annual savings in Macomb County as well as higher voter turnout on
school funding issues.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc., “Which month costs
more for school elections?” (Subscription required)
House Bill 4006 (Require school elections be in November to revise details
in the state election law to conform with the election consolidation provisions
proposed by House Bill 4005)”
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
Report (https://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the
Mackinac Center for Public Policy (https://www.mackinac.org),
a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.