Teachers want to help save jobs

WYOMING, Mich. - Some members of the Wyoming Education Association are calling on their fellow union members to agree to a plan under which Wyoming Public Schools could save jobs through employee payroll donations, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Union leaders, however, have said that the district should spend some of its $5.1 million in fund equity to avoid layoffs instead, while the union membership as a whole has voted not to consider any contract concessions, according to The Press. The district board of education voted recently to eliminate 57 positions as a way to reduce spending by $2.4 million.

"I urge my colleagues to have an open-minded discussion to do our part in this budget crisis," Theresa Almonte, a classroom teacher, said during the board meeting, The Press reported. "The bottom line is, a mid-year cut affects our students."

A petition signed by about 50 staff members suggests a plan in which a pre-tax donation would be taken from each employee's paycheck for the rest of the year and used to preserve jobs, The Press reported.

Almonte's job is not at risk, according to The Press. She also said, "I really think that it has to do with (Kent County Education Association) and (Michigan Education Association) representation. It's a bigger issue than just the union leadership here."

Gezelle Oliver, an MEA employee assigned to the Wyoming unions, said at the meeting that, "This is a State of Michigan problem. We need fundamental changes in the way we fund education."

"A lot of people want to stay status quo and, unfortunately, we don't have General Motors up the road" anymore, said Jen Field, a pink-slipped fifth-year special education teacher at Wyoming Park High School who signed the petition, The Press reported.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Wyoming school board votes to cut 57 jobs, but some staff want to offer concessions to keep positions," Nov. 23, 2009

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Let the Union Buyer Beware," Jan. 7, 2008