March 29, 2020
Voter Suppression Legislation Introduced in Lansing
Last week Republicans in the Michigan State Legislature introduced 39 bills to, in their words, “improve the overall voting process” across our state. This is part of a national effort by Republicans, who have introduced over 250 bills in 43 states targeting absentee voting, early voting and stricter ID laws. These bills are motivated by the claims of fraud in the 2020 election of Joe Biden. The package of bills from Michigan Republicans would prohibit the Secretary of State from mass mailing absentee ballots, eliminate the right to submit an affidavit that you are a legitimate voter if you do not have a photo ID, impose new security requirements for absentee ballot drop boxes (although security of these boxes was not an issue), training requirements for poll challengers, and other measures that would disproportionately impact Black and Brown voters. The Governor has stated she is prepared to veto all legislation that hinders voting. Find more about the election bills package here.
The Higher Education Act: What’s In It, What Isn’t, and Where Should We Go From Here?
Nationwide change in higher education funding will require Congress to amend the Higher Education Act (HEA), the major authorizing legislation impacting our work. But most higher education workers have, understandably, never taken a look at the 800+ pages of legislative text that is the HEA.
AFT is hosting a webinar on April 8, 2021, at 3 p.m., to cover what is in the HEA with some commentary on how these policies came about.. You will gain a clear idea of which policies, whether you love them or hate them, are set by the federal government. This understanding will make it easier to evaluate policy ideas from other groups, and of course to develop our own groundbreaking policy ideas under the New Deal for Higher Education banner. Please join the webinar on April 8 at 3pm ET by registering here: https://aft.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJElceGqpz8iG9Jk84neenJX5kuRyBZVJ9Mm
UM Regent Weiser Makes Inappropriate Comments about (Democratic and Republican) Elected Officials
As you have probably read, University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser made some horrific comments calling our Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State “witches,” and suggesting “assassination” as a way to deal with Republican Congressmen Meijer and Upton because they voted for Trump’s impeachment. This language has no place in anyone’s dialogue, particularly that of a state-wide elected official. Weiser has apologized for his choice of words, but why would he say them in the first place? We will be working with our UM locals–the Lecturers’ Employees Organization, Graduate Employees Organization and the Union of Physician Assistants at Michigan Medicine–to determine how best to proceed.
Crawford AuSable Locals Secure Raises
Crawford Teachers, Support Staff, Secretaries, Custodians and Bus Drivers recently ratified two year contracts with a 3% salary increase the first year and a 1% increase the second year. The support staff locals were also able to restructure the pay scale for hourly staff by converting in-lieu stipends into salary to increase the permanent hourly rate by $1.50/hr. All locals also had a salary opener for the second half of this year which they negotiated a 1% increase to take effect immediately. Congratulations all.
Michigan Receives Federal Waiver to School Accountability Requirements
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has waived the federal requirements for school accountability in Michigan for the 2020-21 school year due to the disruption of instruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the federal waiver approval letter sent to State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice on Friday evening, USED said that it is still considering the state’s request to waive the federal requirement to administer statewide summative assessments to public school students and will be responding separately on that issue.
The Michigan legislature passed and the governor signed into law last summer the requirement that local districts administer locally chosen, national benchmark assessments to provide parents and educators with the knowledge of where children are academically and to help target resources and supports as a result.
Based on Michigan’s waiver request, USED has waived the following federal accountability and school identification requirements:
- that the state measure progress toward long-term goals and measurements of interim progress;
- that the state meaningfully differentiate, on an annual basis, all public schools;
- that the state assess with a participation rate of at least 95 percent; and
- that the state identify schools for comprehensive, targeted, and additional targeted support and improvement based on data from the 2020-2021 school year.
In its letter, USED also encouraged the state and local school districts to consider other steps to further reduce the high stakes associated with assessments this year, such as excluding their use from students’ final grades, grade promotion decisions, educator evaluations, and local school ratings.
MAY 1: AFT Michigan Education Policy Conference
AFT Michigan’s Education Policy Conference will take place on May 1st from 8:30 AM-12:30 PM. This conference will include a state budget overview, with breakouts focusing on universities, community colleges, and PreK-12 schools. Second, a panel discussion about racial justice in our education system, focusing on the problem with punitive practices and solutions moving forward, will allow members to be more prepared to engage in discussion around education and racial justice policy topics. Finally, we’ll break out into constituency committees to discuss how we can get proactive about safely navigating COVID-19 and improving public education in Michigan over the year ahead. We hope you’ll join us to learn more and get involved in the key issues we address as a union.
David Hecker, President