House Republicans Pass Road Funding Package By Cutting School Funding
In early November, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would increase revenues from the “gas tax” by over $1 billion over the next three years. The Senate version of House Bill 5477 would convert the current 19-cent per gallon motor fuel tax into a wholesale tax that would start at 9.5% and rise to 15.5% by 2018. The Senate version of the bill would provide increased funding for both roads and public transit.
On December 4, the Michigan House responded with a proposal authored by Speaker Jase Bolger that would fund road construction by diverting over $1 billion from public education, local governments and public transit. HB 4539 will gradually repeal the sales tax on gasoline over the next 6 years, a majority of which goes to fund public education. By the time the sales tax on gasoline is fully phased out in 2020, the House Fiscal Agency estimates that $888 million will be shifted annually from the School Aid Fund to the Michigan Transportation Fund. This could mean a cut of over $400 per pupil each year.
It is uncertain whether the Michigan Senate and the Governor’s office will accept this House proposal, but early indications are that Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Governor Rick Snyder are not supportive. House and Senate Democrats have harshly criticized the House proposal, calling it a “stunt” and “hocus pocus.”
AFT Michigan members are encouraged to contact their State Representatives and Senators, urging them to oppose the House proposal that would rob schools to build roads.
Click here to contact your legislators.
MPSERS Bills Not Voted Out of Committee
The Senate K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on a package of bills aimed at shifting newly hired public school employees into a defined contribution system instead of a defined benefit system. SBs 722-728 would also eliminate future duty disability retirements and prohibit the purchase of service credits. The committee adjourned without voting on the package.
AFT Michigan urges its members to contact their State Senators and ask them to oppose this package of legislation.Click here to contact your legislators.
EAA Legislation Stuck in Senate – May Not Move in 2014
The MIRS Newsletter reported on December 5 that legislation to codify and expand the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) is likely to die in the Senate when the current session concludes in two weeks. AFT Michigan has opposed the EAA since its inception as an inter-local agreement between Eastern Michigan University and Detroit Public Schools that shifts schools into a state-run school district. The Eastern Michigan University took a vote to terminate the contract that allows the EAA to exist, but ultimately chose to continue its relationship with the failed experiment in education.
House Bill 4369 was introduced by Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons in 2013 with the goal of establishing the EAA in state statute and allowing it to expand to include any school building where the students scored in the lowest 5% on standardized tests for three consecutive years. It also codified that schools transferred into the EAA would have any collective bargaining agreements cancelled, and that its employees would no longer be members in the MPSERS retirement system.
Since the bill’s introduction, the EAA has lost much of its luster as several reports of mismanagement have surfaced. Most damningly, students in the EAA are performing worse on standardized tests than their counterparts who remained in the Detroit Public Schools. In some cases, students placed into an EAA school were shown to be regressing.
Senate Passes “Early Warning” School Financial Reporting Package
The Michigan House of Representatives will soon consider a package of bills (SB 951-955, SB 957 and SB 978) aimed at providing more timely school financial data to the state. While we do support an effective early warning system that allows school districts and the state to address financial problems quickly and efficiently, AFT Michigan is opposed to these bills, as they will be overly burdensome and have requirements that will require additional spending to meet.
The bills would also provide financial penalties to districts under a Deficit Elimination Plan or Enhanced Deficit Elimination Plan for failure to abide by the plan. The bills would grant the State Superintendent and State Treasurer the ability to require additional periodic reports from schools that they felt were in danger of sliding into deficit spending.
Incredibly worrisome is the provisions created by SB 953, which creates a backdoor allowing the state treasurer to declare a financial emergency and recommend the Governor appoint an emergency manager.
AFT Michigan is opposed to this legislation, and joined with several education groups in sending a letter to all members of the Michigan House urging them to reject this dangerous proposal.
Michigan House Passes “Religious Freedom” Bill, LGBT Inclusion in Michigan’s Civil Rights Act Unlikely This Year
Only hours after passed by the House Judiciary Committee, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 59-50 on party lines to pass HB 5958, introduced by Rep. Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), which exempts compliance with nondiscrimination laws on religious grounds. The so-called “Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act” which would weaken the standing of all protected classes and in essence allow for a religious shield to discriminate against others.
The bill was originally introduced with HB 5959, which would include sexual orientation as a protected class in Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The bill did not include gender identity and expression, unlike HB 5804, which AFT Michigan supported. AFT Michigan has long allied with the LGBTQ community and advocated for inclusive civil rights legislation. When the House Commerce Committee considered both bills last week, AFT Michigan submitted testimony in support of HB 5804 and opposing HB 5959.
Republican House Leaders have said any changes to Elliott-Larsen are highly unlikely this year. However, we are not giving up this fight. Please click here to send an email to your state representative and tell him or her it’s time for full LGBTQ inclusion in Michigan Civil Rights Act.
AFT Michigan President David Hecker and MEA President Steve Cook Send House Letter Against Reading Retention Bill
The presidents of AFT Michigan and the Michigan Education Association sent a joint letter to all members of the Michigan House of Representatives explaining our continued opposition to a bill which would require mandatory retention for students based on the results of a standardized test. The letter outlined the risks of this one-size-fits-all approach as well as the negative consequences of retention. Further, Hecker and Cook emphasized the need for quality reading intervention programs with full funding.
“We are ready to assist in creating a reading intervention program that is beneficial to our students,” Cook and Hecker wrote. “This program should be based in providing reading improvement plans for students and not retention. We ask you to oppose any grade-level reading legislation that has retention as part of the solution.”
Bill to Prohibit Local Wage Requirements Considered in House Committee
HB 5977, introduced by Rep. Earl Poleski (R-Jackson), would prohibit local and county governments from passing ordinances requiring minimum wages, prevailing wages, specific benefits, or leave provisions. The House Committee on Michigan Competitiveness took testimony on the bill last week but adjourned before taking a vote. The committee is scheduled to continue consideration of the bill Tuesday morning. AFT Michigan is adamantly opposed to this bill and submitted our opposition to the bill to committee members.