Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Use It or Lose It"

Amid all the discussions of state revenue shortfalls and cuts to school aid, what is not being discussed are the huge general fund surpluses that most local public school districts in Michigan maintain on an annual basis. Everyone is aware of the down turn in the economy and the loss of state revenues. The state is utilizing the Federal Stimulus money to maintain student foundation grants at the current level for 2009-2010 school year, but school officials around the state are forecasting a huge shortfall for the 2010-2011. As a result districts are demanding concessions at the bargaining table; they are privatizing support staff at an alarming rate, and are urging the legislature to adopt a state wide health insurance plan for all school employees.

What the legislature is not talking about is the growing amount of unused state tax dollars that local schools districts and ISD’s maintain in their general fund surplus balances. At the end of June 2008 K-12 public school districts and ISD’s reported $1.9 billion of unspent general fund tax dollars. The time has come for the legislature to pass “Use It or Lose It” legislation. School districts would be required to spend down their unrestricted general fund surpluses to a reasonable level in order to qualify for a full foundation allowance. This would translate into hundreds of dollars per pupil across the state and would offset any predicted short fall in state aid. Contact State Representative Darwin Booher and urge him to support “Use It or Lose It” legislation for Michigan’s public schools.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Show Your MEA Union Pride

There is an opportunity to join other Northern Zone MEA members in the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk on Monday, September 7, 2009. Members from the Northern Zone will be showing their MEA Union Pride by walking the Bridge together. Details will be announced in early August in MEA Voice Online, and the MEA Voice magazine, including where members will meet at the event and how to order a special T-shirt to wear in the activities. Those desiring hotel reservations in Mackinaw City over the Labor Day weekend are encouraged to make arrangements early.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Local Eateries Support "Knowledge Has Value"

Knowledge Has Value place mats are now in use in a number local restaurants in the area. The 15-B MEA Coordinating Council funded the purchase of place mats as part of the Northern Zone's plan to enhance the perception that school employees have a valuable impact on the students they work with and the community they live in.

Please support the following local restaurants:

Big Boy - Cadillac

Burkes Waterfront - Cadillac

Frosty Cup - Cadillac

Flashback Cafe - Marion

Frosty Freeze - Marion

Kelley's - McBain

Mr. Pib's - LeRoy

Lisa's Cafe - Tustin

Lugger's Bar - Luther

The Merry Inn - Manton

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Updates!

Public school employees are on the front line when it comes to identifying the spread of illnesses among children. This is clearly the fact in the most recent outbreak of the swine flu situation. The closing of schools in New York and Texas are the most recent examples. To help prepare MEA members with strategies and updates on how to limit a serious outbreak MESSA is reporting developments on their Website at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Important Retirement Information

Are you retiring this summer? If you are there is an important decision you will make about enrolling in the insurance plan. If you decide not to enroll you can enroll at a later date but there will be a waiting period. If you do decide to enroll later your coverage will begin on the first day of the sixth month after ORS receives all required forms and proofs of eligibility.

The waiting period can be waived if you or a dependent has an involuntary loss of other group coverage or a qualifying event such as a change in your family status.

So...plan carefully if you are thinking about delaying enrollment in the health insurance plan at retirement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Return to the 180 Day School Year?

The legislative subcommittee of the State Board Of Education recommended a proposal to return to a 180 school day requirement. (The House passed a 170 days and 1098 hours requirement in the School Aid budget – HB 4447.) The board approved this recommendation stating that the current legislation allowing flexibility (requiring only hours of instruction) in school scheduling has been abused by many districts. They want this requirement to be included in any school reform legislation.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Modest MPSERS Rate Increase for 2009-10

The contribution rate that employers pay to the Michigan Public School Retirement System (MPSERS) will have a very modest increase for the 2009-10 school year. Effective October 1, 2009 employers will pay 16.94% on employees' wages into MPSERS. This is a .4% increase from the 2008-09 rate and is way below the projection of many Superintendents and school Business Officials.

Based on a 2004 study by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan that projected the 2008 contribution rate would surpass 20% of payroll Superintendents have been projecting that retirement costs will have a negative impact on future budgets. The modest increase for 2009-10 disproves that myth.

Mr. Scott Crosby, Superintendent of Wexford-Missaukeee ISD, stated in the Cadillac News he supports legislation that would require school employees share equally any increase in the retirement rate. In other words many employees could realize a pay decrease!

Please voice your view on Mr. Crosby's proposals by leaving a comment on this Blog.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Retirement Stimulus Legislation Pulled

Wednesday afternoon, it became clear that the School Employee Retirement Stimulus proposal was not going to make it through the legislative process. In order to allow school employees to move ahead with their retirement plans and districts to make critical staffing decisions, the legislation is being pulled from consideration. MEA put out a press release thanking supporters of the proposal for their efforts to save school jobs and implement a creative solution to our budget crisis.
"I'm disappointed that some of our legislators and school officials could not see the broader benefits for Michigan's future that this legislation would have brought," said MEA President Iris K. Salters in the release. "We are especially grateful that the bipartisan supporters of this legislation pushed through the obstacles their leadership created and put Michigan students before politics."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Federal Stimulus Money for Local Schools

Public school districts will be receiving Federal Stimulus Money in the near future. The major share of these funds will be categorized as “Stabilization Funding.” According to the Senate Fiscal Agency the stabilization funding is specifically meant to prevent layoffs. School districts are obligated to spend the money on services, contracts, or other transactions. This money is not meant to be placed in a school district’s general fund balance or “rainy day fund.”

The Senate Fiscal Agency estimates school districts in the 15-B Coordinating Council shall receive the following amount of “Stabilization Funding.”:

Cadillac $2,212,521 Per Pupil $492

Manton $752,547 Per Pupil $511

Mesick $945,921 Per Pupil $828

Evart $1,284,326 Per Pupil $814

Marion $1,026,494 Per Pupil $1,179

Pine River $1,255,319 Per Pupil $709

McBain $860,515 Per Pupil $572

Forest Area $839,566 Per Pupil $760

Wexford/Missaukee ISD will receive $2,344,934 in Special Education Funding.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lansing Mayor Values Workers

Check out the great video, (top video on the right of this page), with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero taking on FOX News regarding the value of Michigan workers.

Poverty and Student Success

A study by Dr. David Berliner, released today by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, provides powerful evidence for a fact that school employees have known all along—if you don’t solve the problems outside the classroom, you cannot expect all students to be able to achieve inside the classroom. The Michigan Education Association and the 15-B Coordinating Council applaud Dr. Berliner in his call for leaders to address children’s physical and mental health as well as safety and not hold public schools accountable for factors beyond their control.

Here in Northern Michigan, where many families are now faced with a severe economic crisis, more and more students are losing their homes to foreclosure and job loss, which often also results in loss of medical care, lack of nutritious food, and enormous emotional stress. To expect these children to be able to fully concentrate and succeed in school is absurd.

Solving the problems of poverty and homelessness will take involvement from the entire community. We must address these out of school factors if we are to close the achievement gap and significantly impact student learning. We urge every Michigander to join us and work toward making sure our students have the safety and security they need to achieve their full potential and be prepared for the jobs Michigan needs.

Berliner study available at

Monday, March 9, 2009

Even More Federal Money!

In addition to the special education, Title I, competitive grants, and stabilization general fund money, the Federal Stimulus plan includes grants for local units of government, including schools, for "shovel ready" projects. This web site shows a list of requests from school districts and other local units of government. These projects have not yet been approved. If your district receives any of this money, it will reduce the amount of general fund revenue your district would otherwise have spent on capital projects.

If your district has not applied for this money, you might ask them to.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Federal Stimulus Money. How Much For Your District?

The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency has estimated the amount of total Federal funds for each school district in Michigan. The totals for districts in our area are as follows:

Lake City $1,195,696

McBain $860,515

Evart $1,284,326

Marion $1,026,494

Pine River $1,255,319

WM ISD $2,344,934

Cadillac $2,212,521

Manton $752,547

Mesick $945,291

Forest Area $839,566

The answer to the most ask question is; Yes you can use a large share of this money for general operations, including salaries.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New School Accreditation System Proposed

A major redesign of the state’s accreditation program for public schools is under way – and your immediate input is needed on the proposal.
The proposed Michigan School Accreditation System (MI-SAS) would replace Education YES!, an accreditation system used since 2002. The MI-SAS is expected to be used in the 2009-10 school year.

Public input is need by March 6, 2009

Please read information at and let the Michigan Department of Education know what you think about the proposal. The deadline for public input is March 6.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Can Federal Stimulus Dollars Be Used for General Operations?

Here is proof that the Federal stimulus money can be used for general operations. The document below is from the National School Boards Association. The bold excerpt says,

"School districts receiving stabilization funds may use the funds for general support, as well as for any activities authorized under ESEA, IDEA, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, and for school modernization, renovation, and repair of public school facilities (including charter schools), which may include modernization, renovation, and repairs consistent with a recognized green building rating system. "
Administrators who say that the stabilization money can't be used for compensation can be directed to the NSBA site.

Here is a link. This document is called "AARA Preliminary Information for School Districts" and you can find it under "Resources."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watch for “Knowledge Has Value” at your local restaurants.

The 15B Coordinating Council has approved funding for “Knowledge Has Value” placemats to be offered to area restaurants. Each placemat has the “Knowledge Has Value” logo along with facts supporting strong local public schools have value for the local community. Recognition of 15B MEA public school employees is also included on the placemat. Each local Association will be counting on volunteers to approach local restaurants in their communities asking them to use the placemat on their tables. There will no cost to restaurants. If you are familiar with a restaurant and you are willing to make a contact please let your local Association President know.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

OPIE Reminder

This years banquet will be held on Thursday, April 16, 2009. We are now accepting reservations. These forms are available on line at or through you local association. Reservations are limited, so get yours in early.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Stimulus Plan In Perspective

GA sent out some documents regarding the federal stimulus plan (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) that just passed.

To give you some perspective on the amount of money in the plan:

* School Aid Fund revenue (without the federal stimulus) is projected to be $11.4 billion in 2008-09.

* The projected deficit in the School Aid Fund for 2009-10 is $164 million.

* The Governor's K-12 budget for next year cuts $164 million in K-12 spending, mostly through a $59 reduction in the foundation allowance.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 would provide $1.6 billion over the next two years for education related "State Fiscal Stabilization." The goal of the Congressional plan is to prevent large reductions in state spending for education.

States will have some discretion in spending this money on education, but there is certainly enough money in the plan to more than offset the projected $164 million shortfall in the School Aid Fund.

We may have to make sure that the Michigan Legislature does the right thing with the money and does not funnel other money from the School Aid Fund to other departments.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stimulus Package

Federal Stimulus Package
Conferees have reached agreement on a final economic recovery package but final details have not yet been released. Reports indicate that the $789 billion package includes significant investments in education – a direct result of your intensive advocacy over the past few weeks.
Initial details of the package have been provided by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office although no official bill language has been released. According to the Speaker’s summary, key elements of the package include:
$53.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, including $40.6 billion to local school districts using existing funding formulas, which can be used for preventing cutbacks, preventing layoffs, school modernization, or other purposes;
$13 billion for Title I grants;
$12.2 billion for IDEA (Special Education);
Increase in maximum Pell Grant by $500, for maximum of $5,300 in 2009 and $5,500 in 2010;
New bond-financing program for school construction, rehabilitation, and repair - reportedly close to $20 billion;
One-time payment for retirees: $250.