Around the BEA
BEA Bargaining Update
On March 20th, the BEA officially begins bargaining for a successor agreement to our current contract, which expires on June 30, 2018. Your bargaining team consists of Amy Denys (Greenfield), Dominick Peronne (Derby), Maureen Martin (Quarton), Ed Caughell (Seaholm), Scott Warrow (Groves) and Grat Dalton (MEA Executive Director). Since we are using a new process called Interest Based Bargaining, neither side will have a lawyer present at the table. Instead each side has selected a neutral facilitator to guide us through the process.
Over 300 members responded to the Bargaining Survey, which is being shared with the BEA Executive Board on Wednesday, March 7th. Throughout March and April, Scott and Grat will visit every building in the district to discuss the process and share general consensuses regarding the survey. Please consult your BEA Rep. as to when we will be at your school.
Bargaining is scheduled for the following seven dates: 3/20, 4/13, 4/24, 5/14-15, and 5/30-31. After each bargaining session, we will be sending a joint message to all stakeholders updating you on the process.
Our Actions to Stop Gun Violence in Schools
- Last week, the BEA sent two members–Jason Tar (Pierce) and Amy Voigt (Groves)– to Lansing as part of a Moms Demand Action event to lobby our state representatives for better gun control measures to prevent school violence. Both Amy and Jason reported to me that they had great meetings with our local Republican and Democratic representatives.
- On March 14th a National School Walk Out will take place to pay tribute to the 17 students and staff killed at the shooting in Parkland, Florida. The national organizers are asking for school communities to walk out for 17 minutes (the number killed in the recent Florida shooting) on the one-month anniversary of the shooting. The BEA and the district are aware that students at several buildings are planning events. We have had ongoing discussions with BPS administration and are waiting for BPS to provide clear guidelines for staff regarding this day of action. Please be mindful that no staff action or support for events during the work day should occur without specific direction from BPS administration. Please see the NEA document with specific legal advice for staff regarding this day. The BEA is encouraging members nationwide to wear orange on this day in tribute to the victims of gun violence.
- On March 24th, students who survived the Florida shooting have planned marches across the country. More information can be found at www.marchforourlives.com. The MEA will be sending busses to Washington DC, like with the Women’s March last year. Join us in the movement to protect kids, not guns! Sign up now to reserve your seats!
- The NEA is partnering with the American Federation of Teachers, the National for Public Education Network, Mom's Demand Action, and other national organizations to take-action against gun violence on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine (CO) tragedy. The goal will be to use legal and school-appropriate means to support laws and regulations designed to stop gun violence. Please sign up here to show your support for this effort.
- You can make a donation to support the victims and the families of those who lost loved ones in Parkland. A gift of any size is helpful. We can't take away their pain, but we can help ease the cost of burying the ones we've lost and help those grieving to receive the support they need to heal.
- Read MEA President Paula Herbart's thoughts on gun violence, particularly in schools, by reading her "Labor Voices" column in today's Detroit News.
- Resources and Toolkits. The following resources are available from NEA, MEA and others to help with this issue:
- Florida Education Association’s ways to support the Stoneman Douglas High School community—https://feaweb.org/
- Michigan’s OK 2 Say Program—www.michigan.gov/ok2say/
- NEA’s How to Talk to Students—School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events—www.nea.org/home/72279.htm
- NEA’s Bullyfree It Starts with Me—www.nea.org/home/63946.htm
- NEA’s Healthy Futures School Crisis\Guide—http://healthyfutures.nea.org/wpcproduct/school-crisis-guide/
- ACLU’s Guide to Knowing Your Free Speech Rights: https://www.aclu.org/issues/free-speech/student-speech-and-privacy/students-rights-speech-walkouts-and-other-protests
The Other 3%
Many of you may have recently received a letter from the district entitled “Refund of FICA Taxes Withheld on 3% Healthcare Contributions.” This is different from the 3% that many of you have received already due to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling PA 75 an “illegal taking” of monies from public educators from 2010-2012.
In 2013, the State passed PA 300, which permitted public educators to elect to put 3% of their pay toward their future retirement health care. The Court determined this to be a legal action because public educators were permitted to choose whether to participate or not. For those who elected to have the 3% deducted over the last 5 years (2013-2018), the district decided to apply FICA (social security and Medicare) taxes to this 3%.
In October of 2016, Plante Moran, the district independent auditor, recommended that the district stop applying FICA taxes to this 3% based on an IRS memo saying so. The district did not. In December 2016, the BEA uncovered a copy of the Plante Moral audit recommendation and met with the district to insist on stopping this deduction. Since that time, the BEA has been urging the district Finance and HR Office to heed the IRS memo and the audit recommendation. Eventually, the district agreed to seek legal counsel on this matter, but with the PA 75 3% victory announced several months ago, delayed that process until this past week when HR and Finance notified the BEA of their intent to request reimbursement from the IRS for the PA 300 FICA tax withholdings.
Long legal story made simpler, essentially, if you paid this tax, you will be getting your money back. The district estimates anywhere from $100-$160 per year that the tax was paid.
Regarding the district’s requirement of the “Opt out/Opt in form,” the BEA is seeking legal advice from MEA as to the purpose of requiring this document. The district is asking staff to sign this form so that teachers don’t also file a deduction claim on their taxes with the IRS for 2018.
Financial Support to Attend Conference
On the Legislative Front
What’s up with the Mackinac Center FOIA Request?
Yes, our friends at the far right Mackinac Center for Public Policy "think tank" are at it again. This time they submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with the Michigan Office of Retirement Services (ORS) seeking the "Names, employers, and total gross salaries and/or total compensation/pensionable salaries of all MPSERS employees in Michigan for the 2016/17 year."
MEA Executive Director Mike Shoudy issued this statement to local leaders:
"The data requested is public information and falls under the auspices of Michigan’s FOIA law, so ORS is complying with the requests. We are confident that the state will properly comply with the requests and provide only the requested information. Absent the release of more sensitive information (like social security numbers, birth dates and health information), legal action to block or challenge the release of the information is not viable."
If you're not familiar with the Mackinac Center you can learn a whole lot more about them at this site.
Inside the MEA
MEA Petition Seeks Input on Stopping Gun Violence
Some state lawmakers think more guns are the answer to school shootings. They would arm school employees – and visitors – with concealed weapons, despite opposition from the vast majority of parents and educators who understand such a plan is a recipe for disaster.
In fact, a pair of members of the Michigan State House announced their intentions to introduce bills next month that arm educators. Rep. Jim Runestead (R-White Lake) and Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Twp.) are planning to bring forward different bills that would allow for more guns to enter schools. The bill possibilities aside, perhaps the most galling statement made came from Runestead: "There are some teachers who I wouldn't feel safe around if they had a butter knife."
The question is what real solutions do school employees want to be armed with instead of guns? More school counselors? Wraparound health services? Smaller class sizes?
MEA has launched an online petition for members and the public to speak out about combatting school gun violence by addressing true needs in our communities that have gone ignored for too long.
We need to show our elected leaders we’re against efforts to allow concealed weapons in Michigan schools, which Senate Bills 584 and 586 would allow. In this moment of public grief and outrage, we must lift our expert voices to point out actions that will make a difference in our students’ lives.
Vote in MEA Region 7 Online Elections before Next Monday
The MEA's Region 7 (essentially all local units in Oakland County) will be conducting its annual elections beginning Monday at 8 a.m. and running through Monday, March 12, at 3:59 p.m.
To vote, please direct your browser to this site. Once there, you will be prompted to input your first name (as it appears in MEA membership), last name, and last four digits of your Social Security number to log in. Once logged in, you will be able to cast your ballot if you have not already voted. If, for some reason, you encounter difficulty logging into the system, contact MEA IT at 517-337-5440 from 8-4 daily.
The BEA is recommending two candidates: Maurice Telesford, Ferndale and Doug Hill, Rochester, for MEA delegate. Please vote for these outstanding representatives of our interests on the MEA Board.