It’s not often you see the Senate Democrats arguing for one of Governor Snyder’s proposals on the floor of the Senate, but that’s exactly what happened today as the Senate debated legislation impacting the retirement plans of our public school teachers.
Senate Bill 1040 makes changes to the way Michigan’s retirement system works for public school teachers due to a long-term funding problem that could see the system essentially run out of money. Of course, this funding problem wasn’t actually caused by teachers (it just maybe has something to do with legislators diverting money out of it to plug holes in their budgets over the past 15+ years), but that isn’t stopping Republicans from blaming teachers for it as they make drastic cuts to the retirement plans our teachers have earned over a lifetime of hard work in the classrooms.
Nothing says “thanks for nothing” quite like telling our teachers you’re taking away their retirement check on their way out the door.
While Governor Snyder put forward a similar plan to what was passed today, his plan continued forward with a prefunded retirement system that ensures a certain amount of savings for the system. The legislation passed today, on the other hand, forces all new employees to switch to a “defined contribution” system, a plan that not only forces teachers to pay more to get less for their retirement, but actually will cost the state over $1.4 BILLION to implement while realizing only $300 million in savings.
Let’s do some quick math. $1.4 billion in costs – $300 million in savings = a total savings of negative $1.1 billion.
Yes, the Republicans actually passed a “savings” bill today that will cost the state over a billion dollars. And teachers will still suffer for it. Does this make any sense to you?
This plan didn’t make sense for us either, so our members took to the microphone to encourage Republicans to take another look at the original proposal from Governor Snyder and introduced an amendment that would rewrite the bill to use the Governor’s exact language. It wasn’t an effort to show we supported the Governor’s proposal, it was simply an effort to turn a terrible bill into … well … a less terrible bill.
Amazingly enough, Republicans shot down the idea. They wouldn’t go along with proposal their own Governor asked them to pass. Perhaps they thought it wasn’t punitive enough on teachers? Perhaps they just don’t want to listen to ANYBODY, even if it’s in their own party? Or perhaps they are trying to prove they’re better at attacking teachers than Governor Snyder is?
Regardless of the reason, the Republicans once again turned their back on bipartisanship today, even when we argued to use THEIR party’s plan. Apparently it’s just easier in the end for Senate Republicans to tune the entire world out, even their own Governor, than it is to work cooperatively to find solutions to the many problems that face our state. Unfortunately, as they do so, our hardworking teachers continue to pay the price for those mistakes.
Take a look at the statement made by Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer as she argues against this legislation today:
If you haven’t heard about the #mi2020 Scholarship, you’ve likely been hiding under a rock for the past couple of days. With $10,000 on the line, the competition is causing quite a stir. Here at the Senate Democratic Caucus, we’re pretty excited too. Not only does the competition have the potential to be the difference between pursuing and not pursuing a higher education for one special high school senior, it represents something much larger.
What the #mi2020 Scholarship will do for one Michigan student is what the Michigan 2020 Plan, to be introduced in bill draft form this week, could do for ALL of Michigan’s students. That’s right, roughly $10,000 per year toward a college education for all Michigan students who receive their high school diploma. For many, this will be the difference in whether they choose to pursue a higher education, or the dread that student loan debt represents will be simply too much to bear. The 2020 Plan could be the jumpstart that Michigan needs not only to come out of this recession, but to come out on top.
But we’ll get to all that when the time comes. In the meantime, we’d like to see ALL high school seniors in Michigan give us their best shot in a short video portraying why they, and perhaps many they know, would benefit from the 2020 Plan being enacted. Any high school senior can enter, whether they attend public school, private school or home school.
On the website, mi2020video.com, students and their parents can find all the information they need in order to enter the competition. Remember to focus on the 2020 Plan in your video, and the effect that the Plan being enacted (passed through the legislature) would have on your life. Not sure where to start? In the “How to Enter” section, and above in this post, you’ll find a sample video that we made to get your creative juices flowing. Don’t have access to some of the technologies you might need to create the video? Once you begin the registration process, you’ll come to a page where you can type in your zip code to find local libraries and other locations that may be able to help. We are also encouraging schools to get involved, and make IT resources readily available for students wanting to apply. This opportunity could result in a life drastically changed, will it be yours?
Like many Michiganders, I watched the Governor’s State of the State address hoping to be inspired. I hoped to hear about policy objectives for 2012 that would highlight the Governor’s plan to finally move forward in a way that was bi-partisan, perhaps signify “shared sacrifice” to finally come from the 1%, and to actually create the jobs that were supposedly “Job One.”
Needless to say, I was disappointed. As were the many Michiganders watching from their homes, praying that this would be the year that we would actually see this “relentless positive action.” The Governor talked about jobs, sure. He talked about them long enough to ever-so-modestly take credit for the recent drop in unemployment, though curiously left out the details as to why that drop may or may not have occurred.
I shouldn’t leave out the fact that the Governor acknowledged that our veterans are without work. One minor detail he missed was that not only are they without work, veterans in Michigan actually have the highest rate of unemployment in the entire country. The Governor’s grand scheme to solve this problem? A suggestion – businesses should hire veterans. If this is the best we’ve got, we’re in trouble, folks. Fortunately, the Senate Democrats have come up with a plan to incentivize the hiring of veterans within small businesses. The plan would be mutually beneficial. Perhaps the Governor intends to work with the Senate Democrats in order to get this legislation passed? One can hope.
For someone who touts research and metrics so frequently, the Governor left out a lot of specifics. In the short amount of time that was spent actually talking about moving forward, the speech could be summed up in one word – “vague.” Perhaps the Governor was trying to play it safe, not stick his neck out enough that he could be called out on his misguidance. If Michigan is going to see real change, this is not the way to do it. We’re going to need to be bold, in a tangible way.
The Michigan 2020 Plan, introduced by Democrats last week, is a far cry from the ambiguity we’ve seen in this administration. The plan is bold, attainable, and could bring about massive change in the trajectory of this state’s economy.
Among the highlights is the fact that this plan would allow all students in Michigan who obtain a high school diploma to be eligible to have their college tuition paid for. The number one question – “Where will the money come from?” – can be answered simply. Not with a single cent of increased taxes for Michiganders. The funding would come from closing ineffective tax loopholes that have been carved out by lobbyists, as well as cutting costs within state contracts.
Moreover, while higher education can be viewed as a “feel-good” form of investment, the reality is it would also bring about real economic growth. Economists everywhere note that higher education is absolutely the key to a thriving economy, as witnessed in our own state’s Kalamazoo Promise program. According to a report from The Center for Michigan, “In the six years since the announcement of the Promise, the Kalamazoo region has outpaced the rest of the state on a wide range of economic metrics.” The report goes on to note the effects on salary, population, housing and more.
The bottom line is this – if we’re ever to see Michigan recover from rock bottom, we’re going to need to see real change. I hope that the Governor, along with the rest of his party, will see the value in a plan that is specific, measurable, attainable and most of all, the right thing to do.
Too often in Lansing, we hear the phrase “Michigan can’t.” Whether it’s investing in our education, helping unemployed workers, or rebuilding our communities, the answer from the Snyder administration is inevitably: “Michigan can’t.”
Suggesting that we can’t create investment and can’t move our state forward signals the idea that Michigan is already defeated, but even worse, it also runs contrary to what every economist and business leader from across the nation say is necessary to get our state back on track.
As Lou Glazer, President of Michigan Future Inc said, “The choice we face is, do we do what is required to build the assets needed to compete in the knowledge-based economy or do we accept being a low prosperity state?”
In other words, we either continue the “race to the bottom” mentality that has dominated decision making in Michigan for years, or we reinvest in the future of our people and our state.
As study after study emphasizes the importance of a highly educated workforce in the economic vitality of any state in the 21st Century, the Senate Democrats have unveiled the Michigan 2020 Plan, a proposal that marks a significant investment in Michigan’s future by positioning our state as a leader in higher education and workforce development.
Under the plan, Michigan high school graduates would be eligible to have tuition and associated costs paid for at one of Michigan’s public community colleges or universities, creating a pact with our K-12 students that invests in their future as well as the future of our state by developing the highest educated workforce in the nation.
The best part about the plan? It doesn’t raise taxes one cent.
You can read the details of the Michigan 2020 plan online at michigan2020.com and learn more about how it works and how it’s fully paid for.
Unfortunately, even as the details of the plan were first announced, the familiar phrase “Michigan can’t” came quickly from the Governor’s office in response. It’s time for Michigan to challenge that thinking and tell Governor Snyder that Michigan CAN move forward and MUST move forward.
Or, as Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer said, “It’s time for us to be bold and there’s no better place for us to start than by giving each and every child in Michigan the chance to compete in the 21st Century job market. It’s not about whether Michigan can afford to do this, it’s whether we can afford not to.”
In case you haven’t heard, the Republicans are at it again. Not only are they taking money out of our schools and forking it over to big business, they are actually attempting to turn our schools into cash cows for the state. As it is, 4 out of 5 charter schools are for-profit, and what have the Senate Republicans done? They’ve passed legislation to remove the cap on charter schools in the State of Michigan, opening the doors to boardroom-based education.
For this reason, Democratic Senators Warren and Hopgood today introduced Senate Joint Resolution R, an amendment that will ban public schools operated by for-profit entities in Michigan. If passed, this resolution will prevent our children’s education from being compromised at the expense of entities whose only concern is the bottom line.
It would be one thing if charter schools were at least creating a higher standard of education, but they’re not. A 2009 nationwide study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that, on average, charter school students can expect their academic growth to be lower than that of their peers at traditional public schools. Only 17% of charter schools were found to deliver better learning gains than traditional public schools. That leaves an outstanding 83% of charter schools performing the same as, or worse than, traditional public schools. In fact, an incredible 37% of charter schools in the study were found to produce learning gains that were significantly worse than those of traditional public schools.
Furthermore, the removal of the cap on charter schools further elaborates on the “winners and losers” mentality that the Republicans seem to be so fond of. Charter schools provide more options for those who can afford it while leaving behind students who need them the most. We need to ensure that the dollars spent by taxpayers are going to our children’s education, not a corporate bottom line. Making children the means to a profitable end is a new, and unacceptable, low.
The facts speak for themselves. For-profit charter schools are simply not in the best interest of Michigan’s students. They are in the interest of Governor Snyder’s corporate friends, and that simply will not stand.