LANSING – Legislation aimed at strengthening negotiations for teacher unions is moving forward without lawmakers and stakeholders willing to negotiate on its far-reaching impact. Despite months of attempts to find common ground, the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators today was informed that the bill will move forward on the floor as is.
House Bill 4354 would restore several prohibited subjects of bargaining, namely, teacher placement, layoff/recall, evaluations, discipline and discharge, classroom observations, merit pay, and ineffective teacher notification. Out of this list of subjects, MASA has raised concerns with two of these – teacher placement, and discipline/discharge. Allowing these to be bargainable would be detrimental for students and new teachers, as well as our efforts to combat the educator shortage by attracting new teachers.
MASA does not oppose other bills in the package, including a bill to allow for the automatic collection of union dues.
“We have been told that no changes to the bill will be entertained,” said Matt Schueller, MASA Director of Government Relations. “We offered language that would make teacher placement and discipline/discharge permissive subjects of bargaining, which would require, by law, that schools and teacher unions meet and confer on these topics every year. That language was rejected.”
Scores of teachers testified on these bills in the House Labor Committee earlier this spring. The common line amongst them was that teachers simply wanted a voice at the table, and that the schools would still have the ability to say no. The changes suggested by MASA and other education organizations would have allowed for that conversation, but were promptly dismissed.
“It is extremely disheartening that our members were accused of somehow being responsible for the educator shortage, that our members do not know what is best for kids, and that the important job of leading a district was reduced to pushing a button,” said Dr. Tina Kerr, MASA Executive Director. “Superintendents are educators – the majority of whom have been in the classroom at one time in their career. At a time when public education is under attack, there is no reason to attack the members of the community who are doing their best to run good public schools.”
Many in Lansing acknowledge that the pendulum swung too far in one direction in 2011, which is why MASA has been supportive of many of the changes proposed by the House to give teacher’s more bargaining power and to increase respect for the profession. However, this bill would swing things back too far in the other direction, causing negative impacts to new teachers and to our schools.
“We firmly believe that we need to flip the narrative on education – teachers need to be paid more and deserve so much more respect for their hard work,” Kerr said. “The educator shortage is the number one issue facing our members. This bill, if passed with no changes, would significantly hurt that effort.”
“We find it very discouraging that for a bill that is supposed to be about increasing educator’s right to bargain and negotiate, House leadership has decided to not invite superintendents to the table, leaving schools and kids out in the cold,” Schueller said.