Improving education by attacking teachers?
Michigan Republicans are not done with teachers yet, not by a long shot. Now they are going after their pensions and healthcare.
Lawmakers and Michigan’s largest teachers’ union are locking horns over how to bring the state’s school employee retirement system — underfunded by some $44 billion — back into the black.
The Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, commonly known as MPSERS, is the state-run school employee retirement system comprised of both pension and retiree health-care benefits.
Last week, the state Senate made an initial attempt to address the promised, but underfunded, benefits primarily through increased contributions by employees. Current retirees wouldn’t pay more toward their pensions, but their contribution for retiree health-care would double…[increasing]…retiree health-care contributions from 10 percent to 20 percent, and [requiring] most current employees to be at least 60 years old to become eligible for the coverage. [...]
The bill, in an effort to curb further increases — taken from districts’ operating budgets — would require school employees to increase their pension contributions to 5 percent or to 8 percent of their salaries, based on individual retirement choices. [...]
New school employees would be required to contribute to a 401(k)-style retiree health-care plan that would be matched.
Michigan Education Association spokesperson Doug Pratt describes it as “latest legislative assault on retirement”. And it’s not a problem that the teachers caused in the first place.
The Michigan Education Association teachers’ union, meanwhile, called Senate Bill 1040 the “latest legislative assault on retirement,” and said the state, not school employees, should be required to fill the funding gap because districts have no control over the state-run program. [...]
Pratt said the MPSERS deficit dates back to former Republican Gov. John Engler, and that lawmakers want educators to pay for the state government’s inaction to keep the fund solvent for future generations.
He said the average second-year Michigan teacher with a master’s degree currently takes home $500 every two weeks after taxes and employee health care and pension deductions, and if he or she opts for a deduction toward child care.
In the same example, the employee would pay $450 over the year for union dues, he added. MEA dues are 1.5 percent of salary.
He said teachers’ paychecks shouldn’t be further docked to keep MPSERS solvent.
“What you’re going to do is you’re going to suck thousands of dollars out of local economies. You’re going to take people who already aren’t making a lot of money and put them in worse shape. Should school employees have to bail out political decisions from the last 20 years?” Pratt asked.
“This isn’t a problem that the school employees created,” he added.
Livingston Educational Service Agency superintendent David Campbell agrees in part with Pratt’s description:
Campbell said the MEA’s claims that the oversight of MPSERS has been lax are legitimate, however, and that a trend has developed of turning to public employee compensation to address state budget shortfalls.
He noted that public pensions are included in a new statewide pension tax.
“Teaching’s harder then ever and we really do need to be careful in making the teaching profession an unattractive profession for a young college student to want to go into. If we balance budgets on the backs of public employees, then who is going to be teaching our kids?” Campbell asked.
I continue to be astonished at the Republicans who, on one hand, tell us that our schools are failing our children and then, on the other hand, continue to villify teachers, reducing their pay, reducing their benefits and, in general, portraying them as greedy parasites on society. At some point, if we’re truly serious about improving the education of our children, that has to stop.