Benton Harbor, Education, Emergency Managers, Teachers — November 23, 2011 at 9:38 am

MEA steps up to help Benton Harbor schools with massive donation of supplies


While state officials mull over appointing an Emergency Manager for Benton Harbor schools, the state’s largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), has stepped up to help teachers there with much needed supplies. They put out a call to MEA teachers (flyer HERE (pdf)) to make donations and teachers across the state responded.

When Republican lawmakers pushed through more than $1 billion in cuts to public education earlier this year, bad financial situations in school districts across the state were made even worse. A prime example of this is in Benton Harbor, where the cuts have caused an unsustainable lack of basic school supplies across the district.

Since the state has failed to step up and fix the problem, MEA members took it upon themselves to do so.

Today a truckload of supplies and more than $13,000 in financial contributions – collected from MEA members across the state– were delivered to help the students and school employees of Benton Harbor.

“Students – and the teachers and support staff who work with them – need the necessary tools to succeed,” said MEA Secretary-Treasurer Rick Trainor. “Michigan’s decade-long failure to properly fund public education, capped off by the Republican’s $1 billion in education cuts earlier this year, has starved schools of those critical supplies.

“If the state isn’t going to give the students and employees of Benton Harbor what they need, MEA members from every corner of this state will.”

Across Benton Harbor, MEA received reports from members who are working in classrooms without any paper, pencils, and other basic essentials. Textbook shortages are common. Technology is in disrepair. Some schools don’t even have copiers to reproduce worksheets.

“Our members are dedicated to their students,” said Mike Schroeder, MEA UniServ Director for Benton Harbor. “They have made concessions to help students, but the state’s budget cuts have hurt the district so badly that these shortages were becoming the norm. Benton Harbor needed help and MEA members delivered.”

The Herald Palladium has more:

Mike Schroeder, the area representative with the MEA, said MEA leaders met with Benton Harbor teachers “and found out teachers did not have any teaching supplies in their classrooms – no pencils, paper, nothing.”

The state cut back school funding by about $400 per student this year, Schroeder said. That left teachers around the state with the option of buying supplies themselves or going without.

Schroeder said the MEA donated crayons, highlighters, pens, copy paper and many other supplies and let teachers pick out the supplies they needed. A press release in advance of the event said the MEA would be donating “a truckload of supplies.”

Each teacher also received a $50 gift card to get more supplies at Staples. […]

Schroeder said Benton Harbor’s teachers appreciated the donations.

“Teachers were actually thrilled by the whole thing, that their colleagues from around Michigan were chipping in to help them out,” he said.

An 86% tax break for Michigan businesses was funded, in part, by taking $1 BILLION from our schools. Now, schools in communities facing crushing poverty and unemployment are having to beg for supplies from wherever they can get them. In this case, caring teachers from around Michigan responded to one particularly hard-hit district’s needs. These teachers, villainized and demonized by Republicans who characterize them as greedy parasites who are responsible for our state’s economic crisis have shown once again that they are anything but greedy. They care about students and they care about schools.

It’s unfortunate that our lawmakers can’t find it in themselves to do the same.