By Dave Palmer
Lansing legislators are again showing their true feelings toward educators.
First, they moved to remove collective bargaining rights from teachers. Then, school districts began imposing 10% pay cuts without negotiating stateside concessions. Next, the legislature moved to force teachers to pay 20% of their health care costs out of the salary that has been reduced by 10%.
Now, the legislature has passed a bill that will drastically change the public pension system for teachers. The proposed changes will not only require current teachers to pay more into the system or convert to a private 401(k), but will also reduce the amount of money current retirees are receiving and reduce their health care benefits.
As a second-year educator, I am outraged, disgusted, and insulted by these proposed changes. At one point in time, back when collective bargaining agreements had the force of a contract, teachers negotiated a public pension plan in lieu of a pay raise. The idea was that since the state couldn’t afford to give teachers pay raises at the time, at least the state could provide for teachers in their retirement.
Rick Snyder, already proving himself one to not uphold agreements made by previous administrations with the Detroit revenue-sharing agreement, will no doubt sign this legislative atrocity into existence thereby nearly completing bis agenda of forcing educators to prove that they are not in it for them money.
To be fair, the pension system is in dire straits. Changes to the program do need to be made, but why not change it so that teachers aren’t forced to subsidize their jobs, health care, and retirement? Why not repeal the changes to the Michigan Business Tax and reinstate it as a flat 2% tax with no loopholes? Why not ask people across the state for 0.1 mills of new property tax to finance the failing system?
The answer to those questions are simple, and the same: Because Rick Snyder and the Lansing Legislature believe that $1.4 billion in tax breaks for their business cronies are more important than the teachers that provide them with educated employees. Tax breaks for industries that don’t need them trump the retired teachers that gave the politicians enacting them the education they needed to run for office then rip them off for their pension money.
How are retired teachers to pay more into the pension system? How are current teachers to subsidize the public plan when they are being forced to take drastic pay cuts and pay 20% of their own health care costs? This is not a formula to attract the best and the brightest educators to Michigan. This is not even a formula to attract even mediocre candidates.
Based on this latest move, it is apparent that Lansing is not interested in attracting the best and the brightest from this or any state. They would rather allow for-profit corporations run cyber-charters so they can outsource education to the lowest bidder. They would rather trample on the collective bargaining rights of teachers to pay for egregious tax breaks that the state can’t afford and the recipients don’t need.
I hope every educator remembers in November that this Legislature would rather give $1.4 billion in tax breaks to their business cronies than have educators who are properly compensated for their long hours and otherwise generally thankless job. I hope every parent remembers in November that the reason teachers can’t afford to purchase facial tissues, pens, pencils, and other emergency supplies is because of Lansing’s war on teachers.