State News Roundup for February 25, 2012
Wisconsin – Janesville educator: ‘Tis a shame (that education has become so political)
Janesville social studies teacher Steve Strieker has received national attention with an article outlining his views on the attitudes of Wisconsin educators, given more than a year of extreme politics in the state that have largely centered on blaming teachers for the state’s fiscal problems.
The article, “’Tis a shame that education has become so political,” appears in the Washington Post’s “The Answer Sheet.” Strieker first posted the essay on his blog “One Teacher’s Perspective,” before the The Washington Post picked it up for national publication.
In the piece, Strieker writes about the assault on the education profession by Governor Scott Walker, whose legislation through ACT 10 prevents teachers from having a voice at the table when it comes to school decision-making. Coupled with state funding cuts of $1.6 billion for public schools – which at the local level has resulted in larger class sizes, fewer programs and staff reductions – Strieker outlines why many teachers are leaving the profession and more young people are foregoing careers in education.
You can read Strieker’s full piece on his blog, One Teacher’s Perspective.
Idaho – Bill helps veteran educators
A bill introduced in the House Education Committee today would extend the rights of administrators and teachers to come out of retirement without sacrificing benefits earned through the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho.
The panel agreed to print the measure sponsored by Rep. Scott Bedke (R-Oakley). It would remove the sunset clause on a law passed five years ago which allows retired educators to be rehired if they are at least 62 years of age; have met the rule of 90 (age plus years of service); and have not taken early retirement benefits from PERSI. These educators would be rehired as at-will employees and typically at a reduced rate. An employee’s district would pay into PERSI, but the employee would not. The bill intends to help smaller districts that struggle to find the administrators and educators they need, while allowing educators to supplement their retirement income, do something they love, and maintain the security of their PERSI benefits.
Also in House Ed today, the committee heard and agreed to print two resolutions that could overrule last week’s decision by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to give all public employees except teachers an ongoing 2 percent raise. Rep. Steve Hartgen (R-Twin Falls) introduced one measure that would give state employees no raise at all for the fifth straight year and another to make the proposed 2 percent raises merit based.
Click here to get the full story at IdahoEA.org.
Illinois – President Klickna’s statement on Gov. Quinn’s budget address
Today, Gov. Pat Quinn spoke about the state of the Illinois’ budget. It was a mostly grim presentation; he talked about the need for budget cutting that will mean closing state health care facilities, prisons and reducing the number of state employees. The governor also spoke of the need to make cost-saving changes in the state pension and Medicaid systems.
The only somewhat positive information for public education is that the budget proposal, containing so many cuts to so many programs, maintains funding for K-12 and higher education. In addition, the state will increase early childhood funding by $20 million. The Monetary Award Program (MAP), which provides college scholarships for needy students, will also see a funding increase of more than $50 million. The budget is a proposal and still must be approved by the state legislature.
IEA leaders have been involved in discussions with leaders from other Illinois public employee unions to try to identify solutions to the pension crisis the governor spoke of today.
The Illinois Labor Pension Coalition has been meeting regularly for months. More recently, the coalition has had conversations with the Governor, legislative leaders and various state legislators, exchanging information and looking at scenarios that might help lead to proposals that can address the Illinois pension problem.
Read the complete statement at IEANEA.org.
Massachusetts – Funding increase sought to help campuses meet needs
Over the last decade, state aid to public higher education has been reduced by 42 percent at the same time that student enrollment has reached an all-time high. In fiscal year 2010, Massachusetts ranked 48th out of the 50 states in terms of state and local fiscal support for public higher education as a share of personal income.
At a time when public dollars are scarce, every voice is needed to send the message to legislators who will be shaping the state budget in the upcoming months.
“It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish not to invest in our public higher education institutions,” said Joe LeBlanc, who serves as chairman of the MTA Higher Education Leadership Council and president of the Massachusetts Community College Council. “We drive the state’s economy and contribute to its workforce. There is no question of our value — we are the fuel.”
A lobby day promoting public higher education will be held on Thursday, March 8, at the State House. On that day, key stakeholders representing all factions of public higher education — labor, management and students — will join forces to advocate for increased funding.
Click here to read the complete article at MassTeacher.org and find out more about how you can get involved in the March 8 lobby day.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel pens a piece for the Washington Post's "Answer Sheet" blog responding to Mitt Romney's comments on the Finnish education system during NBC's Education Nation. Read More