State news roundup for May 12, 2012


Arizona – Legislation returns retirement contribution to 50/50

On May 7, 2012, Governor Brewer signed legislation (HB2264) [ed note: pdf link]that returns the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) contribution rate back to an equal 50/50 split between the state and its workers. It also requires the state to refund any contributions made in excess of 50 percent.

HB2264 was passed as a result of AEA’s legal victory last month in Arizona Superior Court. The Court found it to be illegal to reduce the salaries of school employees/public employees by increasing the retirement contribution rate. AEA filed this lawsuit on behalf of our members.

During the 2011 Legislative Session, Governor Jan Brewer, former Senate President Russell Pearce, and former Speaker of the House Kirk Adams crafted a budget deal that reduced public school employees’ take-home pay by increasing the percentage of employee paid contributions to the retirement system. Rather than a 50 percent employer and 50 percent employee contribution split, your contribution rose to 53 percent and the employer rate was reduced to 47 percent. The legislation did not allow school districts to have access to the savings; instead the legislature kept it to reduce the state’s budget deficit.

The Arizona Constitution, based on an amendment AEA helped pass in the 1990s, protects public school employees’ retirement benefits from legislative raids. This constitutional provision, through AEA’s lawsuit, protected our members from this attempt to decrease their retirement benefits by increasing their contribution rate.

Get the full story at

Colorado – Health technician and NEA ESP of the Year Judy Near talks bargaining

Judy Near (pictured above), a health technician with Canon City Schools in Colorado, was named the 2012 Education Support Professional of the Year by the National Education Association. The Colorado Education Association spent a day with Judy at her school and asked about her responsibilities in the school support staff, the experience of winning the award, how she helped organize her local education association, the growth of ESP associations in Colorado, and how ESP’s contribute to the overall academic achievement of students.

To find out more about Education Support Professionals in Colorado, visit

New Jersey – Hainesport Education Association blocks firing of custodians

The Hainesport Education Association in Burlington County knows firsthand that community support is the key to saving the jobs of educational support professionals. A six-month campaign to keep the Hainesport Board of Education from firing their six custodians and replacing them with a for-profit cleaning service ended in victory last February when the board voted 6-3 to keep their own staff.

HEA’s outreach to parents and the community was key to the board’s decision.

“The October board meeting was a big one,” said HEA President Cheryl Rothkopf. “The parents, and even some residents with no children in the schools, really came out for our custodians that night.”

In fact, they came out to support the custodians again and again.

That didn’t happen by accident.

As soon as first-year local president Rothkopf received a letter from the board about its consideration of privatization, she called her UniServ field office for advice and assistance. NJEA UniServ consultant Patrick Manahan worked with Rothkopf to develop a strategy to build support for the custodians, but he credits Rothkopf’s leadership for making the real difference.

“For a first-year president to step up the way she did is spectacular,” Manahan said. “Cheryl did an outstanding job reaching out to parents.”

Visit to get the full story and find out what you can do to help fight back against privatization of school services.

Minnesota – Gov. Dayton vetoes teacher layoff bill

Gov. Mark Dayton recently vetoed House File 1870, the anti-seniority bill, which would have required teachers to be laid off according to yet-to-be defined measures of “effectiveness” rather than seniority or other systems already negotiated in many school districts.

Educators’ messages to the governor made the difference by bringing to life how this measure was bad for teachers and bad for kids.

Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher praised Dayton for keeping his promise to veto the bill.

“Instead of tackling the serious challenges facing public education, the Republican majority’s top priority for our schools this session has been to further regulate teacher layoffs,” Dooher said. “The priority should have been making layoffs unnecessary. Fewer teachers usually result in even larger class sizes and more frustrated students and parents. Our legislative leaders let them all down.”

Find out more about the veto at

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