State news roundup for August 30, 2015

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Michigan – MEA President lauds State Superintendent announcement to reduce testing

MEA President Cook
MEA President Cook

MEA President Steven Cook praised last Thursday’s announcement by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Whiston of plans to reduce student testing in Michigan public schools.

In calling for significant reductions in student testing time for the upcoming school year, Superintendent Whiston has heeded the call of teachers, parents and students across the state who have been overwhelmed with a myriad of standardized tests,” Cook said.

Details of the plan include reducing the testing window and breaking the tests up into smaller portions, which would allow more access to computer labs and library facilities where many district’s tests are taken. Overall testing time for students in grade 11 will be reduced by eight hours, while testing time for students in grades 3, 4, 6, and 7 will be reduced by 2.5 hours.

Read more at MEA.org.

Ohio – OEA takes action to ensure the voices of Youngstown educators are heard

Ohio OEA logoLast Friday, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) along with the Youngstown City School District Board of Education, the Youngstown Education Association – an affiliate of the OEA, Ohio Council 8 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and Jane Haggerty, a taxpayer and Youngstown voter, filed a lawsuit in Franklin County to stop the scheduled state takeover of Youngstown City Schools.

The suit against the State of Ohio, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross, and the Ohio Department of Education, claims the law that sets up a state takeover was rushed through the Ohio legislature without receiving three readings in each chamber, as required by the Ohio Constitution and in a manner that prevented thorough debate and consideration of the law, including input from educators and local citizens. The suit also claims the law violates the right of local citizens to have elected representatives oversee their school districts.

“Educators want to be able to advocate for their students,” said OEA president Becky Higgins. “The plan to turn over decision-making authority in the Youngstown schools to single person – a CEO – would effectively silence the voices of educators. That’s unacceptable. Educators are committed to improving the Youngstown schools and they need to be heard.”

Find out more about the takeover attempt at OHEA.org.

Massachusetts – Shouldn’t the state board that controls K-12 education include educator voices?

bese_petition_for_highlightThe MTA is urging members, parents and other community members to sign petitions in favor of a bill to create two new seats on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education designated for educator representatives.

H. 375 and S. 269 are House and Senate versions of a bill that would add two educator representatives to the BESE — one nominated by the MTA and the other by AFT Massachusetts. These will be among the bills heard by the Joint Committee on Education at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, in Room A-2 of the State House.

“Many people are shocked to learn that current law forbids public school educators from serving as members of the BESE — the board that governs our profession,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “Most educators are not even able to attend board meetings because those meetings are almost always held during school hours. Currently, individuals who stand to profit from decisions made by the BESE are welcome to hold seats on the board, but no place is designated for professional educators.”

Get involved and sign the petition at MassTeacher.org.

Montana – MEA-MFT saves guaranteed annual benefit adjustments for TRS and PERS retirees

mea logoFor the last two years, since the adjournment of the 2013 legislature, MEA-MFT, the union that represents Montana public school educators and thousands of other public employees, has waged two legal battles to preserve guaranteed annual benefit adjustments (GABA) in the Montana Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

Yesterday, after losing two district court decisions and facing a third round of district court litigation, the state agreed not to pursue further appeal of its district court losses to the Montana supreme court, thus securing guaranteed annual benefit adjustments in both TRS and PERS for persons already retired and those still working who were employed on or before July 1, 2013.

In return, MEA-MFT agreed not to pursue state payment of its legal expenses defending GABA in court.

Visit MEA-MFT.org to learn more.

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