May 2010 — Spring is Here and the End is Near

In Parchment, this time of year typically means two predictable events: the debate over snow days, and the issuing of layoff notices. Both of these events have now occurred.

Sadly, we will be losing three very dedicated, hard-working, committed colleagues. They join the ranks of other Michigan citizens looking for work. The cost to these colleagues is nearly incomprehensible, as they have to make tough decisions about their family finances and cope with the emotional strain of leaving the classrooms and students they have given so much of themselves to. The PEA family grieves with them and promises to do all we can to see them restored to our family of dedicated Parchment educators.

PEA membership is the lowest I have ever seen in 29 years of teaching here. I fear that we are still not at the bottom of the economic mess that has brought us to this point. That’s why your willingness to do a couple more things might help turn the tide.

The first is attending our general membership meeting on May 20. Here you will learn what PEA leaders are doing to protect your job, your earnings and your medical coverage. You will also have opportunity to ask questions pertaining to your job, your building, your assignment and the district. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to find out.

The second event is Monday, May 24. The county education associations are planning a rally along Westnedge that day. Each local is being asked to send at least 20% of its members to this event that will raise public awareness of the importance of fully funding public schools. For PEA, this means at least 20 of our members who can participate. Please email Carol B. if you can commit a couple hours of your time (at this very busy time of year). More specific details about where the PEA group will assemble will be determined.

Another event planned by the MEA is a rally in Lansing on June 24. As I get more information about this event, I will post it here. It would be great to have some PEA members join their colleagues from around the state to get the attention of our elected officials.

What else? We are all still waiting for Lansing to make up its mind about retirement changes. The state senate and house have passed legislation, but can’t agree on the differences between the two versions. The house version is better and has the MEA’s endorsement, but the senate is not being very receptive to changing their bill, which is decidedly NOT teacher friendly. The goal of getting something passed in time for potential retirees to make decisions is slipping slowly away, and the legislatures aren’t meeting again until Tuesday, May 4.

When something does get passed, it is quite likely that all of us will be paying more of a share towards our retirement pension account. Whether you are basic or mip, you will most likely see an increase in the amount withheld.

We do have another year on our two-year contract. For 2010-2011, we are to get a 2% increase on the base pay. The current base is $33,343. A 2% increase will make the base for next year $34,010. We also have to pay any insurance increases ourselves. This will probably result in a net LOSS to each of our bottom lines. Those of you who are still moving up on the step scales will receive the base increase plus the step. You will then have to calculate out the insurance cost increase, and factor in the retirement contribution increase (when Lansing figures it out). Those NOT on steps will see a much lower salary improvement and the same decreases already mentioned. If you have (or will this summer) completed a Master’s or the 30 hours beyond a Master’s, you will do these calculations on the new salary column. Use the multipliers in the contract to do your math. (A copy of the contract is on this site.)

As soon as the 2010-2011 insurance rates are announced, you will be able to do the math to figure out your bottom line. Because MESSA has been required, by law, to calculate premiums using a different method than in the past, small groups like ours are rated, based on our usage (instead of being pooled with other groups from this area). That means that MESSA costs are directly related to our costs, which in most cases we have little control over. We have changed to higher deductibles for office visits and prescriptions. We have continued to bear more and more of the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. There is not much “wiggle” room left in controlling health care costs, but your bargaining team will continue to explore every option available and present all your options to you.

So despite the overall gloomy tone of this posting, I do sincerely wish you all a great spring. Keep doing what you do best — meeting the emotional and intellectual needs of the kids in your classroom. Have a good summer. And be sure to put May 20 and May 24 on your calendar!

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