Thursday, March 26, 2009

We All Value Quality Jobs With Good Benefits and a Pension in Our Community, Right?

Usually, it is considered "good news" when such jobs are announced by an employer in one of our communities. These types of jobs are important for the economic vitality of all communities. However, Kyle Olson and his Education Action Group's agenda oppose such jobs by tauting the virtues of privatization.

By encouraging community employers, such as school districts, to privatize the jobs they provide in the community, he is advocating for diminished quality in those jobs, plain and simple.

Instead of working for a school district as a custodian for 30 years and receiving a pension from the state, Mr. Olson seems to prefer these jobs have no pension and be managed by money-grabbing for-profit companies that take from the workers to line their corporate pockets. In most cases, this results in lesser paying jobs in our communities, usually without benefits and pensions, and a reduced standard of living within that population of workers.

How is this good for Michigan? Why doesn't Olson and the EAG advocate for a lesser standard of living for everyone? We sure hope it isn't the whole "school employees are public employees" argument. If this is the case, they why not just advocate for pensionless jobs and reduced quality of living for everyone who is paid with tax dollars? Clearly, his beef is with only one segment of public employees and it is because they have a union.

School employees' skill sets, levels of responsibility, and knowledge requirements for their jobs working with Michigan's children deserve the compensation, benefits and pensions they receive. But the only thing Kyle seems to support is driving these specific community jobs to some place "below their current standard."

Is this the type of future jobs you want in your community from one of its most important employers?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kyle Needs the MEA

I received this from an MEA member a few days ago:

There's no pleasing Kyle. After spending considerable time and effort ranting against taxpayers for exercising their democratic rights in recall elections, he's now complains that a group of teachers, taxpayers, and concerned citizens has withdrawn a recall petition in the community of Gladstone. The group did so in order to work in good-faith to improve relations with school officials with the help of a federal mediator.

Kyle also mocks a community group assembled to help improve Gladstone schools and laments "poor Gladstone" now has to put up with involved citizens--going so far as to call one of its members--a parent in the district-- a bully (add that to the long list of name-calling that has gone on at the EAG blog). Usually what sets Kyle off on one of his name-calling rants is a taxpayer exercising his or her Constitutional rights, whether that be speaking up at a public meeting, peacefully protesting, or writing letters to the editor (you know, the stuff Kyle himself does).

The truth is Kyle has no interest in peace, no interest in seeing teachers, unions, and school officials work together. When that happens, the EAG loses currency. When that happens, Kyle loses face-time in the press. When that happens, Kyle's paycheck is adversely affected. He needs to drum up controversy and hate to pay his bills. That's simply reality.

There is no pleasing Kyle, and there will be no pleasing Kyle as long as teachers, citizens, and taxpayers are involved in unions and have any say in their working conditions. That's the bottom line. And that's a bottom line we will always fight for and protect against the real bullies like the EAG and their supporters.

Monday, March 9, 2009

MESSA Facts EAG Wishes You Didn't Know

We recently received some actual cost information for MESSA plans in schools right near the Education Action Guy's headquarters.

Boy were we surprised. Come to find out, many schools in the area that have MESSA insurance for their employees now pay less per employee for their health care costs than what they were paying 3 years ago.

How can that be you ask? Simple. MESSA has introduced benefit reductions in their plans that reduce the cost and affordability of their plans in districts where this cost relief is needed. Those plans subsequently get bargained without Kyle's help, life goes on, and the artificial crises Kyle and his cronies try to create from place to place throughout the state never occur.

What Kyle and his cronies really hate is the fact that the MESSA Board, made up largely of MEA members, controls when this benefit erosion occurs and makes their decisions based on the bargaining need for more affordable health plans from MESSA. . . . in other words, they don't just cheapen the plan and take employee benefits away for the sake of doing so.

Kyle really doesn't want to "reform public education." He just wants to strip more rights away from employees by drumming up a whole bunch of false premises that, to date, are supported by no actual named individual involved with public schools in Michigan.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kyle Olson Bills Himself as a Potential Martyr

Kyle, as always repeatedly referring to himself in the plural, recently updated his email list on his accomplishments, and he appears to be getting a little off balance. Apparently the MEA was quoted somewhere referring to him as a nuisance. From that, he concludes that his life is at risk:
Gulp.  We wonder what they mean by that...

As long as you keep seeing this update every week, you'll know we're not yet at the bottom of the Detroit River.
Getting a little paranoid there, Kyle?

But then he regains his bearings and moves on to do a pretty good job of summing up the case against EAG:
As you might have noticed by now, MEA officials like to refer to us in the media as “right wing nut jobs” who stick our noses into situations that are none of our business. They say we’re obsessively anti-union, anti-teacher and anti-MESSA, and spend all of our time looking for ways to discredit the MEA.

Well, it appears the MEA is at least equally obsessed with us. The union has already published its ”EAG Toolkit,” advising members around the state how to deal with us if we become active in their districts. Then there’s the union’s “EAGTruth” website, which tracks our activities and tells readers how ineffective we’ve been.
No denials. None. And then:
One entertaining highlight of the EAGTruth website is the EAG scorecard. Someone at the MEA is apparently assigned to keep track of the school districts where we’ve been active, note the eventual outcome of teacher contract negotiations, and determine whether our efforts were successful in influencing the outcome.

For instance, in several districts where we’ve been active, the scorecard notes that MESSA insurance was retained in new teachers’ contracts, or that well-meaning school board members were recalled. Those outcomes supposedly represent defeat for EAG.
Not true says Kyle, he is successful when he "does his best." Yikes! That's setting the bar pretty low. I'm sure his secret financiers will be eager to give him more money based on that kind of performance standard.

But here' the deal: Kyle can't point to any accomplishments to justify his salary. So instead, this long list of MEA criticisms is designed to portray himself as important enough that the MEA is summoning huge resources to oppose him.

I gotta say, I debate this all the time, should I treat him as an nuisance (easy there Kyle, calm down...) or answer his lies.

But the capper is that Kyle finally sets the record straight on whether his agenda is about schools saving money or about killing off MESSA:
...we would like very much to convince every school board to dump MESSA...
I'm sure this is a one time slip, and we'll continue to read the usual school reform/competition is good/saving school's money blather from Kyle. But a little honesty from Kyle is like a breath of fresh air...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Leader Speaks Out

We received the following letter from someone fed up with the lies constantly being repeated by Kyle Olson and his Education Action Group. If you want your voice heard, please email us at


My name is Craig Culver. I taught HS science for 16 years and negotiated for about 12 of those years for my local association. I took a job with MEA as a UniServ Director in 2001 and still work in that capacity. In all of my years of negotiating, I have represented over 40 local Associations (including my own local). In all of these experiences, the negotiations to keep MESSA have always been driven by the priority of the members of each local Association as surveyed by their local leadership.

That being said, none of the districts I have represented have settled contracts with MESSA insurance that resulted in financial ruin for the school districts. Both school employees and school boards have agreed to and ratified these contracts.

In the county I now work, most teacher groups now consume a smaller percentage of their district's revenue in total compensation (salary, insurance, FICA, and retirement costs combined) than they did 4 years ago. I suspect this trend is similar in other places as well.

I wish Kyle Olson, reporters, legislators, and others would actually look at the facts surrounding collective bargaining, cost savings generated from benefit reductions in MESSA (and all other) school employee benefit plans, and actual facts surrounding the collective bargaining of school employees and embrace the fact that our current status of collectively bargaining with our employers has worked for many years and continues to work.

It is true that, at times, employers and employees have differing views of "what their best interest" is. However, these differences keep getting sorted out eventually in ratified agreements. The truth is, by prioritizing district expenditures towards benefit costs vs. salary (no contract I have represented contained a COLA adjustment for the past 15 years), taxpayers actually get a break. When you factor FICA and retirement costs on salary increases, the public taxpayer actually has to pay about $1.25 for each $1.00 of salary improvement. With insurance, a dollar only costs a dollar.

I also would like to address the comment made in Kyle's November 17th entry. In it he says:

"We have been told multiple times, by people all across the state, that UniServ directors, those overseeing negotiations on behalf of the MEA, earn some type of bonus for keeping MESSA in a contract. Therefore, it's in that UniServ director's interest to keep MESSA."

It's just not true Kyle. NONE OF US GET THE URBAN LEGEND MESSA BONUS. This type of deceipt serves only to continue your lack of convincing facts to contradict those I've outlined above. I am paid to represent members and their interests (the amount, no doubt, Kyle will spread to the world as some sort of atrocity once he reads this). That is my "bonus". It is a particularly gratifying job that I take seriously, as do my colleagues.

As far as MESSA goes, it is a health insurance plan that has provided many MEA members, administrators and their families security and assurance that should their health turn bad, they won't have the hassles and hardships many others have experienced with non-MESSA plans. . . . and it continues to prove to be affordable as exemplified in many ratified agreements throughout the state.

Just because other sectors of the public haven't joined unions to protect and preserve this priority for themselves and their families, or because other unions have made insurance concessions to preserve COLA rights in their contracts, etc. doesn't make one group right or wrong.

The proof is in the fact that our schools haven't gone broke due to MESSA benefit negotiations, and they won't in the future either. Most of the people that negotiate these benefits are teachers who are college educated professionals. They aren't going to negotiate themselves out of existence.

Please feel free to post this e-mail on your blog. I believe that in time, those who agree with what EAGtruth represents and stands for will prove how politically charged Kyle and others are in their anti-union campaign that is so void of facts and truth.
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