House Dems unveils “18-bill package on respecting educators”
Seven years ago, Darrin Camilleri was a young graduate of the university and newly hired as a teacher without textbooks, without a program and a big job in addition to his teaching duties: head of department. Today, he is a representative of the state and hopes to participate in a “transformational change” in the world of education.
Camilleri (D-Trenton) and other Democratic House lawmakers on Wednesday unveiled a set of 18 bills that were introduced this week to improve the professional landscape and better recruit, respect and retain Michigan teachers.
“There was a time when Michigan was the envy of the world in terms of education, compensation and teacher benefits, but over the past few decades we know that has changed,” Camilleri said during ‘a press conference announcing the invoices. “If we want our best and brightest to become teachers and keep them in the classroom, we must take decisive action now to respect and value the profession. “
Various proposals in the Respect Educators package would offset student loan debt, reduce the cost of health care benefits, change the third-grade reading law, remove student test scores from educator assessments, and create a paraprofessional path to teacher, among other ideas.
“It is our duty to ensure that every child has the opportunity and the resources they need to be successful, but this cannot be done without excellent teachers and educators in our schools,” said Camilleri.
MEA member Anthony Barnes spoke at the press conference in support of the comprehensive bill. “I have seen amazing educators leave the field of education because they cannot support themselves or their families financially, they do not feel respected and the burnout rate is very high. . “
Barnes, a sixth-grade special education teacher at Kalamazoo, noted historically high rates of educators leaving the profession – including a 40% spike in the midst of the last fall and winter pandemic – coupled declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs at state colleges and universities.
“I’m still in graduate school right now, so my student loan debt continues to grow,” Barnes said. “Let me tell you, it’s stressful and my salary doesn’t really help me make up for it – even though I work every day to improve myself to improve our education system. “
Two bills in the package address the issue of student loans. Bill 5099, sponsored by Camilleri, would create a student loan waiver program for eligible teachers that would cover up to $ 300 per month in student loan payments as long as the recipient remains on the ground. Another bill from Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), HB 5100, would change the tax code to make student loan payments tax exempt.
Kathi Martin, AFT-Michigan member, also spoke in favor of the bills. The 18-year-old veteran speech-language pathologist from Dearborn and her special education teacher husband together earn $ 1,000 in student loan repayments per month, she said.
This burden – combined with declining take-home pay and rising costs over the past decade – has forced her into a second job, reducing the time she has to prepare for students outside of the classroom. working hours. She could earn a better salary outside of education, she noted.
The Respect Educators Toolkit addresses these issues from several angles. HB 5106, sponsored by Representative Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham), would require school districts to pay a larger share of educator health care premiums by imposing a hard cap of 90-10 until the cost is 10% higher than the ceiling.
Dubbed a ‘fair pay’ proposal, HB 5109 – sponsored by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) – would create a three-tier bonus system for best practices ($ 20, $ 30, and $ 35 per student) depending on whether teachers receive 95%, 100% or 110% of the average salary of people with the same level of education in their region.
HB 5102, sponsored by Representative Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), would allocate funds intended for specific schools from taxes to reimburse personal expenses of state-certified teachers. And his mate of Representative Angela Witwer (D-Delta Township), HB 5103, would allow taxpayers an above-the-adjusted gross income line for contributions to the Teachers Supply Reimbursement Program Act. local.
Finally, in the direction of reducing spending on educators, HB 5110 – sponsored by Representative Christine Morse (D-Texas Township) – would require the state to pay teacher certification and recertification fees.
“We cannot rely on education as their vocation as the sole motivation to recruit teachers who are at the heart of our education system,” Morse said at the press conference. “It is not a sustainable model. We must treat teaching as a qualified profession and not as a passion project.
In addition to financial constraints, Dearborn’s Martin pointed out, educators are experiencing a loss of joy and creativity – replaced by the pressures of standardized tests and ill-conceived mandates such as the Grade 3 Reading Act, which requires testing everything. year round and youth retention based on a test score.
“Taking away the fun of learning and replacing it with unnecessary testing hurts our students and kills teacher morale, which spills over to younger generations,” she said. “We are finally seeing the impact of the attack on public education that has been taking place over the past fifteen years.
“When a profession is demeaned, scapegoated and vilified like educators have been, can you blame people for leaving or not even entering teacher education programs? “
Four bills in the package deal with third grade reading and assessments. HB 4574, sponsored by former educator and MEA member Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights), would allow teachers to exercise discretion when deciding to retain a student who does not read at grade level in the third year.
House Bill 5101, sponsored by Rep. Cara Clemente (D-Lincoln Park), would change the requirements for early literacy screening to allow teachers’ professional judgment.
While teachers don’t get enough credit for everything they do, paraprofessionals get even less, former teacher and MEA member Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) said, touting his project. legislation to create a tuition-free pathway for paratroopers to obtain teacher certification. .
“Our parapros are the ones who work with each student individually to make sure they can be successful,” Koleszar said while announcing the package on Facebook. “My bill, HB 4369, creates a pipeline for parapros to achieve their full teaching certification, resulting in more passionate and skilled educators in our classrooms. “
Another proposal to build a pipeline of future teacher candidates was presented at the press conference by Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), who noted that she had brought in two of her former teachers as guests. specials when she was sworn in for her first full term. to the legislature in 2019.
“They shaped and molded me into the woman I am today, and we often forget that,” Anthony said. “Those of us in the halls of power have a responsibility… to rise to the occasion. Every child deserves access to a great neighborhood public school so that they have the opportunity to grow up and lead a successful life, but none of this can happen without our educators.
Anthony’s bill, HB 5107, would create a technical teacher preparation career program that would allow high school students to work to meet teacher certification requirements through coursework and learning through the process. experience.
“This package will not solve all the problems we face at once, but it is an important first step towards creating the strongest possible education system,” said Anthony. “It shows that we value our educators the same way we value other skilled and educated professionals by paying our educators appropriately, respecting them, and genuinely treating them like the experts they are in the field.”
Other bills in the kit pertaining to educators:
- Remove the student growth component from Teacher Assessments – HB 5104 and 5106 by former teacher and MEA Rep member. Lori Stone (D-Warren) and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia);
- Create a category of $ 25 per student for districts that lower their teacher-student ratio compared to the previous year, primarily for districts with the highest ratios – HB 5111 by representative Helena Scott (D-Detroit);
- Require that school improvement plans include individualized professional development plans for teachers – HB 5108 from Representative Kara Hope (D-Holt);
- Require teacher preparation programs to include a course in classroom management – HB 5112 also by Stone; and
- Require Class Management Training for Alternates – HB 5113 by Representative Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park).