MI House Speaker Leonard Signals Attacks on Retired Teachers

Republicans can’t seem to hate teachers enough, which must be why Michigan House of Representatives Speaker Tom Leonard is chomping at the bit to take away from their pensions and retiree health care.

“Right now, we are spending a record amount on education. Nobody can dispute that fact. The big problem we have here, right now, is we have what I’m calling a broken teacher retirement system.

“One of the first bullet points in this plan is entitled govern courageously. It’s not easy to go in and fix some of these problems, but we have a broken teacher retirement system. Tight now that’s costing our local school districts 36 percent of their payroll, and within the next few years it could even be half of the payroll. We have got to fix that,” Leonard said.

He is partly right — education makes up for a large part of the state’s budget. But that includes money spent on charter schools and cyber schools, where most teachers don’t pay into the teacher retirement system (MPSERS) even though they draw pensions and benefits from it. (Charter schools only pay into MPSERS if they directly employ teachers. However, most charters use a management company, and the management company employs the teachers, thereby sidestepping the MPSERS requirement).

But rather than do something shocking, like hold charter schools to the same standards as school districts and have them pay into MPSERS, Republicans are looking for ways to cut back on pensions and health care, putting the well-being of retired teachers at risk. And that’s just not acceptable.

Instead of attacking teachers, House Democratic Leader Sam Singh said the state has to make sure schools are properly funded.

“Right now, the governor actually has a report on his desk that shows that $1,200 per pupil is missing, and so what does that mean? It means that our local schools we actually have bigger classroom sizes when we could actually have more resources in our schools. For me, that would be number one priority, making sure we have the right amount of money going into our K-12 schools,” Singh said.

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