Bill attacks teachers, students

By George Darany
As summer winds down and students and teachers get ready to get back in the classroom, it is important to keep a few things in perspective. Education is one of the single best investments we can make in Michigan’s future.

Here in Dearborn, we are very fortunate to live in a community that not only understands this, but is filled with dedicated teachers, staff and administrators. It is no secret that our schools have had to continue to do more with less as per-pupil funding decreases. In today’s educational environment, our teacher’s often go above and beyond to provide our children and grandchildren with everything they need to succeed and be productive members of our communities.

As a member of the Michigan House Education Committee, I know first-hand how hard the educators in this state work to accomplish the goal of preparing our students for the future, which is why I could not support Senate Bill 1040 when it came before the full House of Representatives for final passage on Aug. 15. The bill is now on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder for signature. SB 1040 amends the Public School Employee Retirement System and makes significant changes to benefits for current and retired teachers, as well as new and future teachers.

The bill that was passed under the current leadership in Lansing eliminates the retirement health care benefits for future employees and replaces it with matching employer contributions of up to 2 percent of compensation deposited into a 401(k) account. Current and retired employees under the age of 65 will see an increase in their retiree health insurance premium contribution from 10 to 20 percent, capping the MPSERS premium share at 80 percent beginning Jan. 2, 2013.

The average pension level for members of MPSERS is based on the average final earnings of the member along with the service credits earned while working. The current Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report of MPSERS states that during fiscal year 2010-11 the total level of pension benefits paid was approximately $4 billion to a total of 187,722 pension recipients, leading to an average $21,189. The number of active employed members of MPSERS has declined by 23.8 percent between Sept. 30, 2001 and Sept. 30, 2010.

While I understand the need to keep the system solvent, we simply can’t keep attacking our teachers and essentially our students, who have already been struggling under the extensive and unnecessary budget cuts that were imposed by the leadership in Lansing. During my time in Lansing, I have been fortunate to serve on the House Education Committee, and I am committed to continue to stand up for policy that will not only improve our education system, but ensure that we attract and retain the top-notch teachers that will help move our state forward.

(State Rep. George Darany represents the 15th House District. To contact him, call 855-775-1515 or email him at georgetdarany@house.mi.gov. To sign up for his e-newsletter, visit his website, house.mi.gov/gdarany.)

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