Michigan House OKs bills affecting teacher pay, union dues

(The Center Square) – The Michigan House approved six bills to boost union membership that critics say would prioritize union politics before the quality of education.

House Bill 4357 aims…

(The Center Square) – The Michigan House approved six bills to boost union membership that critics say would prioritize union politics before the quality of education.

House Bill 4357 aims to allow school districts to deduct automatically union dues from teacher salaries.

Rep. Brad Paquette, R-Niles, said if the bill becomes law, it could push teachers out of the profession. He said when he was starting as a teacher, he made $34,000 annually.

“Union dues are a bigger chunk of a smaller paycheck – the smaller paychecks of those teachers who are newer to the profession, and this is debilitating, especially when a teacher could be doing an equal or even better job than a colleague who can be making almost triple what a newer teacher is making,” Paquette said in a floor speech.

Former teacher Rep. Regina Weiss, D-Oak Park, claimed the teacher shortage was partly caused by these laws.

“What is happening right now is bad for kids,” Weiss said in a floor speech. “This isn’t working, and it hasn’t been working for the past 11 or 12 years.”

HB 4354 aims to expand collective bargaining rights for public school employees to include performance evaluations, merit pay, layoff and hiring decisions, placements, discipline, and classroom observations.

HB 4044 aims to repeal the requirement that wages and benefit levels be “frozen” during contract negotiations.

HB 4233 seeks to allow a public school employer to deduct union dues or service fees from an employee’s paycheck.

HB 4356 aims to remove restrictions on collective bargaining negotiations between schools and employees for noninstructional support service contracts for the following items.

  • The decision to contract with a third party for the services.
  • The procedures for obtaining a contract.
  • The identity of the third party.
  • The impact of the contract for the services on individual employees or the bargaining unit.

Senate Bill 359 aims to delete compensation factors for teachers and administrators hired after Sept. 1, 2029. A community district must maintain a method of compensation that primarily considers job performance and accomplishments, including an annual evaluation.

Under the bill, a district can’t use the length of service or achievement of an advanced degree as a factor in compensation levels for teachers hired after Sept. 1, 2019. Instead, an advanced degree could be a factor for base compensation for a teacher with a secondary-level teaching certificate who has a subject area endorsement and teaches in that subject area.

An advanced degree in elementary education may be considered a factor for a teacher’s base compensation if that teacher has an elementary-level teaching certificate and teaches in an elementary grade.

Great Lakes Education Project Director Beth DeShone said HB 4354 would allow labor unions – not school leaders – to determine partnering teachers with which students. DeShone said the bill would allow union officials to potentially ban principals from observing teacher performance in the classroom, end merit pay for the state’s best teachers, shuffle bad or disciplined teachers into other classrooms and reward seniority instead of effectiveness. 

“Michigan students are in crisis, and House Bill 4354 will only make it worse,” DeShone said in a statement. “Our kids are reeling from learning losses ushered in by Governor Whitmer’s COVID orders that closed schools. Now the same politicians who locked them out of their classrooms are pushing legislation to hurt our state’s most effective teachers and to reward union officials who fund their campaigns.”

Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart said the wills will restore “respect for our profession.”

“Passing these bills will help attract and retain high-quality educators who can help our kids succeed,” Herbart said in a statement. “We look forward to the State Senate taking swift action next week to pass these bills and send them to Gov. Whitmer to be signed into law.”