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Work begins on bills to restore issues open to school collective bargaining

Detroit school leaders point to Coleman A. Young Elementary School as a successful turnarond effort led from within the district.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Teachers and other school workers could have a bigger voice in school placement and discipline policies under bills working their bills through the state House. The four bills take aim at laws adopted by a GOP-led Legislature and signed by then-Republican Governor Rick Snyder that limited the scope of teacher contract talks.

The House Education Committee opened hearings on the bills this week.

State Representative Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) is a former teacher who serves on the House Education Committee and is one of the bill sponsors. She said allowing collective bargaining over placement, job evaluations, and discipline would restore fairness to the negotiating process.

“Allowing educators to bargain on these issues will allow them to feel like they are more involved in their school community,” Weiss said. “It will give them a voice in the process, and it will help attract and retain teachers in the profession.”

“I strongly believe that if you restore these collective bargaining rights for teachers and school employees and give them a voice in the process of these critical decisions, the result will be what is best for kids.”

State Representative Tom Kunce (R-Clare) serves in the minority on the committee. He said the legislation would clear the way for a system that leans more heavily on seniority. He said that would make it harder to remove or discipline lower-performing school employees.

“We’re going to make the problem worse because this is going to be continued and we’re just going to continue down the line and bump teachers all the way through,” he said.

The legislation is a Democratic priority, but there’s no word on a specific timeline on committee votes to send the bills to the House floor.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.