LANSING (WWJ) – Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is taking aim at the state’s teachers unions.

WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reports that Richardville plans to introduce a bill that would allow the teachers to opt out of paying their union dues.

“The Senate Republicans are taking on the Michigan Education Association in what could be a war,” said Skubick.

Richardville said on PBS’s Off the Record, “I don’t think that the teachers union understand where we are vis-a-vis givebacks in the economy. It does not represent teachers well nor the students, and they are only taking care of those with big paychecks  topping $200,000 a year.”

“The teachers union, specifically the Michigan Education Association, have lost their way and public school employees should no longer be forced to join them,” said Richardville.

Is this a first step toward making Michigan a Right to Work state?  Skubick says no.

“[Richardville] made it very clear on the program that he does not favor that. He doesn’t believe that would turn Michigan’s economy around, and on that he is simpatico with [Gov. Rick Snyder]. And, on this MEA move, he said that he has talked to the governor about it and he said that he and the governor are on the same book,” Skubick said.

The move could significantly reduce the amount of dues collected by the MEA.

The Michigan Education Association responded to Richardville in a statement out Friday. MEA President Steven Cook called the senator “seriously misguided.”

“Republican leaders have slashed school funding, increased taxes, stripped collective bargaining rights from teachers and other school employees, forced them to pay more out-of-pocket for retirement and health insurance and, in general, completely undermined and demoralized the educators of this state,” said Cook.

“For Sen. Richardville to say that school employees, unlike other unions, have not recognized the state’s tough economic times is ridiculous. Teachers and support staff have been laid off, taken wage and benefit cuts, and seen critical services for students in their districts disappear because of the Republican cut of more than $1 billion from public education.”

“Instead of focusing on putting our state back to work, Sen. Richardville would rather engage in political power grabs. How is attacking public school employees and their unions supposed to help our economy and create jobs? This is blatant abuse of legislative authority to dole out political payback.”

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson says the claim that teachers’ unions are to blame for problems in education makes no sense.  Johnson says Charter schools are underperforming and they are not unionized.

“They don’t have union protection, they don’t have seniority and things of that sort, if they don’t have what these pundits are calling the inhibitors to educational growth and progress then why are they consistently being out performed by traditional public schools,” said Johnson.

But Johnson says he doesn’t think the proposal will have enough support in Lansing to pass.

“I don’t think the governor has any interest in this, I really don’t think they’ll have the vote to get it passed, I honestly don’t,  the fact that this notion has even arisen, is caused for concern,” said Johnson.

(Read the MEA’s complete statement at this link.)


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