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‘Right To Teach’ Laws Spark Backlash In Education Community

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LANSING (WWJ) - Teachers in Metro Detroit are speaking out against the latest reforms from Lansing.

“Right to teach” laws would no longer require teachers to be unionized and would take them out of the pension system, as part of further education reforms in Lansing, on top of already approved changes in teacher tenure laws.

Opponents say it’s an effort to privatize education and take away teacher’s labor protections. With budget cuts and other reforms already in law, Warren 5th grade teacher Lisa Sikoski said it’s taking a toll in her classroom.

“When you have 10-year-olds telling you ‘Why don’t they like us,’ they have a bigger problem on their hands then they think. The more they undermine us and undercut us, they are breeding a new kind of voter and it’s coming,” Sikoski said.

Jon Fielbrandt, president of the Warren Education Association, sees the bills as an effort to dismantle public education at a time where its need is critical.

“When we should be working to get our young people, our best, our brightest into education, into the teaching field to help education in America and to help improve and make us ready on a global scale, we’re in fact making education the least attractive field possible,” he said.

Fielbrandt said the bills would also take workers out of the pension system, essentially bankrupting it for retirees.

“Who in their right mind would want to go into the field right now when we’re against all odds?” Sikoski asked.

“I’m not going to let them bully me around. I love my job, it’s in my blood, and for most of us, we do it because it’s a calling and it’s not about a lot of the things that they’re making it into. It’s not about the benefits and the summers, which by the way I haven’t had a summer to myself since I started teaching 19 years ago,” Sikoski continued.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said he was in favor of right to teach laws that would only affect public school employees because teacher unions haven’t dealt with the financial problems that districts are facing. He also said any plans to implement the laws are not about taking on the Michigan Education Association.

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