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This diary is similar to one I posted last April. In that letter I detailed how much one must do to become a teacher in the state of Michigan, as well as the standards (GLCEs) set by the Michigan Dept. of Ed to teach second graders. Contrary to public opinion teaching is not an easy career, nor is it lucrative.

At the present time, Gov. Snyder has proposed huge cuts to education in Michigan including taking over $700 million earmarked for K-12 education and moving it to community colleges and universities. Really? Without quality education at the elementary level how does he expect anyone to get to higher education? Fortunately, the state board of education just recommended universal preschool in Michigan. They actually get it.

While this letter is primarily a challenge to the legislators in the state of Michigan, it is typical of what is going on in education in America today. The faulty reasoning is "education is failing so let's make more cuts." Read more below the fold.

In these difficult economic times, the legislators in Michigan need to take part in Gov. Snyder’s “shared sacrifice”.  Although they have just taken a 10% cut in salary, they are some of the highest paid legislators in the U.S., in a state with unemployment at 11.7%. Beginning January 2011, entry level salaries for senators and representatives in Michigan went from $79,650 to $71,685. Their expense account was reduced from $12,000 to $10,800 according to the MiCSC. The qualifications to be elected as a Michigan lawmaker are citizenship in the U.S, age 21 years, no criminal record, and enough money to run a successful campaign.

Health benefits for legislators are currently fully paid (after age 55) for retired legislators who have served only 6 years. Legislation has been discussed since 2007 to reform this benefit. A current bill would cut this benefit to current and future legislators, but not for retired lawmakers already receiving free health care. (bill by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge)

I propose a way for legislators to participate in Gov. Snyder’s shared sacrifice. Why not pay them the same salaries teachers make?  After all, both teachers and legislators are public employees. In the Thornapple Kellogg district, for example, beginning teachers earn $38,461 for a 9 ½ month contract. This is after they have:

1.  obtained a 4 year degree in an approved college of education
2.  successfully student taught for 1 full year, no pay
3.  passed state mandated qualifying tests (in math, reading, writing, specific subjects)
4.  applied for a provisional teaching certificate, at teacher's expense

To continue teaching, probationary teachers must:
1.  be on probation for 4 years once hired; may be let go at will during this time
2.  within 6 years must take 18 graduate level credits at an approved college and successfully teach for 3 years; graduate classes paid for by teachers
3.  apply for a professional teaching certificate, at teacher's expense
4.  every 5 years must reapply for teaching certificate and obtain 6 grad credits, all at teacher's expense
5.  must repeat this process for as long as one teaches

Not only are Michigan legislators highly paid, there are only ten other states who have full-time lawmakers. Cutting legislators to part-time will save money.
Critics of this plan may argue that reducing legislators’ salaries and benefits will barely make a dent in Michigan’s looming deficit. However, a reduction in salary from $71,685 to $38,461 ($33,224 times 148 legislators), is a savings of $4.9 million. Reducing expense accounts from $10,800 to $90 (teachers’ yearly supply allotment is an additional savings of $1.6 million.

Michigan senators and representatives, this is my challenge to you: reduce your salary for one year to that of a first year public school teacher. Cut your salaries. Cut your perks. Cut your retirement benefits just as you would cut those to every other citizen in Michigan. If the people of Michigan can live with the cuts you propose to the budget, then so can you. Don’t ask us to do what you will not.

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