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Borrowing money from the Teacher Pension gains ground in Michigan, but what would the MEA be willing to do to stop it?

August 20, 2019

Over a month ago, we first reported about a proposal from the West Michigan Policy Forum (WMPF) an economic scheme to pay for road repair in Michigan. 

Under the WMPF proposal, the state would issue a 30-year pension obligation bond to borrow $10 billion that would be pumped into the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System. This proposal fits within the larger agenda of the WMPF, which is to promote and pass neoliberal economic policies in Michigan.

Even though this plan seems rather outlandish, it is finally getting some traction. Late last week, the West Michigan Policy Forum posted on their Facebook page back to back articles, suggesting that the their Teacher Pension plan is gaining ground and even Gov. Whitmer is warming up to the idea.

Crain’s Detroit Business reported that Gov. Whitmer was “warming up” to the idea put forth by the West Michigan Policy Forum, in a late July article. However, an article in Bridge Michigan states that the Governor has not committed to anything in terms of how to fund the roads, but that the clock is ticking since the legislature has yet to approve the state budget.

On August 7, the Michigan Education Association (MEA) stated that the: 

“MEA will oppose any efforts to bond, borrow, delay payments, re-amortize or otherwise underfund our pension system to pay for road repairs. All these amount to the same thing – schemes that put the health of our pension system at risk for current and future school retirees.”

While this stated provides clear opposition, what is the MEA prepared to do to protect the teacher pensions? The MEA has for years banked on the strategy of funding Democratic lawmakers to further their interests, but Democrats have been a minority in the legislature for years and not all Democrats endorse their positions.

If the GOP can convince Gov. Whitmer to support the Teacher Pension plan to fund the roads, what is the MEA prepared to do in order to stop this from happening? If the MEA can’t lobby elected officials to oppose the Teacher Pension plan, then they need to adopt other strategies like Direct Action. The MEA only need to look to other teacher unions across the country, which have been striking in recent years and in most cases they have won their demands. Eric Blanc documents the teacher uprising across the country in his recent book, Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics (Verso Books). Unfortunately, there is no indication that the MEA will adopt any kind of direct action strategy, which is why the teacher union in Michigan continues to loss major battles against the larger neoliberal education policies being championed by groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum.

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