By Victor Skinner
EAGnews.org
    
MIDLAND, Mich. – Dozens of Michigan school districts have agreed to new contracts with their teachers unions to avoid provisions in the state’s right-to-work law.
    
demandtherighttoworkThe law went into effect March 28, several months after it was passed in December. During that window, at least 54 school districts have signed new collective bargaining agreements with teachers unions that will require teachers to continue to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, the Mackinac Center reports.
    
“Some of the contracts just involved support staff,” said Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy, who is tracking the new agreements. “But the vast majority covered teachers. At this point I think it’s safe to say that close to 20 percent of the teachers in Michigan have been affected.”
    
The Mackinac Center is using Freedom of Information Act requests to determine which school districts and intermediate school districts are signing agreements to avoid the law.
    
“Several new contract agreements were for two or three years while others were signed for up to 10 years,” the Mackinac Center reports.
    
One especially egregious example of a district dodging the law comes from Taylor, Michigan, where school officials inked two different contracts – one for general collective bargaining provisions for the next four years, and another specifically locking in union dues payments for a decade.
    
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is representing Taylor teachers Angela Steffke, Nancy Rhatigan and Rebecca Metz, who have filed a lawsuit challenging the shady deal.
    
We believe school officials in the 54 districts should explain to teachers who don’t want to be in the union why they’re forcing them to join. They should also explain to taxpayers why they’ve opted to help the union avoid accountability to its members and students.
    
Hopefully, lawmakers in Lansing will find a way to hold public schools responsible for disregarding employees and the will of Michigan voters.
    
“There is … a focus on accountability to taxpayers, students and teachers” in the wake of the law-dodging deals, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger told the Mackinac Center.
    
“Therefore, the state budget in the House will seek to continue that focus and our discussion will be about how we should hold schools accountable for their responsibilities to their customers. Local schools had every right to negotiate the contracts as they wish, just like the Legislature has every right to seek accountability for taxpayers in the budgets we pass.”

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