Last week was the longest week for legislators, as the House and Senate worked double sessions to finish before statutory adjournment, June 19th. It was an equally long week for MEA staff, but our collective efforts have led to remarkable victories.
Bargaining Planning & Prep Time Clears Legislative Chambers
Last week, the House voted 79 to 68 to enact LD 240 in a remarkable feat. LD 240 is MEA’s bill to lift the prohibition on bargaining over planning and prep periods, so teachers can negotiate this issue with local school boards. The initial House vote on Tuesday was too close for comfort as legislators faced immense pressure from superintendents and school boards to vote against us.
But thanks to our members, together, we successfully changed the minds of several legislators who planned to vote against us. Check to see how your legislator voted on LD 240 enactment. Please contact your legislator to thank them if they voted “YES” on LD 240.
This morning, the Senate voted 20 to 14 to enact LD 240. Contact your Senator to thank them if they voted to support LD 240. The bill now goes to Governor Mills’ office to be signed into law or vetoed.
Protecting Teachers From Unfair Evaluations
Last week, Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 1338, MEA’s bill to restore due process rights for teachers in the evaluation process. This is another significant victory for teachers and undoes one of the worst elements of the evaluation systems instituted under LePage.
LD 1338 removes the requirement to include teacher effectiveness ratings in RIF/layoff procedures. The law is permissive, meaning the district can still allow the use of effectiveness ratings, but ratings are now subject to grievance under certain circumstances. If the rating is not an accurate reflection of their work, the educator may attach a rebuttal to their evaluation as part of the official rating file.
This new law goes into effect 90 days following adjournment, likely late September. The MEA will provide collective bargaining guidance on these changes in the near future.
Addressing Assaults on School Employees
Another priority bill for MEA passed both chambers and heads to the Governor’s office. LD 1370 addresses the epidemic of assaults against educators by students. It requires administrators to investigate incidents of dangerous behavior, and helps guarantee the employee’s voice in the development of the student’s response plan. The bill emphasizes restorative justice and other practices to help, not punish, students. Lastly, the bill requires that if school employees suffer from assault, school districts may not count time away from work from the employee’s sick leave.
State Budget Update
Last week, the House and Senate approved the next biennial budget, and Governor Mills is expected to sign the budget into law this afternoon. The MEA is glad to see bipartisan cooperation in the budget process, we still have concerns about funding in key areas.
Minimum Teacher Salary: The budget adopts language that slowly moves Maine’s minimum teacher salary. The proposed minimum salaries are set:
The MEA hoped to secure a $40K minimum teacher salary more quickly than what the Appropriations Committee agreed to. However, if finally approved, we can use this language to help raise salaries for teachers throughout the state.
Higher Education Funding: The Appropriations Committee also shaved a bit of funding from our higher ed institutions. The Governor Mills budget would have increased University of Maine and Community College funding by 3% each year. Instead, the Appropriations Committee approved a 3.35% increase for the first year and flat funding in the second year.
This is not what the MEA hoped for, but the state budget requires a two-thirds majority of legislators to pass. I expect Democrats are doing the best they can to protect key goals, nevertheless, the MEA remains disappointed by the outcome.
Other Bills We’re Watching
Here’s a brief update on additional bills the MEA has been watching:
• LD 721 encourages public participation at local school board meetings by requiring public comment. Governor Mills signed LD 721 into law late last week.
• LD 1237 removes the 120 day notice requirement for bargaining. LD 1237 was signed into law by Governor Mills.
• LD 513 limits enrollment for virtual for-profit charter schools to 1,000 students and ensures virtual schools do not enroll students under grade 7. This became law without the Governor’s signature.
• Binding Arbitration (LD 1177) and Right to Strike (LD 900) will be taken up very soon by the legislature. Please contact your legislators on these bills: http://bit.ly/LD-1177 and http://bit.ly/LD-900