There was a time, Brendan Wagner says, when he was the choice of the Michigan Education Association.
Wagner, a school board member for Warren Consolidated Schools, lost his reelection bid in May. Wagner is the director of pupil transportation at the Chippewa Valley School District. He said he received $500 from the MEA in his first campaign for the board.
The MEA turned against him in his reelection bid because Wagner wasn't beholden to the union, he claims. Media reports indicate that his MEA-supported opponent raised ten times as much money as the typical school board candidate traditionally takes in.
"Right now, they are hurting schools," Wagner said. "The MEA will eat their young. They will sacrifice jobs to get their salaries."
Wagner said the vast majority of teachers are worth what they are making, but that the union doesn't recognize the economic crisis that schools face.
"Individual teachers have said to me, 'We will gladly take a pay cut, we will gladly pay for a portion of health care. We just want to keep our jobs.' But the MEA's mantra is 'no'."
"Eventually, the teachers are going to have to step to the plate and get involved in concessionary bargaining," Wagner said. "By that time, there will be so much blood letting in terms of program cuts and kids won't have availability of arts and sports, and all these things will be sacrificed. And then teachers will come to the table and say, 'We give.' My question is, 'Why didn't you come to the table in the first place?'
In a May 6 press release, the MEA trumpeted Sue Jozwik's victory over Wagner.
The Macomb Daily wrote, "Jozwik, a favorite of the Michigan Education Association teachers' union, has raised an astounding $16,358 to finance her election campaign. By the standards of typical Macomb County school board campaigns, that is about 10 times the amount raised by most candidates."
The average salary of a Warren school teacher is $73,421. The teachers don't contribute to health care costs.