News Story

Fraser Public Schools Explains Its Role In A Union Pension Spiking Scheme

Superintendent says the law allows it and legislators had the chance to end it but didn't

Fraser Public Schools Superintendent David Richards

Fraser Public Schools Superintendent David Richards

During the 2017-2018 school fiscal year, teacher Paula Herbart has requested, and has been granted, a professional services leave of absence, for the purpose of serving as the President of the Michigan Education Association.

Pursuant to Article VI I of the currently effective collective bargaining agreement between the Fraser School District and MEA/NEA Local 1, Ms. Herbart’s collective bargaining representative, the granting of such a professional services leave of absence, “Officer’s Leave of Absence”, is mandatory.

The Fraser School District is required to grant any such leave of absence requests, be that of Ms. Herbart, or of any other Fraser Public Schools teacher seeking to serve as President, MEA/NEA Local 1, NEA or MEA officer (the MEA/NEA president, vice-president, secretary-treasurer). This provision has existed within the MEA/NEA Local 1 contract with the Fraser School District for many years.

Furthermore, the Michigan Legislature, not the Fraser School District, has expressly provided for the accrual of years of service within the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, “MPSERS”, for the time a public school employee is on a professional services leave of absence, Section 71 of the Public School Employees Retirement Act of 1979, MCL 38.1371.

In this regard the legislature has chosen to allow service credit accrual, so long as the compensation reported by a school district to the Office of Retirement Services (“ORS”) does not exceed that amount that the employee would have received if still actively employed by the school district, and the employee or his/her union fully reimburses the school district, on a current basis, for all sums paid to the ORS.

The ORS has determined that these sums must include both the employer and the employee retirement contributions and must be in cash.

In 2015 Senate Bill 279 was introduced and, if passed, would have prohibited MPSERS service credit accrual while a public school employee was on a professional services leave of absence. However, Senate Bill 279 was never reported out of committee and died at the end of the legislative session. Accordingly, Michigan law continues to authorize and facilitate service credit accrual.

The only accommodation that the Fraser School District has afforded to Ms. Herbart is the agreement to process her through its official payroll. This accommodation is at absolutely no cost to the Fraser School District for the reason that MEA-NEA Local 1 has assumed the obligation to reimburse the Fraser School District for all such salary, payroll taxes, charges, and MPSERS contributions.

Therefore, Ms. Herbart’s current leave status and her continued participation within the MPSERS is entirely consistent with the governing collective bargaining agreement and existing law as enabled by the Michigan legislature.