News Story

Union Head: Teachers Get No Time to Attend Professional Conferences

Yet, the law and union contracts mandate time off for that and the MEA holds its conferences on school days

In his attempt to explain why public school teachers work year-around, Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook said they have no time during the school year to attend professional conferences.

“During the school year, there isn’t time for teachers to take days out of the classroom to attend conferences and collaborate with other educators,” Cook said in the regular space granted to him in the Detroit News editorial section.

ForTheRecord says: The MEA union held several conferences for teachers during the last school year. The union scheduled statewide gatherings for Thursday and Friday, Feb. 2 and 3 – both regular school days. Another round was held on Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 17. An MEA training session for female union stewards and officials was held on another Friday, May 12.

Also, state law requires school districts to provide each teacher “at least five days of teacher professional development each school year.”

And union contracts negotiated by MEA affiliates usually require districts to accommodate teachers taking time off to attend conferences during the school year.

For example, the contract negotiated by the Troy School District teachers' union states: “Teachers attending approved professional conferences shall be released from teaching duties without loss of leave days or compensation. The expenses for such conferences shall be assumed by the Board. Every effort shall be made to equitably distribute approved conferences according to the following levels: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12, and Special Education.”

The Livonia Public Schools teachers’ contract requires the employer to grant up to 70 days of release each year to allow different teachers to attend “professional organization activities and conferences.” But it also stipulates that if a substitute teacher has to be used to replace the teacher attending the conference, the union reimburses the district for the cost of the substitute teacher.