Multiple judges have ruled the state took money from school workers' paychecks illegally and it needs to be paid back.
This week Governor Rick Snyder said no.
The governor’s legal team filed an appeal, asking the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn the appeals courts finding that the state unconstitutionally took the money.
You can find the appeal embedded at the end of this article.
The court told the state in a ruling last month that it needs to pay about $550 million dollars back to more than 200,000 teachers and school workers across the state.
The governor is taking on this legal fight without Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Schuette said after reviewing the court’s opinion he would not supply attorneys to the governor for this fight.
This is a case that started in 2010. That is when the state started taking 3% of public workers’ pay, without the workers’ permission.
At first, not only school workers were impacted. Workers fought it in court with multiple and separate lawsuits.
“The law has been found unconstitutional,” said Rochelle Noel, a school counselor in Livonia. "State employees got their money back three or four years ago. And we are still waiting. “
Noel and other teachers have theories about why the state provided refunds to many state workers, but not school workers.
"It really makes you start to wonder if they have it out for teachers,” said Noel.
“The teachers (unions) have opposed the governor politically so he is retaliating,” said Jeff Gaynor, who just retired from teaching at Ann Arbor Schools.
Governor Rick Snyder’s Press Secretary Anna Heaton says this isn’t retaliation. She says the administration tried to appeal an order to pay money to state workers as well. She says the Supreme Court didn’t take it up.
She says different rules govern state employees and school employees. The governor wants to make sure the law is followed.
The governor is also concerned about the impact this will have on school budgets, if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn previous rulings.
"This law was put in place to sustain retiree health care for public school employees, by requiring them to contribute a small portion of income toward their retirement care instead of taxpayers fully funding it. If school employees do not contribute toward their retirement health care, the funding for the system will have to come from other district resources, either the from the classroom or directly from taxpayers so that districts can balance their budgets,” said Heaton. "Appealing to the Supreme Court will allow for finality on the issue either way so school districts can plan accordingly.”
Teachers say their pay is not arbitrarily up for grabs to deal with budget issues. They say the governor is simply delaying justice with the appeal, and in the process racking up legal costs for taxpayers.
”Taxpayers are going to end up paying for all of this,” said Noel.
Judges have said under the state constitution money can’t be taken without worker permission, especially for something that isn’t guaranteed. The money was taken to cover the costs of retiree health care, which is not guaranteed to workers.
“There is $550 million sitting in escrow that teachers have earned, the same teachers who had their pay and benefits cut. We would like to see our money returned to us,” said Noel.
Read the appeal below: