Teachers turned out by the hundreds Wednesday to pack a hearing room in Lansing. They showed up to oppose a measure that would force them to pay more for their retirement health care and pension benefits.
Some people stood up to shout, others cheered and applauded the teachers who testified against the legislation at the state Senate committee hearing. About two dozen teachers picketed outside. One of them was Mimi Katakowski.
"When I came into the profession, I was promised a pension after so many years of service and now those promises are being broken," she says.
Republicans like state Senator Bruce Caswell say the liabilities of the public school employee retirement system are so great now that it risks insolvency of nothing is done.
“Simple economics: You can’t spend more than you’re taking in,” he responds.
Teachers say the state bears part of the blame because budget cuts to schools have made it harder for districts to make employer contributions, and forced teacher layoffs -- which means fewer employees paying into the system.