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Public Employee, Teachers Advocate Seeks to Resolve Labor Issues

CSEA representative and Glendora native Michael Bilbrey says teachers and state employees have been unfair targets by politicians and the media.

Public employee pensions and salaries have taken political heat, and a swarm of press has focused on ineffective educators and recently, abusive teachers.

But a local advocate for public employees, is on a mission to change public perception.

Recently elected as the state first vice president for the California School Employees Association, Glendora native Michael Bilbrey, 45, works with 210,000 employees across 750 school districts on issues such as job security and retirement. Bilbrey also serves on the California Public Employees’ Retirement System Board of Administration and is the co-chair of Labor United for Universal Healthcare.

Bilbrey, who is also the bookstore operations coordinator at Citrus College, took aim at what he believes is a negative political agenda against public employees and teachers.

“I don’t know why people have so much against public workers who are just working people trying to make a sustainable wage and get by,” said Bilbrey. “They’re not all making these excessive salaries and pensions that people say they are.”

According to Bilbrey, school employees make up about a quarter of the CalPERS system, and their average pension is a modest $1,200 a month.

Although the a year, Bilbrey says that not all teachers are well-paid. He said each district negotiates their own contracts, and each vary.

“Northern California contracts are very different than southern California contracts. Some in the LA region and South Bay area may have good salaries, while others way up north probably have way less salaries than what they do here,” said Bilbrey.

While some districts may pay their teachers well, Bilbrey notes a high rate of layoffs among new teachers and the increasing number of furlough days.

And given the amount of education and certification teachers must attain for their positions, Bilbrey believes most teachers deserve the “well-paid” salaries.

“A vast majority of teachers are making a difference,” said Bilbrey. “In my opinion, we’re investing in our future, and many people don’t see it that way, and that’s unfortunate. We’re almost at the lowest – and we used to be at the top – in per pupil spending in education.”

But Bilbrey said there is still some reason to be optimistic despite the state’s financial woes and a “terrible” economy.

“We are now at $230 billion in the CalPers fund,” said Bilbrey. “That’s almost $70 billion more than when it was at its low point in 2009. We are also starting to be more jobs. So things are slowly improving.”

But as the fight over limited federal dollars continue to be waged during a state budget crisis, CSEA is trying to keep their political influence intact.

A new initiative led by Orange County Republicans has qualified for the November 2012 ballot and aims to ban both corporate and labor union contributions to candidates.

The measure intends to minimize influence of special interest groups “so politicians will pay attention to the voters that they are elected to represent.”

Bilbrey said the voluntary donations CSEA members make go toward local school board and bond elections, as well as legislative and initiative elections.

“We're just trying to have a voice in the political system,” said Bilbrey.

Denise B. February 09, 2012 at 07:43 PM
BK- How can it be that the arrested Miramonte teacher will collect 48K a year then? If the equation is 2%@30, wouldn't it mean he was making at least 80K a year? I think the run up in pay and benefits took place in the last 10 years. How long have you been retired? I can tell by your writings and attitude that you were a great teacher. You remind me of the late, great Mike Royko of the Chicago Sun Times.
Wayne Tennille February 09, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Here we go again! Let's all pile on teachers and other public employees; perhaps it will make us all feel better. Of course, we would all have to be small-minded, anti-tax, something-for-nothing, free-market-as long-as the-government-bails us-out citizens to really enjoy it. I do not choose to participate.
jayzable February 09, 2012 at 08:44 PM
We just don't like being taken advantage of that's all Wayne. Administration time is the same vehicle that allowed the former chief police to make off with 80K of our taxpayer money. Money we could use right now. The city manager used it to take 495K from Monterey Park. Tell me why you think this is justified on any level. How much time off do you think an office job paying over six figures warrants? We will all feel better when these jobs are brought in line with the private sector who happens to be footing the bills for these made up scams like administration time. We are not anti-tax sir, just tired of the something-for-nothing schemes. I have no beef with teachers, they are the collateral damage due to the excess allowed by the unions and politicians in areas like public safety and municipalities. Tell me why a city manager is pulling down more than a U.S. Senator or the Governor of our own state!
Steven Hanson February 09, 2012 at 08:49 PM
I'm not sure about how retirement affects all teachers..I just know that I am typical of teachers who have retired 6-12 years ago. I have been retired eleven years. I loved Mike Royko's work! a great writer! :)
Shelley Null February 17, 2012 at 06:37 AM
Bruce I am a wife of a high shcool special ed teacher and I would love to just let you in how it really is. Yes they get lots of days off but i wish we didn't get the two months in summer because it's not paid. my husband does make over 80 thousand a year and medical do you think that is free, we pay about 400 a month for our family's medical and they take out about 700 a month in retirement, don't forget union dues and taxes. My husband doesn't get home until at least five or six then does work on the computer sometimes until one or two in the morning then starts all over at 6:oo a.m. his school district does not give teachers and supplies for the classroom that all comes out of our pocket, they have every administrator breathing down their throats all the time, because he works at title 1 school. We have had our pay cut five hundred dollars a month this year and the year before, we also filed bankrupcy two years ago because of our pay cuts. here is the difference between joe public who works at the grocery store and my husband. My husband went to college for about 15 years with a bachelor's degree a masters and then coninuing education which of course also costs thousands of dollars so yes he earned that salary and i know lots of people making more with less education. My husband also stays late to tudor kids for free, he really goes to bat for these kids and we can barely pay our bills, and yes he has to work the summer or we would lose our house. That is reality

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