Saturday, April 15, 2006

Duh? Do ya think?

Rarely do I agree with Steve Lund(Kenosha News Columnist) on anything. Even Steve Lund cannot deny the numbers on this issue. Like Steve, I believe this is a no brainer.

The teacher's union in Kenosha have the opportunity to save the taxpayer's of Kenosha County $6.7 million and they have to sacrifice nothing

Steve Lund's article-
See if you think this decision would be simple or complicated:
Suppose you have to pick a health insurance plan for a big employer, such as a school district. There are two plans with identical benefits, but a big difference in price. One costs $2,600 more per employee. If you pick the more expensive plan, 142 or more of your coworkers will be laid off. If you pick the less expensive plan, nobody gets laid off and everyone’s health benefits stay the same. Which one do you choose?
Take your time. You don’t have to decide right away.

Just keep in mind that the truck drivers and warehouse workers have already decided. They picked the lower-price plan.

The carpenters and painters have already decided. They also picked the lower-price plan.

The secretaries have decided. They picked the lower-price plan.

The interpreters, a group of 11, also decided. They picked the higher-price plan.

That’s the way things have gone with bargaining units in the Kenosha Unified School System. Each unit had to choose between health plans offered by WEA Trust, the district’s usual insurance company, or United Health Care, the other finalist in the bidding process. WEA Trust’s plan is the more expensive option.

According to figures released by the school district, the United Health Care plan will cost $16,034 per employee. The WEA Trust plan is projected to cost $18,710 per employee.

The difference in impact on the annual school district budget is $6.7 million. That’s why so many people will be laid off if the employees ultimately decide to go with the more expensive plan.

The only ones who are having trouble making this decision are the teachers and educational assistants. Those are the largest employee groups and the groups that will suffer the brunt of the layoffs. They have postponed a vote.

The teachers, however, think it’s a real head-scratcher. They seem to be taking a simple multiple-choice question — with only two choices, it couldn’t be much simpler — and turning it into a 500-word college-application essay.


One complicating factor that can be added to the mix is tradition. WEA Trust has been the insurance carrier for the district for 19 years.

Another factor is the relationship between the teachers union and the WEA Trust. The Kenosha Education Association is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Education Association, which created the WEA Trust in 1970. The WEA Trust is a not-for-profit corporation that serves only public school districts in Wisconsin where affiliates of the WEA have the bargaining rights.

Fred Evert, president and CEO of the WEA Trust, said the company serves about 350 of the 420 WEA-affiliated districts in the state, including large districts such as Waukesha and La Crosse.

“Kenosha is one of the larger, if not the largest, client,” Evert said in a phone interview. “It is one we’d like to keep.”

Why shouldn’t this be a simple matter of taking the lower price?

“If one considers insurance a commodity, like a load of gravel, then price is determinative,” Evert said. “However, insurance is not a commodity. Benefits, level of service and motivation of the company matter. We’re not for profit. We do not pay commissions. Our sole motivation is to our members. “The level of customer service, the level of care for the price — the value equation — is second to none.”

To those complicating factors, we ought to add one more simplifying consideration: Taxpayer service. If the school district goes with the lower-price plan, taxpayers get 57 more teachers and 85 more educational assistants for their taxes. If the district picks the higher price plan, taxpayers still pay the same, but they have a school district with 142 fewer people actually working with the students.

No matter how many ways anyone finds to make this question complicated, it still looks like a simple question of price. What would be complicated is explaining to taxpayers and parents why you voted for a plan that results in fewer people on the front lines of education and delivers no additional benefits. For that matter, how would you explain it to the ones who are laid off? That would be complicated.

This one really is simple: Go with the better price.


My message to the Kenosha County Teachers- THIS IS A NO-BRAINER- TAKE THE LOWER PRICED PLAN!!!! PLEASE!



6 comments:

BBG said...

Maybe the teachers union would make the change if they could put that money in their bought and paid for Governor's pocket for the fall election.

jyd said...

How are the taxpayers saving any money under a lower-priced plan? Don't get me wrong, I think teachers need to move away from WEA. But I'm troubled that the anti-public school crowd continues to either misunderstand the WEO or lie about it. Any savings in health goes to teacher salaries...

Gordy-R said...

If the laying off 142 employees does not effect the students, and is only a result of the money, do we need the employees in the first place?

Gordy

K. Carpenter said...

jyd-
I believe the taxpayers will be saving money. The teachers deserve a raise and they will get a raise. Instead of my taxes going up even higher- the teachers get their raises and I do not have to pay for it yet. I think raises for teachers is a good thing-they deserve it.

$6.7 million can be spent on alot of different programs. Think about what this money can buy.

The most important thing is that our kids can benefit directly from the savings. Take that savings and throw it back into science labs, new teachers, and new classrooms. All of these things are desperately needed, but cannot be provided, due to lack of funds.

The taxpayers may not see a direct savings on their tax bills, but perhaps property taxes will not go up as high in the future.

As taxpayers, we pay for new teachers, new classrooms and raises for our teachers. The savings over the next 5 years could actually pay off the debt our schools currently have, give the teachers the raises they deserve, plus- perhaps a new school can be funded from the savings alone.

jyd said...

K. Carpenter-

Perhaps I did a poor job explaining why there is no savings in this health care change. In your original post...

"According to figures released by the school district, the United Health Care plan will cost $16,034 per employee. The WEA Trust plan is projected to cost $18,710 per employee."

Let's take a new teacher who makes a salary of $31,290. I know that's probably a bit low but it makes the math easier. This new teacher total salary and benefit package is $50,000 a year (31,290 + 18,710). The next year the QEO mandates that this teacher receive an annual "package" increase of 3.8%. This takes her package to 51,900. Under the WEA plan, the teacher makes 33,190 in salary and 18,710 in benefits (total of 51,900). Under the United Health Care plan, the teacher makes 35,866 in salary and 16,034 in benefits. The 51,900 is the constant in the QEO, so there is NO savings to the taxpayer. The teachers have to decide whether to take higher pay... or better benefits.

jyd said...

K. Carpenter-

Perhaps I did a poor job explaining why there is no savings in this health care change. In your original post...

"According to figures released by the school district, the United Health Care plan will cost $16,034 per employee. The WEA Trust plan is projected to cost $18,710 per employee."

Let's take a new teacher who makes a salary of $31,290. I know that's probably a bit low but it makes the math easier. This new teacher total salary and benefit package is $50,000 a year (31,290 + 18,710). The next year the QEO mandates that this teacher receive an annual "package" increase of 3.8%. This takes her package to 51,900. Under the WEA plan, the teacher makes 33,190 in salary and 18,710 in benefits (total of 51,900). Under the United Health Care plan, the teacher makes 35,866 in salary and 16,034 in benefits. The 51,900 is the constant in the QEO, so there is NO savings to the taxpayer. The teachers have to decide whether to take higher pay... or better benefits.

Does that make sense?