The problems posed by the MEA/MESSA relationship are testimony to the fact that the MEA dominates public education at both the state and school district level. The balance of power has clearly shifted to the point where school districts find themselves at a severe disadvantage in instituting sound labor agreements without a prolonged and disruptive strike. The following policies would create a more responsible environment for public school employment:
1. Exempt public school teachers from the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA).
Since 1966, school districts have been forced through the PERA to bargain insurance benefits and other terms and conditions of employment with the MEA's affiliates. School districts should be able to deal freely and directly with their employees without the state-sanctioned pressure of the MEA. Teachers should be allowed to join a union, but not be forced into membership or support. This would help restore a more equal and responsible relationship between school districts and their employees.
2. At the very least, amend PERA to exempt insurance and benefits as mandatory topics of bargaining.
If legislators are unable to exempt public school teachers completely, they should at least exempt insurance and benefits from mandatory collective bargaining. School districts would still be required to bargain wages and other conditions of employment, but they would have more freedom to select insurance providers based on cost and merit, not political pressure.
3. Require school districts to competitively bid insurance providers, and have those providers supply claims information.
Although this is less desirable than the first two recommendations, a state law that requires school - districts to competitively bid insurance providers would help prevent abuse of state-sanctioned mandatory collective bargaining. Such a law should include requirements that the provider or underwriter provide a complete claims history.