Contents of this issue:


  • Jackson eyes insurance changes
  • Bill would allow teacher pay cut
  • Report cards draw parents to conferences
  • Unions unhappy about 'Cadillac' tax
  • MEA, AFT both want new CMU members

JACKSON EYES INSURANCE CHANGES


JACKSON, Mich. - Jackson Public Schools is investigating switching insurance carriers, self-funding or asking all employee groups to agree to higher deductibles and co-pays as ways to spend less on health insurance, The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported.

All employees currently receive Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance administered through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, an affiliate of the Michigan Education Association.

The Patriot reported that some Jackson school board members have said the district could eliminate its overspending problem by switching carriers, according to The Patriot. However, that isn't the only option.

The district already has asked all employee groups to consider paying 10 percent of the cost of their annual medical premium, as well as increased deductibles and office visit co-pays, The Patriot reported.

Five years ago, the district was told it could save about $2 million annually by self-funding, The Patriot reported. In general, self-funding can save money, but requires careful assessment of an organization's health history in order to estimate how much money should be set aside, David Rice, vice president of sales at The Craft Agency, told The Patriot.

MEA field worker Gay Shaw told The Patriot that employees are willing to consider changes, "But it's not automatic that everybody's going to flat out agree to a board demand to change insurance."

SOURCE:
The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Jackson School Board members say insurer switch could wipe out district's deficit," Nov. 19, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Fabricating the Facts: The MEA's New Health Insurance Study," Sept. 4, 2009


BILL WOULD ALLOW TEACHER PAY CUT


LANSING, Mich. - School employee pay and benefits could be reduced without negotiation in cases of financial emergency, under legislation introduced in the House of Representatives last week, the Detroit Free Press reported.

House Bills 5607 and 5608 would allow public school districts to request the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to unilaterally reduce compensation.

The district must be in a budget deficit and have average teacher salaries at or above the top third nationally as well as benefit levels above the average private sector level in Michigan, according to the Free Press.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, introduced the bills, which would override existing union contracts or labor agreements and would sunset in 2011, the Free Press reported.

The Free Press noted that many school districts are taking in less revenue due to falling property values, declining student enrollment and state aid reductions.

The bills have been referred to the House Labor Committee.

SOURCE:
Detroit Free Press, "Bill: State Superintendent can force school districts to cut," Nov. 19, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Alabama Blows Away School Funding 'Crisis' Smoke," Nov. 18, 2009

Michigan Votes, "2009 House Bill 5607" and "2009 House Bill 5608," Nov. 18, 2009


REPORT CARDS DRAW PARENTS TO CONFERENCES    


L'ANSE, Mich. - More parents may attend parent-teacher conferences when that's where report cards are handed out, a L'Anse Area Schools administrator said, according to The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette.

Carrie Meyer, L'Anse High School principal, told the school board recently that attendance at high school parent-teacher conferences reached 46 percent, compared to 20 percent in the school district where she formerly worked, The Mining Gazette reported.

She said the reason may be that L'Anse passes out report cards at the conferences instead of sending them to parents by other means, according to The Mining Gazette.

"Continued communication between the district and parents is always important for the child," Meyer said, according to The Mining Gazette. "I was very impressed."

SOURCE:

The (Houghton) Daily Mining Gazette, "L'Anse School Board discusses conferences," Nov. 17, 2009

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Education Report, "Award-winning teacher says parental involvement is key," Nov. 5, 1998


UNIONS UNHAPPY ABOUT 'CADILLAC' TAX      


WASHINGTON, D.C. - National teachers' unions have been solidly behind health care reform so far, but Education Week reports that they are not so excited about a Senate version that would tax so-called "Cadillac" health plans.

According to reports by Education Week and MSNBC, the Senate health bill would tax insurance companies and plan administrators that sell high-cost health plans, Education Week reported. That tax revenue would be used to expand access to health care for more individuals — one of the key goals of health care reform.

Insurance companies would likely pass that cost on to school district customers, who then might want to scale back benefits, according to Education Week. Representatives of the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers say that would be unfair to teachers who have bargained for high benefit levels instead of salary increases.

At this point, "high-cost" is defined as $8,000 or more per year for a single plan and $21,000 or more for family coverage.

Economics experts disagree on whether school districts that switch to lower-cost health plans would then use the savings for teacher pay raises, according to Education Week. One kindergarten teacher in California, whose single plan costs her school district $11,000 a year, said she favors the House plan to increase taxes on the wealthy in order to pay for health reform.

SOURCE:
Education Week, "Prospect of Health-Plan Tax Draws Union Opposition," Nov. 17, 2009 (Subscription required)

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Cuts to the Classroom,"Nov. 9, 2009


MEA, AFT BOTH WANT NEW CMU MEMBERS    


MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - The Michigan Education Association and American Federation of Teachers of Michigan are competing to add non-tenured faculty at Central Michigan University to their ranks, according to a report in Central Michigan Life, the campus newspaper.

The MEA already represents two employee groups on campus, including the faculty association, the report said. MEA volunteers have launched an "awareness campaign" among non- tenured faculty about the benefits of unionizing under the MEA umbrella, CM Life reported.

Elizabeth Richard, a communications and dramatic arts instructor who is working with the AFT on unionization, told CM Life that AFT has experience in collective bargaining with non-tenured faculty at other campuses. She said the focus should be on needs specific to non-tenured faculty, CMU Life reported.

Steve Smith, CMU director of public relations, told CM Life that if the non-tenured faculty organizes, the university will work with them. Richard cited job security and wages as issues that non-tenured faculty want to address, according to CM Life.

SOURCE:
Central Michigan Life, "Non-tenured CMU faculty looking to unionize," Nov. 20, 2009

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Michigan's Public Employee Relations Act: Public-Sector Labor Law and Its Consequences," Sept. 3, 2009


MICHIGAN EDUATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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