School is out, but the work has just begun for administrators and union officials. Dozens of labor contracts negotiated this summer will determine whether teachers will get the compensation they deserve, and how much their benefits packages will cost taxpayers.

Health insurance is typically the second-largest school budget cost after wages, so it’s very important to control that cost. But the MEA, Michigan’s largest union of cooks, janitors, bus drivers, and teachers, peddles its own high-priced health insurance to maximize its political muscle, not to maximize value to teachers or taxpayers.

MEA pressures schools to buy health insurance through its $500-million-per-year wholly owned affiliate called MESSA. MESSA uses excessive premium charges to indirectly fund MEA political activity.

MESSA insurance costs shot up 13 percent on July 1, and it’s forecasting another double-digit increase next year. The 40 percent of schools that shop around and avoid MESSA insurance report saving from 6 to 28 percent for similar benefits.

Teachers deserve good benefits, and taxpayers and teachers deserve good value. Schools that want to maximize both will look for alternatives to union-affiliated health insurance.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.