Education reform updates from around the United States
By Ben Velderman
ILLINOIS: Peoria School District 150 announced this week that 53 teachers and more than 200 other school employees will be laid off after the current school year, due to persistent budget problems.
District 150 has six school employee unions, all of which have rigid pay schedules and generous benefit plans written into their collective bargaining agreements. Media reports make no mention of the unions offering concessions to save members’ jobs.
NEW JERSEY: In an act of pure benevolence, Washington Township Education Association leaders have rescinded their “no volunteering” policy that kept teachers from helping out at school events during their personal time. The ban “was meant to highlight a two-year contract stalemate,” reports NJ.com.
The union president said the ban was lifted because “it succeeded in getting the public aware of the contract situation.” Savvy readers will understand that’s union-speak for, “It was a public relations disaster.”
MICHIGAN: Currently, school districts in the Great Lakes State spend 25 percent of their budget on employee pension costs, while “retiree health care benefits make up the bulk of the $45 million hole Michigan finds itself in for unfunded school employee liabilities,” MLive.com reports.
To keep those costs from reaching Michigan’s classrooms, legislators are considering a law that would require school employees to contribute 3 percent of their salary to help pay for retiree health care, forcing retirees to pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, and not offering health care to retirees before the age of 60.
In a Senate hearing, retired teacher Lyn Hotia testified that the increased costs might force her to apply for food stamps in order to get by.
That’s only a compelling argument if one believes public schools exist to provide school employees with a comfortable retirement, instead of existing to educate students.
*A victory toss of the ball after a strikeout that goes around the infield (or “horn”).