A Review of Radnor Twp School District’s Teachers Contract … Will the Results Help T/E Teachers?

The following Community Matters post, “Signed, Sealed and Delivered … Radnor Twp School District & Teachers Union Ink 3-year Contract with Salary Increase … Is there handwriting on the wall for T/E Teachers?”  is from March 23, 2011.

A year ago, the Radnor Township School District signed a 3-year contract with their teachers union( RTEA) that was surprising, given the economic situation of the times.  Fast forward to 2012, and T/E is in the midst of their own contract negotiations.  This post and the attached comments from a year ago, make for an interesting commentary to compare and contrast where we are in our own teacher negotiation process.  Can we learn anything from the decisions of our neighboring school district?

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“Signed, Sealed and Delivered … Radnor Twp School District & Teachers Union Ink 3-year Contract with Salary Increase … Is there handwriting on the wall for T/E Teachers?”
~ Community Matters, March 23, 2011

It is now official, Radnor Township School District and the teachers union, Radnor Township Education Association (RTEA) have voted to approve three-year contract, September 1, 2010 – August 31, 2013. Below are some of the highlights of the contract.

Salary Highlights:
Salary freeze September 1, 2010 – March 3, 2011 (6 months)

Year One Salary:

  • No step movement
  • Average pay increase after freeze: 1.57%
  • Top salary step remains at current level
  • Average lump-sum payment for top salary step: $749

Year Two Salary:

  • RTEA members move to next step
  • Average pay increase: 3.26%
  • Top salary step remains at current level
  • Average lump-sum payment for top salary step: $1,206

Year Three Salary:

  • RTEA members move to next step
  • Modest increase to top salary step
  • Average pay increase: 2.66%

Health Benefits Highlights:

  • RTEA members agreed to significant increase in the cost of health insurance
  • Stating March 4, 2011, teachers move from fixed contribution to a percentage-based contribution
  • Year One – salary contribution 0.75% – 1.5%
  • Year Two – health care plan changes from Blue Cross to lesser premium-cost plan, with increase co-pays doctor and hospital visits (salary contribution 0.85% – 1.5%)
  • Year Three – salary contribution 0.95% – 1.65%

Retirement Option:

  • Eligible teachers will receive a one-time retirement payment from $25K – $50K (depending on number of retirees). The retirement option is in effect for limited time to allow district to reduce payroll.

OK, so looking at the contract inked between the Radnor Township School District and RTEA, is the handwriting on the wall for T/E School District?  So much for Gov. Corbett’s recommendation for a one-year freeze . . .  Radnor’s teacher union only agreed to a 6-month freeze.  However, after the 6-month salary freeze, the teacher union pulled off 7.5% salary increase for the following 2 ½ years of the contract.

Remember, if a teacher qualifies for a step increase, his or her salary increase would actually be higher than the average yearly salary increase. Radnor’s teachers contract is remarkable given today’s economy and budget shortfalls!

45 Comments

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  1. Actually, Pattye, this is closer to or higher than an 8% increase in two and a half years when you add in (a) compounding of prior year’s increase and (b) the fact that step increases are also included in the base.

    This is the problem with these sort of contracts — the actual percentages are never really known to the public b/c of step increases, etc.

    All that said, I find this to be an utterly ridiculous contract in these economic times. It is my hope that the TE School Board has the toughness to stand up and say “No” to something like this…and that the public finally stands with them.

    No one likes a strike — especially the families that have to scramble to take care of their kids. That said, they hate the tax increases just as much.

    Either way, too many taxpayers blame the school board members (gave too much away – or – need to stop the strike to get my kids back in school), instead of looking at the root cause: a teachers’ union that knows it holds all the power.

    Until the public stands up to the bullying tactics of the teachers’ union, nothing will really change.

    [Reply]

    give it a rest Reply:

    The real issue is the pennsylvania constitutional provision that sort of locks districts into schedules…can one of our legal minds comment on whether or not the provision for retaining compensation would allow a complete dismanteling of the salary schedule in favor of a new schedule? I have always heard that is not permitted….but maybe you could take TE’s 16 step schedule and break it into 32 steps by inserting a step in the middle….and then freezing people on the step for two years each? Is that legal?

    [Reply]

    From The West Reply:

    Don’t forget the provision that FORCES school districts to hire only teachers who have taught in the district within one year — so even if a school board had the guts to stand up to a union after their contract expired, they would still be forced to hire them back instead of finding new teachers.

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    There is nothing that locks a district into a “matrix”. It’s negotiable. However, moving away from the matrix is associated with performance pay which the union will vigorously fight. (witness Hatboro Horsham).

    Half-steps are possible and have been used in other districts.

    [Reply]

    Tim Reply:

    The public always percieves teacher pay steps as equivalent to state or federal steps. They are not and there are no automatic raised for longevity. For the last 26 years, I have never seen a raise that equalled the published figure. My district has never given both step and percentage raises. The new step is just the previous year’s salary with the raise applied and becomes the new step. The percentage is also not even across the board and is based on the average salary and then spread over all pay steps. We have experienced years where the salary for steps were less than they were the previous year.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Tim — No perception required. It’s all in writing and is a statement of fact. Each district contract may present a different philosophy. And when negotiations happen, percentages are applied to the average salary (the total compensation) and spread across the schedule. It is like government, but it gets renegotiated .
    The PSEA goal is 10 steps. TE has 16. In my opinion there should be 30, with no changes except to tweak for inflation. You start at step 1 and you know what you will make from there on.

    [Reply]

  2. Many thanks for this information, Pattye.

    What happens at the top of the matrix is clearly very important. In T/E, one third of the staff are on Level 16, and their salaries make up 40% of the total. So any freeze at that level strongly affects the overall impact. Since Radnor’s top level (15) averages fully 19% above the previous level, I guess that was an obvious target. T/E , too, has a big bump at the end, but it’s – only – 8%.

    The average level increase for Radnor is about 5%, so if only 60% of the salaries are going up that much in Year 2 (2011/12) then that makes the average increase equal to the 3.26% you quote. Which would imply that the matrix is not changing in that year or even in Year 3, although maybe it is going up the 1.57% this year?

    If that is the case, then applying the T/E personnel distribution to both the 2011/12 T/E matrix and the current Radnor matrix plus the 1.57% (adding a 16th level equal to the current 15th, eliminating their B+24 level and making their M+60 = PhD to allow for comparison), then next year the T/E compensation bill will be over 6% higher than it would be on Radnor’s scale.

    The details are clearly so important in really understanding what’s afoot with these contracts. I made a good number of assumptions here! Hopefully Radnor will publish their new matrix. Of course, it would also be nice to see the specific impact to the district and the employees of the health care benefit changes. Not sure it’s going to offset the annual 5% salary increases, step changes and lump sum payments. And we’ve talked on CM about the retirement incentive illusion…

    Also, let’s hope that TESD will be fully transparent in all its communications with the public regarding this biggest line item in the budget. Monday’s commentary was not particularly encouraging, although Rich Brake did go out of his way to comment on salary freezes in Lancaster County..

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Just a note re my first para above, that the straight average Step 15/Step 16 increase was 8.3% in 2009/10, but this year it’s down to 5.2%, next year 4.8%.

    I see that Pennsbury School District is targeting $400,000 from an extensive advertising program – “wrapping school lockers”, according to ABC. The have an agreement with a company called School Media – I guess the types of consultant that the TE Policy Committee is entertaining. I have to admit I had envisioned something of lesser scale and impact to the school environment.

    I do applaud Pennsbury, though, for a very detailed communication analyzing the effect of the union and district salary proposals. They do a good job of explaining what’s up with the infamous matrix. Click on “Negotiation Updates” under “Quick Links”, and then on “Budget Update ….. February 17th 2011″
    http://www.pennsbury.k12.pa.us/pennsbury/

    Note that a T/E salary freeze would be very bad news for the 11% of staff on the M+15 step in levels 6-13 who are looking at 12-23% scale increases next year (plus level increase).

    [Reply]

  3. We shouldn’t be surprised. This is just how unions negotiate, and the Radnor School Board had to fight hard to get even this contract and minimal health care concessions from the union.

    Another point: the contract is being signed at the end of March 2011, but it STARTED in September 2010. So the 6-month pay freeze doesn’t cover next year. It doesn’t even completely cover the time the teachers worked without a new contract. There are minimal costs to the union for working without a contract because they can obtain concessions and even salary increases retroactively.

    The lump sum for teachers on the top step is intriguing. (Would that lump sum be counted in their final three years of earnings for PSERS?) The inclusion of the lump sum shows the power of individual blocks within the union. It is sometimes necessary to give something to one niche group in a union in order to get the votes necessary to pass the contract.

    While this contract sounds incredibly rich to taxpayers, remember that the unions are used to getting 5%+ raises a year and not paying even a small share for their healthcare. To the unions, this contract looks rather modest. And I’ve heard that many teachers in Radnor objected to the contract for that reason. While the taxpayers aren’t thrilled with the contract, Radnor teachers aren’t either.

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    To the unions, this contract looks rather modest. And I’ve heard that many teachers in Radnor objected to the contract for that reason. While the taxpayers aren’t thrilled with the contract, Radnor teachers aren’t either.

    ******************************

    Radnor teachers (maybe T/E’s teachers too) should be required to take an “internship” in the real world for their summer off this year — let them see what it is like to have to meet sales goals in a lousy economy, double up on work b/c people are laid off, etc.

    Maybe then the union members would see why so many taxpayers (a) don’t like their union’s tactics and (b) don’t think they get it.

    Ahh, to dream.

    [Reply]

    TE TEACHER & TAXPAYER Reply:

    Maybe you should spend a month in control of an elementary classroom, go to all the meetings, plan all of the lessons, communicate with parents, deal with social and emotional issues in the classroom, fill out assessments, enter data. Also, you must go to work from 7am-5:30pm, then go home and work for at least 2 more hours. Don’t forget to spend an additional 6-10 hours on the weekend.

    If you think the job is that easy, then you haven’t been in a classroom for a long, long time. I work my tail off for ten months a year, and dedicate 75% of my non work personal time (after contracted hours) to doing stuff for school.

    Yes there are perks to the job, like having 8 weeks in the summer, but honestly, I need them after school ends in June. By the second week of August, I am in my classroom everyday for a few hours doing work and preparing for the school year…so that oh teachers have it so easy with their summers off crap is tired and old. You are welcome to come and take over my classroom from now until the end of year. I’ll even stay around and help you, but until you’ve tried it…don’t knock it.

    I’m not saying my job is harder than yours, but I am saying you should stop saying that my job is easier.

    (and yes I know you are going to say that a lot of teachers don’t put that kind of time in…but most do, especially at the elementary level)

    [Reply]

    TE TEACHER & TAXPAYER Reply:

    Sorry Pattye, I just read your post about not taking it personal. I just get tired of the “you have the summer off” approach. I promise that if I do post again, I will be non confrontational. I learned my lesson, no need for timeout.

    Pattye Benson Reply:

    No timeout required :)

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Teacher: Brava. Here’s the problem. Every productivity-related job in the US has similar issues, with no tenure. That’s part of the backlash. Until he was laid off, my brother started work every day around 6 am and came home tired long after his kids went to bed…hadn’t had a raise in 10 years. He would have quit to find another job, but he has 3 kids in school. Then he was laid off. He is 60 years old, so who else wants him? And sadly, no pension waiting at the end of his road. He has borrowed from his 401K to help with college tuitions. Oh — and he sold his TE house and rents elsewhere now. Took a bath on the house — but at least the bank didn’t get it.

    Not a made up story. A true one. Can you possibly understand why things are so complicated? The pressure on your to succeed is no different than on any of the rest of us. Unless your union screws it up holding on to the past, your job is still secure. If your union goes status quo, many of your colleagues will see their compensation cut in half. WHo is really in charge here?

    And before I close : I KNOW you work hard. I just wish you understand you are not the only profession that does. I appreciate all you do for kids. I just wish you would acknowledge you teach by choice. If you hate what you do, you can quit too. If you love what you do and feel underappreciated, you could teach elsewhere….or not. And I wish you knew that “perks in the job” are not about the 8 weeks off. We can afford that. It’s about your health care plan and its costs. It’s about your pension and its costs. It’s about your contracted day (you know well that under a work stoppage or action, you will work 7:35).

    Please trust that no one wants to hurt you. We just want to be able to afford you — and our homes.

    flyersfan Reply:

    teacher, we get it. But your comment doesn’t suggest economic reforms for a real world economy. Since you are a teacher, I will assume you are smart, and learned.

    Can’t you understand that we do appreciate the work of a good teacher, but we taxpayers who are not teachers also have to deal with the real world economy of layoffs, pay decreases and health care BENEFIT cuts by employers? You can stop defending your profession. I think most of us get it. Thanks for your service to the community. The community just has to figure out what it is worth monetarily so the community can sustain the educational programs in this brave new world and not go bankrupt!

    TE TEACHER & TAXPAYER Reply:

    Flyers Fan….I do get that you and most people do appreciate that. I also understand the economic issues as well. I know that I am not going to be getting a pay increase and I know that my healthcare plan is going to change when this contract finally gets figured out, and I am okay with that. I know that in order for the school district to continue to succeed that some things are going to change. As long as the changes are not unfair or extremely drastic, then I can understand any changes that will occur. Like I mentioned above, there was just something about “From The West’s” commentary that irked me, and I felt the need to respond.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Teacher/Taxpayer

    I cannot tell you how unlikely your philosophy is representative even a little bit of those negotiating on your behalf. If it was, the negotiations would be over. Your side would offer a wage freeze (I suggest keeping the same schedule and either introducing half steps or longer time on steps to stop the angst) and a dramatic change to health care (I would let the district pay a fixed amount, and the PSEA could serve as the bargaining unit with health care providers on how far that contribution would go). But regardless, your acceptance bears no resemblance to what the PSEA does at the table. The rank and file must be clear with their leadership — not the other way around…because your leadership will NEVER tell you what is happening.

  4. Health care costs for a family under the teachers’ plan typically runs about $15,000 per year. The average teacher earns about $75,000 per year. One-percent of a teacher’s salary applied to the premium is $750 or about 5% of the premium. I believe the teacher contribution under the last contract was about 2.5%.

    Teachers will loudly say, “We made a serious health care concession by DOUBLING our health care contributions.”

    In reality the taxpayers’ subsidy went from 97.5% to 95%. This is sad.

    [Reply]

    please Reply:

    So you attack teachers in hopes of getting them to pay the same ridiculous rates you pay to unscrupulous insurance companies who make billions each quarter, rather than voting for things like health care reform or a public option. Wow, you guys are real thinkers and visionaries!

    [Reply]

    citizenone Reply:

    So you attack teachers in hopes of getting them to pay the same ridiculous rates you pay to unscrupulous insurance companies who make billions each quarter, rather than voting for things like health care reform or a public option.

    Attack teachers? Unscrupulous insurance companies? Make billions?

    Me thinks you are trying to change the subject. I’d just like the teachers to pay a reasonable portion of their health insurance so they have an incentive to use this benefit efficiently. We all know that when services are highly subsidized there is little incentive to restrain consumption, thus, driving up prices.

    [Reply]

    John Reply:

    Right. While moving the nation towards a better system of healthcare financing and provision is important it really is not in this discussion.

    And I agree, as I believe most of the TE teachers also understand, more cost sharing by the teachers should and will happen. Just one nitpick though – highly subsidized healthcare does not lead to unrestrained use. There was a study a few years back that showed there was very little correlation. Poverty was a significant factor effecting costs but not the amount an individual or family had to pay.

    My apologies for the further sidetracking but just don’t look for an additional significant drop in costs beyond whatever contribution increase the teachers will see.

    Lurking on CM Reply:

    Teachers do not view this as a benefit, but as a right. They do not care about the cost — it is rarely even a part of the negotiation. They hold onto whatever they have, and yield on some kind of contribution to the premium, but that gets no one closer to controlling costs. It’s insurance, not health care. Very few if any in the private sector would even consider a plan like the teachers have — it’s simply too expensive. Normal plans have deductibles that influence premiums; co-pays that mean you consider whether or not you run to the doctor; prescription plans that have incentives to use generics. Teachers want free health care, the plan is a separate issue. Maybe they’ll pay a little of the premium to buying the insurance, but the goal is a free health care plan. (I use teachers interchangeably with people who turn to paid negotiators to represent their value)

    [Reply]

    flyersfan Reply:

    please, wow… now you hit the target. or one of them. Most of us agree that the health care INSURANCE industry is way out of wack, some would agree that there is more than one way to fix this, nationally. Government control vs opening up a truly free market. Two tectonic plates and with Congress unable to come up with a budget ( at least the Senate) and the Supreme Court taking on mandates, it seems like this problem is a long way from being solved. I as a private business man don’t think kindly of insurance companies for sure, but I pay the whole freight because I am not supported by taxpayers. So for someone like me, who has to juggle expenses and look for fake market based solutions, I am unhappy with the free ride the teachers get for their health care premiums. Got to start somewhere, and maybe fiscal sanity will start at the local level. You know, it would be great if the teachers would have some say in actually PAYING for their premiums.With their clout, maybe they can join forces with us in the community for real insurance reform. But if they are “taken care of” then they have no incentive to join the fray. Why would they?

    [Reply]

  5. It is why we have to change the way we negotiate benefits. We need to give each employee a fixed amount to spend on benefits. Then we need to offer a variety of options for them to purchase. If you take the entire cost of employee benefits and divide it by the number of employees, you freeze your exposure to that amount going forward. For “family” employees, the number won’t be high enough for the cadillac plan, but it will be fore a much more affordable plan. For single employees, they would be able to pocket money (defer into a 457f plan I believe). Teachers need to start thinking of this as INSURANCE, not health care. It is NOT health care. Citizen one — pound that drum loudly. They just do not get it. But they own the podium on the topic.

    [Reply]

    Lurking on CM Reply:

    Is this kind of plan possible? I agree that if teachers had to consider the pros and cons of benefit plans in terms of costs, they would be wiser about spending money. Right now, it seems that negotiations are about how little they can pay — but never about reducing the “benefit” and making it be insurance vs. free health care. Is this doable? What is a 457f plan?

    [Reply]

  6. Gee – with all this concern about the contract — my thought would be to decertify the Union in its entirety and allow the Board to set salary & benefits as they do for the Admin staff. Seems that all teachers would receive an increase in salary & benefits.. just get the averages for the Admin staff and compare. Leave out the secretaries etc…

    [Reply]

  7. I’m late to this party obviously — what does Ken Buckwalter have to do with the teacher’s union? Are you suggesting he would have been more successful against Drucker, or in Harrisburg, or is he anti-union?

    I would assume (at my own peril I’m sure) that legislators can’t just sit in their office and draft policy/bills. They need to work with each other and get party or bi-partisan support to move an idea. The PSEA building is directly across the street from the Capitol — so I would again assume that they have their tentacles firmly wrapping the process. It would be beyond aggressive to prematurely take on a topic that has such support politically (unions)

    [Reply]

    From the West Reply:

    The PSEA building is directly across the street from the Capitol — so I would again assume that they have their tentacles firmly wrapping the process. It would be beyond aggressive to prematurely take on a topic that has such support politically (unions)

    *****************************

    The PSEA knows that they are basically dead in the current budget negotiations. Some money will be moved back to education, and the state has already proposed an education funding increase, but at the end of the day, the # of the budget is the money we have to spend, period.

    Expect to see the PSEA involved heavily in local school board races across the state…that way they can control BOTH sides of the negotiating table. Once that happens, hold onto your wallets.

    [Reply]

    Additional Perspective Reply:

    Does anyone else think it would be unethical for a school board candidate to receive money from the PSEA?

    If the PSEA or TEEA gave money to an individual candidate, it would be possible to track. But if the unions give to a PAC or to a political party (which then distributes money to individual candidates), it would be difficult to track the union money.

    There are definite benefits for the unions if they can elect soft school board members who would be unwilling to take a strike and completely willing to vote for the maximum allowable tax increase or even an EIT ballot question. Bigger tax increase allow for higher union wages and salary raises.

    [Reply]

  8. The RTSD contract is interesting. A few comments –
    .
    The average salary increases each year have to be read in concert with the increase in health care contributions and a switch to a lower cost plan. Only someone with an intimate knowledge of health care plans can calculate the savings by switching from a PC C1F1O2 to a PC C2F2O2 plan.
    .
    What the public is lacking is any idea how the contract will affect the budget. It looks like the district is saving money by switching to a lower cost health care plan and having the teachers pay more, but that’s not the case. The normal inflationary increase in health care (8% to 10% per year on average) swamps out the supposed savings.
    .
    Also missing is the effect of PSERS contributions. Add in the PSERS increase and the cost of the contract is in the 5% to 6% per year range.
    .
    The scheduled tax increase for RTSD resident next year is 3.26%. How can they fund the 5% to 6% contracted compensation increase with a 3.26% tax increase? Unfortunately, they are pushing the cost burden off onto future taxpayers by using two gimmicks. One, they are using the reserve fund to lessen this year’s impact of PSERS. That makes next year’s impact worse. Two, they have implemented a early retirement incentive plan (ERIP). The ERIP takes money (~$1M) from the reserve fund and gives it to employees (~20) to retire a year of so early. A savings occurs when highly paid employees (~$100K) are replaced by novice employees earning substantially less (~$50K). The overall effect is to take savings that would have occurred naturally without the incentive in the next few years and lumps them into this year. Again, it looks great this year, but the impact is felt in the next few years. Sad!

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Thanks for this analysis Keith. No one really likes the facts around here …especially numbers.
    I have taken the position that we have to stop talking about what the teachers contribute, and switch the emphasis to what the district will pay. If the district would negotiate a fixed contribution towards a benefit plan, it caps the district exposure and puts the emphasis on the PSEA/locals to work with human resources to develop a health care plan by design or by shopping for it. Switching providers or going out into the marketplace is a way to do this.
    I posted elsewhere that one thing TESD taxpayers are ignoring is the fact that even with the 3.3% increase scheduled for next year, if the CLR is applied to the assessed taxable property, the millage next year reflects rate of support of the schools of 1.076% of market value. In 2004, it was 1.105% . How has UCF managed these issues?

    [Reply]

  9. TR,
    UCF is self insured and the union agreed to help us with a Keystone C2F2O2 health care plan. (that’s different from a PC C2F2O2 plan)
    .
    I don’t like the idea of using a percent of market value as a figure of merit for the school districts. The makeup of the RE market (commercial properties, retail properties, retirement communities, high density housing) can skew that metric. I prefer spending per student.

    [Reply]

  10. I haven’t read your contract, but what do you mean by “the union agreed to help us” …. is their exposure capped or is the taxpayers?

    I’m not defining the merit of a district by this number — just pointing out that while people have seen tax increases and real estate fluctuations, that if your assessment is in line with your home value, our taxes continue to be close to 1% of market value, and in fact have gone down from 2004 as a percent of market value.
    In looking around the country at tax rates, some realtors “tout” that total property taxes are some percentage of property value. In this case, school taxes continue to be 1% of home value.

    [Reply]

  11. I responded to this but it disappeared….thanks for the thoughts. WHen you say the union is helping you, does that mean they are contributing to the premium, or assuming the risk (of increases?)

    The percent of market value is simply a fact, not a measure of excellence. When property owners complain about the onerus and rising burden, this is an eye opener.
    If your assessment is in line with your property value (and if not, presumably people have gotten assessment appeals) then school taxes are about 1% of property value. In 2004, it was 1.105% of property value. This year, with the 3.3% increase, it will be 1.076% of property value That’s the point.

    [Reply]

  12. TR,
    There are a whole series of health care plans – dozens – that a district can offer. The premium plan is PC5 meaning a $5 co-pay for a doctor’s visit. The next one down is PC10/20/70. Then there is a whole series of plans with strange names like PC-C4F4O2 and POS-C2F2O2. The least costly plans are the high deductible plans like HD4. Our base plan is POS-C2F2O2 with a 10% contribution from the employee. The employee can “buy-up” to the PC10/20/70 by paying the premium difference.
    .
    Health insurance is a complex topic and an emotional topic. Getting movement on health care is difficult. I might sum it up with this statement that reflects the feeling of some – You can squeeze me on salary, but don’t play with my family’s health.
    .
    I see things differently. I’m semi-retired and purchase my own health insurance for $787 per month from Golden Rule. My policy has a $5,000 yearly deductible. That means my insurance only “kicks in” if my wife or I have major medical problems. While I’d like someone else to pay for my annual doctor’s visits, I’m comfortable that I have coverage for the big, unexpected problems.

    [Reply]

  13. KK — I understand that. The problem is — teachers do not. All they hear is they have to pay more. They are completely without background on the whole benefit issues. And the plans you reference are Blue Cross. There’s Aetna and Cigna and USHealthCare and various other plans. I understand it’s the big fad to move to self-insurance, but I have always opposed that because I do not believe, regardless of the number of employees, that taxpayers should be in the business of insuring health care plans. But regardless — if districts would coordinate their approach to health care (the way the PSEA coordinates its approach to contract cherry-picking), the PSEA could be a force in reducing health care costs while improving the market for the consumer. That’s my bit.
    TE’s administrators had a defined contribution….but somehow changed the ACP to give them the right to the teacher plan. That’s where I see the flaw. Everyone has free health care. Your plan is insurance — which is what health care benefit plans are.
    I have a nephew that works for the government — and I really enjoyed watching him select his plan. He had free insurance with a huge deductible, and expensive insurance with a low deductible, and about 10 choices in between. The first year, he took a middle level plan. The next year, he took the free one — because what he had paid in premiums were more than the deductible he felt he was unlikely to reach. He learned — health care plans are COMPENSATION. When a district’s health care costs go up, every single person gets a raise — but because of the mentality about being taken care of, not a single person understands that or cares. But the bills go up, and when it’s time for a raise, no one understands they already got one. THAT’s why I don’t think it should be cost sharing. I think districts should have a defined contribution — just like the pension plan needs to be. Districts define the contribution — let the employees have a say in the benefit. If you only have employees paying some fixed amount, they do not share the risk.

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    Again, the personal shot. What makes you say that “KK — I understand that. The problem is — teachers do not.” How do you know we don’t understand? What have we said that shows we don’t understand? What action have we taken that says we don’t understand? Please inform me…

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    TE Teacher:
    Email does not convey tone, so I apologize for again ticking you off.
    Let me assure you that understanding would mean results…and the PSEA prefers to allow you all to worry about language about not buying for your family.
    What have you said? “The board won’t let us buy health care for our families.”
    What have you done? Taken health care off the table every negotiation for the past 30 years. It goes back on the table in exchange for district labor peace and buy outs. This current contract has a minimal (less than 5%) premium contribution — and that came about after the double digit bumps were secured in the last contract.

    You may understand, but you are rare if you do. It’s politically incorrect to say it, but teachers have a plantation mentality — their union and their district take care of them. And often the sense is that they are mistreated or not respected. They are “professionals” in a Union — who have a contract with a 7:35 minute work day. They have tenure and people who lecture others about why they deserve more. They often are there against their will it seems — many will tell you they wouldn’t teach any more but stay “for the kids.”

    So — this is information. What your anger is about is that you don’t represent yourself. You are represented by a state organization that has the audacity to write an article about how schools are underfunded.

    You do realize, I hope, that Act 1 was meant to stop the union power train. As long as school districts had the unfettered ability to tax, the union made districts pay for labor peace with whatever raise they felt they needed. They absolutely cherry pick contracts — “we can make more in Lower Merion.” Well — read LM’s education reimbursement plan. Read the 10 approved reasons to take a personal day. So LM pays well, and their union gripes that they don’t have the education benefits other districts have. PSEA gets together in Hershey every year and formulates the plan — and school districts have ZERO ways to stop it. Zero. So the board starts to float ideas to drive home the extreme positions that might encourage the union to nudge a bit in the reasonable direction. The boards in this state bid against themselves. How about 2%

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    To be honest, I feel that after a 1,000 words, I still have an incomplete answer.

    We did not say that the district won’t let us buy healthcare…they said it in their press release. We pointed out that the part of the press release that said we wouldn’t negotiate healthcare was untrue and twisted. In fact, the plan in our initial proposal was different from the one under the current contract. The board came back with their plan, and when we tried to discuss it and negotiate, they said this is what we are offering, take it or leave it.

    You keep referring to the last contract and times in the past. This isn’t the past and the last contract is now coming to an end–which means it can change. The times and economic climate have changed greatly in the last four years, and because of that, the contract will change in ways that it probably hasn’t before…

    You are constantly referring to things the PSEA does as a whole, but we are the TEEA, and as much as the PSEA can suggest a course of action and have its own agenda, when it comes down to it, the negotiator that is negotiating on our behalf must do what we say. Believe me, all of the “rank and file” teachers are much more involved in this process than they were in past years, and people are speaking up about the need to be willing to change. I am confident that the TEEA will negotiate a contract that is fair for both sides, as well as the taxpayers. As you said before, results show understanding. When the new contract is agreed upon, if things don’t change, I will be the first one to come on here and say “TR, you were right, we didn’t understand”…but I want you to at least give us the chance to show we understand, not listen to all the rumors that are flying around, and wait to see what happens. Then I want you to come on and say, TE Teacher, you do understand…

    As much as you want to know/predict what’s going on in the CURRENT negotiations, you don’t. Do I know everything….no…but I know more than the average taxpayer because I am also a teacher. The “rank and file” want to know more, and have been demanding to know more over the last few weeks….and we are getting that tomorrow at our membership meeting. We are not going to have the wool pulled over our eyes by the PSEA in the negotiations. We are going to do what is best for the teachers in OUR district, and OUR district as a whole. The rest of PA is not OUR concern.

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Thank so much, TE Teacher, for this very positive post. It is encouraging that people like you, able to see multiple perspectives, are actively participating in the negotiations process.

    Like it or not, though, perhaps we should recognize that TE is part of a bigger system. It is the state laws that have provided the revenue constraints. Will TE be able to come up with creative (quantifiable, transparent) solutions to live within those constraints, (perhaps flexing with economic conditions)? Or will the pressure to make the state look for revenue solutions be inescapable?

    Let’s hope that the official parties are reading CM as Pattye continues the mission to bring sunshine to local affairs. I think it’s working.

  14. Thank you TE Teacher.
    No one will be happier than I am if the “rank and file” have a say in this round. I am jaded by history, and I remember two years ago (I think) when Debra C. said the teachers would give up the end of year days, but would not negotiate it. It made for great headlines, but it was hollow and pointless. Kevin M. certainly didn’t respond well, but it was all for show anyway.

    I posted an anecdote earlier about how the district gave up the bus drivers. Maybe we all have anecdotes like that that influence our beliefs.

    I’m also glad to read that you believe that TEEA is calling the shots, not PSEA. If you are a senior teacher, you know that when Paul, Lou and Ken were doing your talking, the PSEA took orders from them. That has not been my observation since that guard changed.

    But I wish us all good luck. I am encouraged that you are taking the time to educate US on the level of understanding of the teachers. No one wants anything but labor peace and high functioning programs. It’s what we can afford that is the center of the debate. I went to the Jazz Concert at CHS tonight and was reminded again just how special the kids in this community are. I would hate to see any of it change — but the only thing we can influence is expenditures — revenue is locked up.

    Thanks.

    [Reply]

  15. TE teacher said ” we are going to do whats best for the teachers in OUR district” I wish she/he would have said “for the teachers, students and community of taxpayers. Hum….

    [Reply]

    TE Teacher Reply:

    that is our district…read it again. The teachers, students, and taxpayers are part of OUR district. I am resident, parent, and teacher….so all three are part of my life….read what I said again.

    [Reply]

    Township Reader Reply:

    Thanks TETeacher. I understand what you meant, and I take great comfort from it. Hope your meeting went well today. Because as you have correctly identified, this is about how the TEEA deals with this. We are out of revenue. All the board can do is propose cost-cutting measures. It’s up to the TEEA to figure out how to go forward. Thanks for your patience here — and good luck!

    [Reply]

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