Now that the dust begins to settle on yesterday’s announcement that the TE School District will not outsource jobs of aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers for the 2013/14 school year, residents and employees are again left with more questions than answers.
My initial reaction upon hearing the news that 260 District jobs were saved from outsourcing was enthusiastic; but now in hindsight, I admit it was probably premature. I was thrilled for this group of employees, believing that the School Board had finally recognized their value and commitment to the District’s children, in making the choice not to outsource.
However, after spending a few minutes reviewing Burak’s email to the employees in addition to phone calls and emails, the celebratory mood quickly changed. The statement reads that the “District will restructure the work hours” of the employee to comply with the Affordable Care Act and “does not result in new costs or penalties to the District”.
What we learn from Burak’s words is that the School Board’s way around the ACA compliance issue it to reduce employee hours. The ACA does not require the District to provide health insurance to those employees working less than 30 hours a week – so the District’s answer to the Federal law is simple… cut hours. TESD is the only school district in the area that does not provide health insurance for their employees – Great Valley, Radnor and Lower Merion school districts all offer healthcare coverage to all their employees.
Does the School Board want the community to feel good about what they are doing? Is this an acceptable solution? Where is the plan for the future … the vision … leadership?
Keeping healthcare coverage out of the hands of the least paid and oh, by the way, we are reducing your hours to comply with Federal law. This same Board gave the District administrators salary increases and bonuses and in less than 4 months is now cutting the hours of aides and paras. But don’t forget the Board also gave this group of employees a 1% raise. If you are an employee making $10/hr., with your 1% raise you will now make $10.10/hr. However, don’t get too excited District employee because we now must reduce your hours below 30 to avoid offering you health insurance.
Let’s review; the Board gives bonuses, raises and a Cadillac health plan to the highest paid District employees but provides no insurance coverage and cuts the hours of the least paid District employees. Seems hardly fair or equitable.
I had a phone call last night from a District aide who works 37 hours a week and cannot afford for her hours to drop below 30 hours. Her family’s health insurance is covered through her husband’s employer and they do not need coverage from the District. Her question to me — would she still be able to work the 37 hours a week in the District because she does not need the health insurance from the District. Of course, I could offer no definitive response. What would she have to do, sign an agreement with the District saying she wouldn’t take the health insurance if they offered it to her? This aide also wanted to know ‘when’ this matter would be resolved, what was the timeline for knowing if she would have 29 hours or 37 hours? Again, I don’t know and School Board President Buraks offered no details, except to enjoy the summer and he’d see them in the Fall.
I recall previous suggestions about reducing the hours below 30 hours so that the District would not have to offer health care coverage and comply with the Affordable Care Act. Dan Waters response was immediately negative to that suggestion, stating that the kids would suffer with the reduction in hours. Yet magically a month later, are we now to believe that the kids will no longer be in danger with a reduction in the hours of the aides and paras?
Beyond the personal effect on the employee in reduction of hours, how exactly does the District expect to make up the discrepancy and provide adequate coverage for the students? Is the plan to hire additional part-time employees to make up the missing hours? If so, at what cost?
Addressing the District aides, paras and substitute teachers in his email, Buraks states, “… we greatly value and appreciate the contributions that you make to our students and staff every day.” – To that, I’d say that you certainly have an odd way of showing it!
Bottom line … there are many unanswered questions and the employees and the residents deserve answers. Finance Committee meeting is Monday, June 10, 7 PM at Conestoga High School. I hope that the Board and the administration is prepared to respond to the questions.