Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Kentwood Teachers to Strike?

The teachers in Kentwood look increasingly likely to strike within the next couple of weeks. There was even an article in yesterday's Grand Rapids Press about a parent group in Kentwood attacking the school board over the issue. One wonders why they are not attacking the teacher's union as well.

Just what exactly is the bone of contention here? The foremost issue is that the Kentwood board is refusing to continue with the union-owned health care plan for teachers and other staff. This health plan, called MESSA, is more expensive for the board (thus the taxpayers) than any traditional health plan. In fact, MESSA is just resold Blue Cross, but it is resold by the union to the school district at an inflated rate. In addition, the union demands that 100% of the premium be paid for by the board. They reject any attempt at having the teachers pay for any of their own health care. How many of our readers have a plan that good?

What is the difference in cost? MESSA is $1,013 per month. The Priority Health plan is $790 per month. That means MESSA is 28% more expensive than Priority Health.

The board wants to cap its contribution to $916 a month, so that if the teachers were to choose to stay with MESSA, they would have to pay $97 per month for their health care premium. If the teachers were to choose to go with Priority Health, the board would pay the teachers an extra $126 per month. They would have no out-of-pocket premium expense.

But, wait, you may be asking. Isn't the Priority Health plan worse than MESSA? No. Both plans are comparable and the PH plan is in several ways better.

So that, in a nutshell, is why the teachers are probably going to engage in an illegal strike.

It's that simple. You're probably wondering why the union is so militant on this issue - it seems like a no-brainer. Well, since MESSA is a union-run health care plan, the union's leadership is very interested in maintaining their monopoly on school health care. It's a very lucrative business that would start falling apart if some school districts were allowed to stray from their control.

The school board and and administration have dug in, and we applaud them. They are trying to save the taxpayers some money and all they're receiving is grief for that effort.

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