Looks like our teachers are going to strike

  1. 0
    http://www.courier-journal.com/local...9100-5554.html

    Democrats assail Fletcher's health package
    Both sides oppose a teachers' strike
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Mark Pitsch
    mpitsch@courier-journal.com
    The Courier-Journal



    FRANKFORT, Ky. As teachers contemplate whether to strike over planned changes in medical benefits, Democrats accused Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher yesterday of failing to go far enough to soften the blow of higher health-insurance costs.

    Republicans accused Democrats of trying to gain politically from criticism of the 2005 state health-care package for public employees and retirees.

    Both sides agreed, however, that a strike by teachers would be ill-advised.

    The insurance package, which Fletcher unveiled this week, imposes deductibles on all covered employees and replaces fixed payments to doctors with a percentage schedule.

    It also has potentially higher monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many employees, depending upon the coverage. Workers and retirees also will have fewer choices next year and must pick a plan offered by a single provider.

    About 171,000 public employees and retirees are covered by state health insurance. Including dependents and spouses, about 229,000 people are covered.

    At a news conference yesterday, House Democrats praised Fletcher for finding additional money for 1 percent pay raises in January, in addition to the 2 percent in Fletcher's emergency spending plan. But they said Fletcher should adopt the House budget proposal of 3 percent pay raises this fiscal year and 4.5 percent next year in part to pay for rising health-care costs.

    The House Democrats said they are willing to provide even greater pay raises or have the state cover more of monthly premiums if the House-proposed raises wouldn't cover health-care costs.

    House Budget Committee Chairman Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, said Kentucky's education progress in the last decade is attributable to the efforts of teachers who deserve affordable health care.

    "Would we now do to these people with whom we entrust our children every day, would we now allow them to be slapped in the face with a health-care plan that strikes at the very heart of their own family well-being and morale?" Moberly said at the news conference attended by about 40 House members and Democratic candidates.

    Republicans said Democrats knew last spring about the approaching crisis.

    "This is one of the worst cases, I guess, of the demagoguery of a very genuine, real problem that I have ever heard of," said Brad Cowgill, Fletcher's budget director.

    Cowgill said public employees would still be facing potentially higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs if the House budget had been enacted. The General Assembly adjourned in April without passing a budget, and Fletcher is running the government on an emergency spending plan.

    John McCarthy, chairman of the state Republican Party, said Democrats would try to defeat Republican legislative candidates this fall by using health-care costs as a weapon and aligning with teacher and state employee unions.

    "This is a new low," he said.

    House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said Democrats didn't know final details of the insurance package until Fletcher unveiled them.

    Rep. Joe Barrows, D-Versailles, the House whip, acknowledged that some House Democrats would use health care as a political issue. But he said yesterday's news conference was meant to illustrate a need for an enacted state budget.

    As for the possibility of a teacher walkout, "An illegal teacher strike would not only be disappointing to the governor but also to parents and students who rely on these teachers for education," said Daniel Groves, Fletcher's chief of staff.

    Rep. Larry Clark, D-Okolona and the House speaker pro tem, said House Democrats don't support a teacher strike. Instead, he urged school and state workers and retirees to complain to the governor.

    The Jefferson County Teachers Association voted Wednesday to urge the Kentucky Education Association to strike to protest the health-care plan. The board of directors of the 29,000-member KEA, which includes 5,000 Jefferson County members, is scheduled to take up the issue next week.

    Frances Steenbergen, KEA president, said the union is polling all school employees members and nonmembers, teachers and nonteachers about going on strike. She said the results would influence the directors' decision.


    Word has it from some teachers that I know on a personal level, their previous insurance package offered them a choice of 3 different insurance types/carriers. Now they only have 1 choice with the raised out of pocket costs. This 1 choice also happens to be a big Fletcher campaign contributor. Hmmmm...regardless of the Democrat vs Republican thing, I know a lot of teachers are very ticked off about this, and it looks like they are in favor of a strike, and we may be forced to home-school our kids here in the near future (I believe they are scheduled to make their decision on Sept. 17, last I heard). What do you fellow Kentuckians think of this? I feel they're going to have to make some kind of concessions in the face of rising health costs (we all have had to do that), but KY teachers already pay the highest family rate in the country, and comes second to last in state contribution. They now have an $800 family deductible rate- doesn't that seem a tad high? Especially now that their co-pay was taken away and they have to also pay 20% for MD visits?
  2. 1,365 Visits
    Find Similar Topics
  3. 6 Comments so far...

  4. 0
    They vote on this today. The KEA is in support of the teachers' strike. Let's cross our fingers that something gets worked out! The KEA Board meeting is at 8 PM tonight at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Frankfort. There has been talk of it only being a 1 day walk-out strike or striking during in-service days, but nothing has been decided yet and all that will be discussed at the meeting tonight.
    Last edit by BBFRN on Sep 17, '04
  5. 0
    It's disappointing to me that everything is put into a political context. We elect people to make decisions based on what is the right thing to do. The "right" thing is provide reasonable health care coverage for a large segment of state employees. Battle lines should not be drawn. A solution should be determined. I am sick to death of 'Democrat vs. Republican'. Just get the job done, legislators, or get out! :angryfire

    And, just WHY is there this constant mantra of "rising health care costs"? Should we perhaps take a hard look at the REAL REASONS? How much required paperwork, documentation, licensing & accreditation expenses.... It sure isn't salaries for the nursing staff! And who requires all that excess? Legislation, legislation, legislation...:uhoh21: lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits...

    Uh-oh, soapbox.

    Citizen Nurse
  6. 0
    It's always one party vs. the other because people in the same party seldom blow the whistle on a more politically powerful member -- that would be political suicide.
  7. 0
    Yeah, I'm really sick to death of the Dems & Repubs pointing fingers over this issue, too. maybe if they took some time out of that, they would have time to sit down with the teachers and make a plan.
  8. 0
    Here's what happened last night:

    http://www.courier-journal.com/local...0918-9683.html

    KEA officials debate whether to push for day of protest, strike

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Nancy C. Rodriguez
    nrodriguez@courier-journal.com
    The Courier-Journal



    By Stewart Bowman, The Courier-Journal


    FRANKFORT, Ky. Leaders of the Kentucky Education Association debated past midnight whether to call for a day of protest that would close schools Sept. 27 and a full-fledged strike in October or February.

    The teachers union's crisis committee deliberated most of the afternoon before presenting a list of recommendations to its board of directors, which went into closed session from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. before publicly debating the proposals.

    They included:

    Calling for Gov. Ernie Fletcher to convene a special legislative session to adopt a budget that adequately funds education and restores health insurance benefits that would be cut this year under a plan Fletcher released to reduce costs.

    Urging local teachers unions to request that their superintendents and school boards close school on Sept. 27, the first scheduled day of open enrollment in the state's controversial health insurance plan.

    School employees would spend the day protesting rising insurance costs and education funding but only if their district officials agree to call off classes for the day.

    Calling for an open-ended statewide strike in October or during the next legislative session next year.

    Crisis committee member Brent McKim, who is the president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said the strike would continue until health benefits were restored and education was adequately funded.

    It is illegal for school workers to strike in Kentucky. Those who do could face action from their local school boards, including being fired consequences that KEA officials said weighed heavily on them.

    If the KEA does call for a strike, it would be up to the individual district teachers unions to determine whether to carry through with the proposal.

    "It's a very serious debate that not only affects our 29,000 members, but also their families," KEA spokesman Charles Main said.

    Fletcher, whose health-care changes ignited the strike debate, said yesterday in a statement that he would not negotiate with the statewide teachers association if it "promotes an illegal strike."

    "No illegal strike or other organized job action can be justified," Fletcher said. "I am concerned and compassionate about the impact of health insurance costs on all state employees and teachers. An illegal strike or work stoppage would be harmful to our children."

    Some back bold steps

    Still, some KEA members said such action is needed, in part because an informal poll by the association showed that 80 percent of its members support a strike.

    Teachers and school workers who attend last night's board meeting said they must take bold action for the community and governor to understand the gravity of the situation.

    "A teacher can't do anything more than to say I'm risking my entire career to communicate that this is not something that's in the interest of our students in the commonwealth," McKim said.

    Sentiment for some form of work stoppage had been growing since Sept. 7, when Fletcher released a new state health-insurance plan that imposes deductibles on state employees and requires them to pay a percentage of doctor and prescription costs instead of a fixed co-payment. It also raises monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many employees, depending on the coverage they select, and limits employees to one insurance provider.

    About 171,000 public employees and retirees are covered by state health insurance. Adding dependents and spouses, the number rises to about 229,000.

    Without the changes, Fletcher has said the price tag for providing health insurance benefits would reach nearly $1billion by 2006, and the cost to some employees would have increased by as much as 25 percent.

    Fletcher said he would attempt to ease the increases by providing a 1 percent raise in January in addition to a 2 percent raise this fiscal year.

    "What makes this situation even more frustrating is that the problem of escalating health-care costs has been neglected for so long by previous administrations," Fletcher said in his statement. "I want teachers and teacher unions to work with my administration toward the goal of parity of teacher compensation with the surrounding states."

    But union officials say the rising health-care costs come on top of insurance premiums that already are unreasonably high for Kentucky teachers.

    They point to an analysis this year by the National Conference on State Legislatures that shows that in 2003 Kentucky teachers paid a larger share of their monthly premiums for family plans than teachers in any other state.

    Among the strike's most ardent supporters is the Jefferson County Teachers Association, whose delegates voted unanimously last week to have the KEA call for a strike Sept. 30.

    McKim said the goal of the work stoppage is to persuade Fletcher to work with school employees and state workers to find a better solution to the state's mounting health-care costs.

    The Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, which represents 23,000 retirees in the state, also called on Fletcher yesterday to work with it to find an alternative to his plan.

    A largely symbolic action

    KEA officials acknowledged yesterday that a one-day work stoppage would be largely symbolic, noting that they expect several school districts to schedule their protests on personal or training days, when students aren't in school.

    In other districts, school boards might work with employees and close school for one day. Districts then would make up that missed time by adding it to the end of the school year.

    The KEA last staged a statewide teacher strike in February 1970 over education funding and teacher salaries. A court order ended the strike.

    Brenda Hutchinson, president of the Bullitt County Teachers Association, said a strike is needed because lobbying and letter-writing campaigns have not persuaded the legislature or governor to make changes.

    "We do not take this lightly," said Hutchinson, who teaches at Brooks Elementary School. "As teachers and as support professionals we believe that our students are the reason that we're in this profession, and we care about our students. But we have families also. And at this time we're having to say that we have to take care of our families."

    Hutchinson said there are bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants in her district and around the state whose school salaries do not cover their health insurance costs. Those workers, she said, often have to work second jobs to cover that expense.

    Others at last night's meeting, however, were less certain a strike was the right move.

    Some support more lobbying. They noted a plan offered Thursday by Senate Republicans that would raise all school and state employee salaries $600 this year, lower drug costs for those with many prescriptions, create new health spending accounts and increase the cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers.

    Fletcher hasn't said whether he would support the plan.


    Staff writer Chris Kenning contributed to this story.
  9. 0
    I work at a state facility and have the same health care insurance the school teacher's do and I hope that Fletcher changes something soon because the cost of my insurance is going up due to where I smoke and all.:angryfire


    Quote from lgflamini
    Here's what happened last night:

    http://www.courier-journal.com/local...0918-9683.html

    KEA officials debate whether to push for day of protest, strike

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    By Nancy C. Rodriguez
    nrodriguez@courier-journal.com
    The Courier-Journal



    By Stewart Bowman, The Courier-Journal


    FRANKFORT, Ky. Leaders of the Kentucky Education Association debated past midnight whether to call for a day of protest that would close schools Sept. 27 and a full-fledged strike in October or February.

    The teachers union's crisis committee deliberated most of the afternoon before presenting a list of recommendations to its board of directors, which went into closed session from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. before publicly debating the proposals.

    They included:

    Calling for Gov. Ernie Fletcher to convene a special legislative session to adopt a budget that adequately funds education and restores health insurance benefits that would be cut this year under a plan Fletcher released to reduce costs.

    Urging local teachers unions to request that their superintendents and school boards close school on Sept. 27, the first scheduled day of open enrollment in the state's controversial health insurance plan.

    School employees would spend the day protesting rising insurance costs and education funding but only if their district officials agree to call off classes for the day.

    Calling for an open-ended statewide strike in October or during the next legislative session next year.

    Crisis committee member Brent McKim, who is the president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said the strike would continue until health benefits were restored and education was adequately funded.

    It is illegal for school workers to strike in Kentucky. Those who do could face action from their local school boards, including being fired consequences that KEA officials said weighed heavily on them.

    If the KEA does call for a strike, it would be up to the individual district teachers unions to determine whether to carry through with the proposal.

    "It's a very serious debate that not only affects our 29,000 members, but also their families," KEA spokesman Charles Main said.

    Fletcher, whose health-care changes ignited the strike debate, said yesterday in a statement that he would not negotiate with the statewide teachers association if it "promotes an illegal strike."

    "No illegal strike or other organized job action can be justified," Fletcher said. "I am concerned and compassionate about the impact of health insurance costs on all state employees and teachers. An illegal strike or work stoppage would be harmful to our children."

    Some back bold steps

    Still, some KEA members said such action is needed, in part because an informal poll by the association showed that 80 percent of its members support a strike.

    Teachers and school workers who attend last night's board meeting said they must take bold action for the community and governor to understand the gravity of the situation.

    "A teacher can't do anything more than to say I'm risking my entire career to communicate that this is not something that's in the interest of our students in the commonwealth," McKim said.

    Sentiment for some form of work stoppage had been growing since Sept. 7, when Fletcher released a new state health-insurance plan that imposes deductibles on state employees and requires them to pay a percentage of doctor and prescription costs instead of a fixed co-payment. It also raises monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs for many employees, depending on the coverage they select, and limits employees to one insurance provider.

    About 171,000 public employees and retirees are covered by state health insurance. Adding dependents and spouses, the number rises to about 229,000.

    Without the changes, Fletcher has said the price tag for providing health insurance benefits would reach nearly $1billion by 2006, and the cost to some employees would have increased by as much as 25 percent.

    Fletcher said he would attempt to ease the increases by providing a 1 percent raise in January in addition to a 2 percent raise this fiscal year.

    "What makes this situation even more frustrating is that the problem of escalating health-care costs has been neglected for so long by previous administrations," Fletcher said in his statement. "I want teachers and teacher unions to work with my administration toward the goal of parity of teacher compensation with the surrounding states."

    But union officials say the rising health-care costs come on top of insurance premiums that already are unreasonably high for Kentucky teachers.

    They point to an analysis this year by the National Conference on State Legislatures that shows that in 2003 Kentucky teachers paid a larger share of their monthly premiums for family plans than teachers in any other state.

    Among the strike's most ardent supporters is the Jefferson County Teachers Association, whose delegates voted unanimously last week to have the KEA call for a strike Sept. 30.

    McKim said the goal of the work stoppage is to persuade Fletcher to work with school employees and state workers to find a better solution to the state's mounting health-care costs.

    The Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, which represents 23,000 retirees in the state, also called on Fletcher yesterday to work with it to find an alternative to his plan.

    A largely symbolic action

    KEA officials acknowledged yesterday that a one-day work stoppage would be largely symbolic, noting that they expect several school districts to schedule their protests on personal or training days, when students aren't in school.

    In other districts, school boards might work with employees and close school for one day. Districts then would make up that missed time by adding it to the end of the school year.

    The KEA last staged a statewide teacher strike in February 1970 over education funding and teacher salaries. A court order ended the strike.

    Brenda Hutchinson, president of the Bullitt County Teachers Association, said a strike is needed because lobbying and letter-writing campaigns have not persuaded the legislature or governor to make changes.

    "We do not take this lightly," said Hutchinson, who teaches at Brooks Elementary School. "As teachers and as support professionals we believe that our students are the reason that we're in this profession, and we care about our students. But we have families also. And at this time we're having to say that we have to take care of our families."

    Hutchinson said there are bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants in her district and around the state whose school salaries do not cover their health insurance costs. Those workers, she said, often have to work second jobs to cover that expense.

    Others at last night's meeting, however, were less certain a strike was the right move.

    Some support more lobbying. They noted a plan offered Thursday by Senate Republicans that would raise all school and state employee salaries $600 this year, lower drug costs for those with many prescriptions, create new health spending accounts and increase the cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers.

    Fletcher hasn't said whether he would support the plan.


    Staff writer Chris Kenning contributed to this story.


Top