Spin in Ink
The National Education Association couldn’t have asked for better coverage of the Tiverton School Committee meeting on Tuesday from the Providence Journal’s Gina Macris if the union had paid for it:
Amid the continuing rancor over an unsettled teachers’ contract, School Committee member Leonard Wright injected a conciliatory tone.
The town has high-performing schools and high-performing teachers, he said,
“I don’t think we should put them in the position of putting them behind” financially, Wright said.
“We should find another way to balance the budget,” he said.
In the end, the rest of the committee took his advice — to the extent that it put off making any decisions that would ask teachers to take a cut in pay during the next school year.
After the meeting, Amy Mullen, president of the teachers’ union, said she applauded Wright for quickly realizing that teachers would end up with a pay cut and “stating that it wasn’t fair.” …
Schools Supt. William J. Rearick presented the committee with three scenarios for next year’s budget that pit salaries against rising out-of-pocket premiums for health care, with teachers ending up in the red. …
Wright said one of Rearick’s options would give teachers an added $1,300 in salary — a raise of about 2 percent for those with the most experience — but make them pay $3,500 toward the cost of a family health insurance plan.
That figure, more than triple the $1,100 teachers now pay for family health care, represents about 25 percent of the total cost of a family premium.
The tell-tale phrase is “those with the most experience” — as opposed to, for example, “those who have been with the district longest.” “Experience” makes it sound almost like a gauge of merit. More significant, though, is that the phrase allows Macris to avoid entirely her responsibility to explain the step system to her readers. Note that she actually flips the calculation so that the raise is $1,300, or “about 2 percent,” when in fact it is the two percent that is given.
The math that Macris lays out is for teachers at step 10, which is the top step, relying entirely on the percent salary adjustments with each contract for raises. Teachers at every other step would receive the two percent on top of whatever percentage increase the step calls for. So, for Rearick’s “Option 3,” which is the one on which Wright and Macris focused, and his “Option 1,” for which there is no salary increase, but only a 15% co-pay, the numbers would fall out as follows for teachers who take the family plan health insurance (with the “net change” as the dollar amount for teachers entering that step, including healthcare copay adjustment):
|Option 3||Option 1|
|Net Change||Net Change|
In summary, it is not at all accurate for Macris to offer her numbers as if they apply to teachers as a whole. Indeed, under no scenario do any teachers who do not take the health insurance suffer a “pay cut,” and the fact that Option 1 is better for teachers across the board, if they take health insurance, indicates that a not-insignificant number must not take it. (Otherwise, the options wouldn’t be interchangeable from the administration’s point of view.)
To be honest, it strikes me as indicative of the intellectual habits of those who are used to the bottomless pit of public revenue to calculate healthcare as part of the salary in this way, because it assumes that teachers oughtn’t bear some burden of increasing costs, leaving it all to the taxpayers to eat the increase. That aside, it’s quite a negotiating scam to position the “most experienced” teachers such that, for them to get raises, everybody else must, as well.