A few weeks ago we wrote about Gayl Shepard’s re-election heading the MEA. At the time in her statement after being re-elected, Shepard said she planned to “work collaboratively” going forward to focus on education for students:
“I will lead this union of dedicated educators as we work collaboratively with the Montclair School District and Montclair Community to provide the best education for every public school student.”
While we were skeptical of it given her aggressive record of attacks on the district administration and board, we said we hoped it would pan out.
We hadn’t had a chance to write anything about last week’s school board meeting, but long story short, let’s just say: It looks like “collaboratively” didn’t last very long, if it even ever got started.
Here’s Georgette Gilmore’s account of the substance of the meeting over at BaristaNet, a discussion of transitioning the district’s health benefits plan to a new provider to save $1.5 million:
Fleischer stated that the district has had a “minimum premium plan” with Horizon, which is a fully insured plan in which the insurer, not the policyholder (employer), is responsible for the payment of plan benefits. It allows the policyholder to reduce its premium. This year, Horizon told the district it will not allow minimum premium plans any longer. Fleischer said after negotiations, Horizon said it will allow it only one more year. That was one of the main reasons the district looked at other plans. It found Cigna to offer the most benefit. Cigna’s preferred product are minimum premium plans and its annual premiums will be $13,270,241 compared to Horizon’s $14,495,021, which will result in lower health benefit deductions in each employee’s paycheck. Switching to Cigna will result in a district cost savings of $1.5 million. Fleischer also stated that Cigna has agreed in writing to offer “equal to or better than” coverage, or matching employees current benefits.
During the open discussion between MEA President Gayl Shepard, teachers, and board members, Fleisher answered many questions about Cigna’s plan and details of the change.
Despite the proposed benefits, the MEA representatives who spoke last night said that teachers were not happy. Worries about losing doctors and specialists, the reputation of Cigna’s business practices, and the short amount of time they had to learn more about the change were the main areas of concern. Fleisher said the decision had to be now because the contract with Horizon is ending the end of June. All paperwork will have to be submitted to Cigna by July
“As the MEA, we are opposing this change,” stated Shepard.
We aren’t experts in health care, so we’re working off of what has been presented and reported on. But the basics appear to be pretty straightforward: A reasonable plan presented by the district to maintain if not improve the level of health care benefits provided by teachers, while saving $1.5 million that we could really use. And unfortunately, in what has become the default for Shepard and the MEA-first crowd, if the district is doing it, they oppose it. Even if it’s good policy. Even if it’s saving $1.5 million dollars for the district that we could spend to provide a better education for our students, which Shepard said she planned to work collaboratively to do.
So, there you go. So much for working “collaboratively.” The MEA and Shepard’s default position on everything seems to be oppose, oppose, oppose. Gum up the works and sabotage the system, then complain about why it isn’t working well.