Home > Uncategorized > Legislative nonsense: midweek edition

Legislative nonsense: midweek edition

February 9, 2016

In case you missed it this morning, my two things for Tuesday were simple.

  1. I don’t think the governor’s plan to raise teacher salaries makes sense or is plausible.
  2. I hope I’m wrong.

When I expect the worst, I always hope I’m wrong. You can have hope and be a realist at the same time, after all.

“It’s silly not to hope. It’s a sin, he thought.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

On the other hand, tomorrow, a House subcommittee plans to hear HB 3154, which would force school districts to divert health insurance costs to salary. We would call it a pay raise.

It’s not.

Several people have already heeded the alert from CCOSA and other groups to call the subcommittee members and insist they kill the bill. Here’s the short version of what the bill would do:

What it would do:

  • Require districts to use money now set aside for employee health insurance to give teacher raises.
  • Permanently cap (at FY 17 levels) the amount of money districts receive to pay for employee health benefits.
  • In effect, the state will shift its obligation to fund health insurance to local communities because districts will eventually be forced to use local money to pay increasing employee health insurance costs and to pay for teacher/support employee raises.

Teacher pay wouldn’t increase, but in future years, the burden of health insurance will, thus lowering a teacher’s effective rate of pay.

Here’s a list of the subcommittee members. Call and email them, please. Tweet at them, if you’d like. Some in this group are genuine friends of education.

Representative Phone Email Address Twitter
Cannaday, Ed 405.557.7375 ed.cannaday@okhouse.gov  
Coody, Ann 405.557.7398 anncoody@okhouse.gov  
Dunnington, Jason 405.557.7396 jason.dunnington@okhouse.gov @jdunnington
Henke, Katie (VC) 405.557.7361 katie.henke@okhouse.gov @KatieHenke
Kern, Sally 405.557.7348 sallykern@okhouse.gov @SallyKern
Martin, Scott (C) 405.557.7329 scott.martin@okhouse.gov @scottcmartin
Peterson, Pam 405.557.7341 pampeterson@okhouse.gov  
Rogers, Michael 405.557.7362 michael.rogers@okhouse.gov @rogersmichael21
Thomsen, Todd 405.557.7336 todd.thomsen@okhouse.gov @ToddThomsen
Virgin, Emily 405.557.7323 emily.virgin@okhouse.gov @RepEmilyVirgin

Additionally, I want to share with you a correspondence between a real live Oklahoma educator and a real live Oklahoma legislator. I will edit for space:

Question:

Good afternoon Representative Rogers, My name is Jen Masterson and I am a Speech/Pathologist at Claremore Public Schools. I work in Claremore but I live in Broken Arrow so I will be emailing the Claremore representatives as well. I greatly appreciate the efforts in the House to raise teacher pay. This is a topic that has gone undiscussed for far too long in our state. However, with the current budget crisis, myself and many of my colleagues are not concerned about our salaries at this moment.

We are concerned about colleagues and support staff who have been and will be laid off due to mid-year adjustments in our district. I work at Will Rogers Junior High in Claremore and, along with being a Speech/Pathologist, I serve as the Special Education Department Chair for our building. I have had to make some tough decisions about who on our support staff (paraprofessionals) will be returning next year and who will not. An increase in my salary would be appreciated; however, it comes at the expense of my colleagues and our students and I am not ok with that.

My specific concerns with HB 3154 include the following: If national teacher pay comparisons already include salaries and benefits, how will moving health insurance over to teacher salaries raise our state’s ranking for teacher pay? What will happen to the thousands of support employees currently receiving health care coverage when the money used to pay for their insurance is instead given to teachers as a pay raise? Who will pay for the health insurance of educators if the state decides to no longer cover this expense?

 

Response:

Thank you for email and input on my House Bill 3154. This bill has drawn some critics, and most do not understand what I am trying to accomplish. Here are the facts for you to consider when reviewing my bill. First, the current house bill 3154 is not going to be heard tomorrow. Second, it will have a committee substitute to change the language to a more clear understanding of the bill. The whole intent is to put us in a better position long term and get us away from a long-term liability that is unsustainable. The bill is also set up to give the local school district the flexibility to make the decisions on the local level that is best for their district. The misconception is this was written to give the teachers a pay raise. It was written to address the long-term liability that is draining our appropriations to common education. Here are the facts:

FBA (Flex Benefits Allowance)

1) Flex benefits in FY 16 – $416 million

2) Estimated FY 17 FBA $446 million ($30 million increase)

3) FBA has increased an average of 6.6 percent over the last 10 years.

4) Since 2002 (last 14 years) the legislature has increased appropriations for common education by 22%, during that same time Flex Benefits have risen 92.4 %.

5) Why is this a problem?

a) Currently FBA is around 20% of the appropriated dollars that goes to Common Education.

b) As FBA rises then per pupil decreases.

c) If we currently continue to do what we are doing then in 14 years FBA will be 30% of the appropriated dollars that goes to education, which will drive down even lower our per pupil funding.

d) Here is what FBA looks like for the next 15 years:

i) FY 2020 $537 Million

ii) FY 2025 $739 Million

iii) FY 2030 $1.0 Billion

6) If we do nothing and continue on this trend, the legislature would have to appropriate an additional $30 million per year to common education just to keep our per pupil from dropping from its current level. This would not allow the legislature the ability to increase per pupil funding.

7) What would that look like? Let’s use the same years FY 20, FY 25, and FY 30.

(1) By year 2020 the legislature would have appropriated an additional $120 million to Common Education ($30 million per year for 4 years).

(2) By year 2025 the legislature would have appropriated $240 million.

(3) By year 2030 the legislature would have appropriated $420 million. And our per pupil funding would have actually decreased significantly, because as the FBA ball gets bigger the 6.6 % gets bigger so from 2029-2030 a 6.6% increase would be $66 million.

If we are serious about making tough decisions that put us in a better position in the future to give teacher pay raises, increase per pupil funding, and give the kids of Oklahoma the best education available, than this is a conversation that has to be had.

Representative Michael Rogers

Oklahoma House of Representatives

District 98

I’ve seen a few people post that response to Facebook now, so he must be sending it out to all questions he has received. This is the only exchange I’ve received showing both sides of the conversation, though. And I agree with everything Jen said above. If we’re raising teacher salaries by robbing our own insurance, or deeply hurting our support employees, then we’re extremely foolish.

I don’t know where Rep. Rogers gets his 2020, 2025, and 2030 projections, but I’m trying to keep teachers employed in 2016 and get some hired for 2017. If the state can’t afford those health insurance increases, what makes him think teachers can?

This bill does nothing to raise teacher pay or help with health costs. It does nothing to raise per pupil spending. It does nothing to address our increasing student enrollment. It does nothing to curb the teaching shortage.

In short, this bill does nothing useful.

Please call, email, and tweet. Kill this thing.

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  1. CJ
    February 9, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    The only thing I could agree with here is that all teachers who do not take the state coverage would finally be paid the same as their peers. This gap has risen to around $5000 a year and will widen more. Since this is the reason we do not get raises we are doubly denied what we should be paid. When we voted to accept this years ago, the gap was much smaller and we were told we would be compensated eventually. That has not happened. They won’t even let me get dental insurance instead. I still pay for that while their health insurance is paid. This should be addressed in reforms as well because there are many of us.

    Like

    • Brenda
      February 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      This is a sad twist on teachers who take the insurance getting paid more. I don’t take the insurance, but I don’t consider my fellow employees getting paid more than me; I consider it a blessing I have other insurance. If you feel this way, take the insurance and have double coverage because your $69.71 in cash isn’t really much after taxes. This isn’t why teachers aren’t getting raises; this is an excuse from the legislators valuing big business instead of education. Not only did they start cutting funding in 2008-09, when the economy improved, they did not restore funding to education, they gave tax credits and incentives. So, now that the economy has taken another turn for the worst, we are below 2008-09 funding still and going down even more. The state’s economy is bad, and education funding was already suffering before the stat’s revenue fell so sharply. Yes, I understand the flex/health insurance money increases every year, but all other state employees get their insurance paid, do why should school employees be any different?

      Like

  2. Rex
    February 10, 2016 at 11:13 am

    A better question is why does FBA need to be so expensive? I know it will cause half of the state’s heads to explode but a single-payer system would be cheaper OR create an Oklahoma insurance exchange (another dirty word). I’ve never understood how expensive premiums are when the State should be able to leverage better deals with insurance companies due to the number of people covered by FBA (Education AND all state workers). When we can find better deals for the same coverage through the ACA, that should be telling someone something.

    Like

  3. Brenda Stotie
    February 10, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    I received the exact same response when I emailed him, and he’s accurate in his response that people do not understand what he is trying to accomplish.

    Like

  4. KaSondra Foster
    February 12, 2016 at 10:26 am

    I have an idea that instead of moving funds around in the education arena, why can’t we take some funds from the prison system? There are convicted criminals living better than some of my students. There are people who literally want to go to jail/prison because they get free (to them) food and board. Do these people really deserve cable TV or satellite? Or internet privileges? If we looked closely at these facilities, I am certain there are areas that could stand to be un-funded so that education doesn’t suffer. Let’s think about that…

    Like

  5. Nancy Williams
    February 15, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I agree about cable and internet in prisons. Give them books to read and reading classes if they can’t read. There is not much on TV that is going to teach them anything except PBS. or National Geographic.

    Like

  1. February 10, 2016 at 6:02 am
  2. February 14, 2016 at 4:24 pm
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