Wisconsin schools buck union to cut health costs

Wisconsin schools buck union to cut health costs | Washington Examiner.

Here’s the email that alerted me to this article:

Wisconsin Reborn
The Democrats and Liberals are keeping really quiet about this.   Is There any wonder why Obama stayed away from Wisconsin on his latest Campaign Tour even though he was right next door.  Wisconsin is the last place they want to talk about, just like New Jersey!
Important read!!!!!!!
This got real quiet as to how it came out.  Well, here are the results.
Remember the violent and disgusting demonstrations over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker doing away with collective bargaining for Teacher’s unions?  The results are in.  Some school districts went from a $400,000 deficit to a $1,500,000 surplus as a result.  
They are even hiring new teachers, not firing like the Liberals said would happen.  Why? 
It seems that the insurance company that provided all the “so-called” benefits to the teachers was an insurance company owned and operated by the teacher’s union.  Since the outfit was guaranteed to get the insurance business from the teachers, and the State had to pay for it (not the teachers) the insurance company was increasing  annual 
costs every single year to become the most 
expensive insurance company in the state.  
Then the company was donating millions and 
millions of dollars to its favorite democrat politicians who, when they got elected, guaranteed to keep funding the union’s outrageous costs.  In other words, the insurance company was a “pass through” for 
Wisconsin taxpayer money directly to the democrat politicians.
Nice racket, and this is the racket that is going on in every single State that allows collective bargaining.  No wonder the States are taking it away. Now the State of Wisconsin is free to put the insurance contract out for bids and, lo and behold, they have saved so much money it has turned deficits into surplus amounts.  As a result, none of the teachers had to be laid off, everyone got a raise, etc., etc., and the taxpayers of Wisconsin don’t have to pay more taxes to fund the union’s political ambitions.
If you weren’t aware of the reasons Gov. Walker was fighting to take away collective bargaining, it gives you an idea of the problem the Republican Party has.  Outside of one or two, none of them know how to speak up and explain properly what the problem was.  We could sure use a Ronald 
Reagan now, someone who could explain things for people to understand, since we know that people don’t like to read anymore.

So here it the article from the link above:

Wisconsin schools buck union to cut health costs

Getty Images/Justin Sullivan
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker performs a ceremonial bill signing of the new budget law outside his office at the Wisconsin State Capitol on March 11, 2011 in Madison. The new law helped the Hartland-Lakeside School District save money on health care costs by switching providers.

The Hartland-Lakeside School District, about 30 miles west of Milwaukee in tiny Hartland, Wis., had a problem in its collective bargaining contract with the local teachers union. The contract required the school district to purchase health insurance from a company called WEA Trust. The creation of Wisconsin’s largest teachers union — “WEA” stands for Wisconsin Education Association — WEA Trust made money when union officials used collective bargaining agreements to steer profitable business its way.

The problem for Hartland-Lakeside was that WEA Trust was charging significantly higher rates than the school district could find on the open market. School officials knew that because they got a better deal from United HealthCare for coverage of nonunion employees. On more than one occasion, Superintendent Glenn Schilling asked WEA Trust why the rates were so high. “I could never get a definitive answer on that,” says Schilling.

Changing to a different insurance company would save Hartland-Lakeside hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be spent on key educational priorities — especially important since the cash-strapped state government was cutting back on education funding. But teachers union officials wouldn’t allow it; the WEA Trust requirement was in the contract, and union leaders refused to let Hartland-Lakeside off the hook.

That’s where Wisconsin’s new budget law came in. The law, bitterly opposed by organized labor in the state and across the nation, limits the collective bargaining powers of some public employees. And it just happens that the Hartland-Lakeside teachers’ collective bargaining agreement expired on June 30. So now, freed from the expensive WEA Trust deal, the school district has changed insurers.

“It’s going to save us about $690,000 in 2011-2012,” says Schilling. Insurance costs that had been about $2.5 million a year will now be around $1.8 million. What union leaders said would be a catastrophe will in fact be a boon to teachers and students.

But the effect of weakening collective bargaining goes beyond money. It also has the potential to reshape the adversarial culture that often afflicts public education. In Hartland-Lakeside, there’s been no war between union-busting bureaucrats on one side and impassioned teachers on the other; Schilling speaks with great collegiality toward the teachers and says with pride that they’ve been able to work together on big issues. But there has been a deep division between the school district and top union executives.

In the health insurance talks, for example, Schilling last year began telling teachers about different insurance plans, some of which, like United HealthCare’s, required a higher deductible. “We involved them, and they overwhelmingly endorsed the change to United HealthCare,” he says. But even with the teachers on board, when school officials presented a change-in-coverage proposal to union officials, it was immediately rejected. The costly WEA Trust deal stayed in place.

Now, with the collective bargaining agreement gone, Schilling looks forward to working more closely with teachers. “I would say the biggest change is we have a lot more involvement with a wider scope of teachers,” he says. When collective bargaining was in effect, “We dealt with a select team of teachers, a small group of three or four who were on the bargaining team, and then the union director. Any information that went to the teachers went through them. Now, we feel that we will have a direct dialogue.”

It’s not hard to see why union officials hate the new law so much. It not only breaks up cherished and lucrative union monopolies like high-cost health insurance; it also threatens to break through the union-built wall between teachers and administrators and allow the two sides to work together more closely. The old union go-betweens, who controlled what their members could and could not hear, will be left aside.

Hartland-Lakeside isn’t the only school district that is pulling free from collective bargaining agreements that mandated WEA Trust coverage. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Pewaukee School District, not far from Hartland-Lakeside, will save $378,000 by next year by leaving WEA Trust. The Menomonee Falls School District, farther north, will reportedly save $1.3 million. Facing state cutbacks, the districts can’t afford to overpay for union-affiliated coverage.

Look for the unions to fight back with everything they have. If the Wisconsin situation has shown anything, it is that organized labor views the collective bargaining fight as a life-or-death struggle. If the unions lose in Wisconsin, the clamor for change could spread to other states. What happened in Hartland-Lakeside could become a model for other schools looking for new and better ways to do business.

Byron York, The Examiner‘s chief political correspondent, can be contacted at byork@washingtonexaminer.com.

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