St. Paul Teachers Put Benefits Ahead of Students

The number one talking point for teachers unions inevitably involves a variation on the theme of the lack of  funding for K-12 education and dire need to funnel millions more taxpayer dollars into the classroom.

But the decision by St. Paul teachers to change health insurance plans in the middle of a contract despite the expected impact on their students and district classrooms exposes the reality behind their rhetoric.

Switching to the state’s health insurance plan will benefit teachers personally, but trigger a $4 million penalty and hole in the school district’s budget, according to the Star Tribune.

Superintendent Joe Gothard and Board Chairwoman Zuki Ellis also have sent a letter to SPFE President Nick Faber asking that teachers reconsider the move: “Simply stated, the school district does not have the ability to withstand these sudden, unexpected and unbudgeted costs,” they wrote.

As of Friday, SPFE leaders and members had yet to be swayed. They say they are attracted to the potentially lower costs, and greater stability, of a move to the Public Employees Insurance Program (PEIP).

The St. Paul Federation of Educators’ self-centered move will not only cost students resources in the classroom but also many of their colleagues in other unions employed by St. Paul schools. So much for solidarity.

Twelve other district bargaining units also weighed in again in separate correspondence to school board members Friday, urging the district to do all it can to minimize impacts on employees they say bear no responsibility for the potential harm caused by a broken deal with HealthPartners.

“To say your employees (our members) are angry and anxious about their health care for 2020 would be an understatement,” the letter states.

District officials still hope to persuade the SPFE to put off the switch in health plans until their contract expires in a year.  But in the end they’ll probably have to chalk it up to another lesson learned at the expense of both students and taxpayers–schooled again by the teachers union.