Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MESSA Claims: Fact or Fiction?

In his Feb. 1 Detroit News letter, “Intervention in school health benefits unjustified”, MESSA lobbyist Gary Fralick reveals interesting new data, but his overall premise is still just wrong. (Update: Cynthia Irwin, MESSA Executive Director, contributed to the PR campaign with a similiar message in the Feb 13 Detroit Free Press opinion, "Teachers have sacrificed much for districts")

He rejects the idea of state intervention by saying, “Michigan school employees are doing their part to help districts balance their budgets through health care savings”.

However, verifiable public data on the Michigan Department of Education’s CEPI website paints a different picture, and suggests intervention is very justified.

CEPI Bulletin 1014 shows school board spending on employee benefits rose $212 million dollars between 2004 and 2005; a 6.2 percent increase. These costs skyrocketed by nearly $845 million since the 2000-01 school year; a 30 percent increase.

School Year
Benefit Spending (Instructional & Support Staffs)
Benefit Cost Per Pupil
Statewide Spending Per Pupil
Benefits as Percentage of Spending

Benefits - The cost of both mandatory and non-mandatory fringe benefits for the staff directly involved with a given function.

And that came despite the fact school boards employed 1829 fewer teachers in ’05 than in ’04.

Meanwhile, Fralick’s point is based on data that cannot be verified because it’s stuffed in the MESSA “lockbox”. Basically, MESSA will not release data to schools or the public.

Ironically, the “intervention” opposed by MESSA is a bill considered by state legislators that would release MESSA data, and promote competition.

But Fralick’s claims – if accurate – suggest there may be evidence showing some education workers around the state are doing their part.

If factual, then those employees deserve to be recognized for being part of the solution, and MESSA should tell us who they are.

And, if Fralick’s claim is true that 42 percent of MESSA members are paying part of their health insurance premiums, then what does that tell us about the other 58 percent – plus those not covered by MESSA – who are generating the increases shown in the public data above?

Is this 42 percent mostly support staffs, administrators, or teachers?

Can the remaining 58 percent follow the example set by those cited by Fralick?

More openness by MESSA can help to address the financial crisis facing education, and Governor Granholm does need to get involved as
Nolan Finely suggested in his Jan 21, “Students pay for Granholm’s fiddling.” Requiring MESSA to share its data would be a great start.

More good commentary is available from the Mackinac Center and Thomas Washburne in a piece called "Elected School Boards or Unions: Who Rules the Roost?".

==> Mike


Jim_Pratt said...

Hi Mike-

I thought I'd post over here for once. You probably have read that nice history of teachers by now- hope you enjoyed it.

According to my sources, Howell pays
$15,053.16 per teacher for MESSA Choices II. What is most interesting about that number is that it is the same price per teacher, whether the insurance is for a single or a family plan. One price, per employee, and that is the price. I am still trying to verify that number, but that is what I have been given by unofficial souces.

Gives me a whole new appreciation for what Rochester has been able to accomplish by self-insuring.


Anonymous said...

$15 k a year to guaranteed that honest, hard-working Americans won't go heavily in debt or even bankrupt if they get sick? You're right. It is a problem.

Unfortunately, it's a problem that won't be fixed on the backs of workers--which is the solution that many of you propose daily.