Friday, June 29, 2007

Marty Knollenberg on Benefit Reform

Representative Marty Knollenberg is proving himself to be a responsible legislator. He has spoken out on trying to implement needed reforms in health care and retirement benefits for educators AND legislators.

His plans would still provide reasonable protection and benefits, but do so in a way that more closely resembles the benefits provided to taxpayers in the private sector.

He shares some thoughts in this opinion piece:

Detroit News: Get more money in classroom by reforming health benefits (06/29/07)

There’s a passage in his article that warrants further discussion:

“Unfortunately, in a recent House Education Committee hearing on reforming school employee retirement health care, some of my colleagues actually argued that if we passed much-needed reforms on retiree health care, we would no longer have anyone willing to work in public schools. I almost fell out of my chair.”

Reasonable and informed debate will always lead to better laws, but in this case this particular claim by the defenders of the status quo has no basis in fact, and shows a complete lack of understanding about free-market principals.

I have been told on several occasions that when Rochester Schools posts a general education teaching position,
the district will frequently receive over one thousand applicants. Based on the top-notch hires made lately, it’s clear there is an abundance of talented people entering the profession.

It’s absurd to suggest that these relatively minor tweaks to the retirement system are going to suddenly and drastically reduce – or eliminate – the number of highly qualified teachers seeking employment in Michigan.

First of all, these doomsday hyperbolic claims are based on the assumption that teachers are money-grubbers that only chose the profession because of the benefits offered to teachers. Most teachers I’ve come in contact with are dedicated professionals who teach because they love to teach. Money is certainly important, but as is the case with most professions, money is not the primary motivating factor.

Secondly, it assumes that these changes will make Michigan’s retirement system so far below average that teaching in Michigan will become the career of last resort for teachers, when they cannot find work anywhere else. It appears to me that even after these tweaks, Michigan’s retirement plan will STILL be one of the most desirable around.

But perhaps most importantly, these changes will eventually save money, and will also provide an incentive for teachers to stay on the job, rather than leave their careers early. Creating a 30-year vesting period may help to keep talented teachers on the job longer. There is a lot of knowledge that leaves the profession each year... perhaps too much.

The packages introduced by Senator Kuipers and Representative Melton will not cause the sky to fall, but will actually help to improve things.

One final note: the real reform needed for this system is a move from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program. Private sector employers began the move from pension plans to 401(k) style programs 30 years, and it’s time for the government to catch up.


In case the link doesn’t work, I’ve provided the full text of his article below:

Get more money in classroom by reforming health benefits

Rep. Marty Knollenberg

Michigan ranks 48th in the nation in the amount of school operation dollars actually getting into the classroom. With an average of more than 17 percent of each school district's payroll being spent on retirement, Michigan needs to overhaul the system with the state's best interest in mind.

Under the current retirement system, the state could pay 100 percent of retiree health-care premiums after as few as five years of employment. Imagine a part-time employee drawing lifetime health care coverage after five years on the job.

Our education system is broken. We fight to get enough funding into classrooms while our schools face skyrocketing health care and retirement costs. It is clear, and has been for some time, that we can no longer wait to fix this structural problem. We must take action on necessary reforms now.

Unfortunately, in a recent House Education Committee hearing on reforming school employee retirement health care, some of my colleagues actually argued that if we passed much-needed reforms on retiree health care, we would no longer have anyone willing to work in public schools. I almost fell out of my chair.

While House Democrats were busy talking, the Republican-led Senate approved a legislative package sponsored by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, that phases in eligibility for retiree health care, closes some of the more egregious loopholes and caps the state's cost at 90 percent of retiree health-care premiums. House Education Chairman Tim Melton, D-Pontiac, introduced this package in the House.

Under the Senate plan and similar House proposals, if you became fully vested after only working 10 years, you would get 30 percent of your health care cost paid for by the state. If you worked 30 years, you could qualify for 90 percent of the premium paid for by the state.

It is time to change retiree health-care benefits for school employees. The common sense reforms reward employees for service much like what the private sector has done.

This is a move state employees made long ago, and one that would save millions of dollars each year. The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency reported that nearly $300 million would have been saved in 2006 alone if this legislation had been enacted 40 years ago.

Unfortunately, savings wouldn't occur immediately in this legislation because it would affect only new employees hired after the legislation takes effect. It would not affect any current teachers, custodians, food service personnel or bus drivers. This type of long-term thinking will help eliminate future budget crises rather than accounting gimmicks and quick fixes.

The intent of this plan is not to single out school employees. I have introduced similar legislation to reform another lucrative retirement system -- lifetime benefits for lawmakers.

It is simply absurd for the taxpayers to fund lifetime benefits for myself and my colleagues after six short years in the Legislature, the same way it is absurd for the taxpayers to pay for lifetime benefits for school bus drivers after only five years of work. I hope my House colleagues agree with me and support this legislation.


Monday, June 25, 2007

My interview on The Frank Beckmann Show

School boards are an aberration of government.

No other form of government is so devoid of discussion or debate. And no other government body gets such a free ride from the media.

This is especially puzzling given that there are so many issues that should be tackled, or at least discussed.

Sadly, many in the public pay little attention to school matters. For example, most school board elections attract less than 10% of the registered voters.

This is likely caused by the fact most media outlets pay little attention to school matters, and school politics. They repeat what they hear from schools, and never bother to check the facts, or consider the story from other angles. For example, a story on teacher layoffs typically includes a superintendent quote calling on Lansing for more funding. What the story doesn’t point out is that salaries and benefits are driving 6.5% increases, and the district would need nearly $400 per pupil in increases to avoid layoffs.

Anyway, there are exceptions to this rather negligent media approach. The first is
The Detroit News (, whose editorial staff in particular truly understands the problems caused by school boards. The other exception is Frank Beckmann, whose daily talk radio program airs on WJR 760 in Detroit ( Frank also writes a column for The Detroit News.

In the interest of full disclosure, The Detroit News has published articles written by me, and I was recently a guest on The Frank Beckmann show
(the interview can be heard by clicking here). But my contributions to the debates have been small when viewed in the entirety of what they both provide on a regular basis. The point is that The Detroit News and Frank Beckmann follow these issues, and dedicate a lot of ink and airtime.

the Beckmann interview, we cover many topics, including benefit costs, MESSA and the MEA, district mergers & consolidation, and union influence over elections.


Put teacher union leaders back in class

Once again the Detroit News pens an insightful editorial on yet another little-known flaw in education spending:

The Detroit News: Put teacher union leaders back in class (06/25/07)

This editorial details the practice of funding all or part of the salary and benefits of union presidents, who frequently have no responsibilities in the district.

The article pegs the cost of this practice at $105,000 for Rochester Community Schools. This is a colossal waste of education dollars.

When I voted “NO” on the last teacher’s contract, it was in part because of this practice. I pointed out that any highly qualified teacher paid by the district should be in the classroom.

The union collects more than enough in dues from it’s members, and if they see a value in having a full-time president, then they should be willing to fund that position.

The editorial points out that there is no data available to document how widespread this practice may be, but most board members I’ve talked with in districts around the county and the state suggest this is quote commonplace.

If every district in Oakland County subsidizes the union president at $105K per year, then the cost to taxpayers is nearly $3 million. Even if they’re only funding half that amount, that’s money that belongs in the classroom.

I've included the text of the op-ed in below in case the link doesn't work.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Put teacher union leaders back in class
Students get hurt when schools pay instructors not to teach

While public school educators and elected officials complain that schools have been "cut to the bone" with layoffs and other moves, some actually pay teachers not to teach. Taxpayers should demand that this stop.

The practice is not widespread, but some districts actually force taxpayers to subsidize presidents of teacher union locals so they can focus exclusively on their union duties. Rochester Community Schools pays more than $105,000 in salary and benefits for its teacher union president to stay out of the classroom. Livonia's local president spends half of her time overseeing a teacher mentoring program and the other half doing union business. The district pays her full salary.

A Mackinac Center for Public Policy survey a decade ago found that about 16 percent of school districts provide some form of subsidized leave time from the classroom for teacher union presidents. No one has done a survey since.

Sometimes local presidents turn from teachers into quasi-administrators. Birmingham's local president works halftime as a special education consultant; the district only pays for that part-time help. Jackson's local president, who works half-time on union duties, once worked exclusively on professional development and a new teacher evaluation process.

Union officials argue that releasing union leaders from teaching helps districts operate more smoothly. The leaders are available to handle grievances and other disputes, says Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teacher union. And their teaching time isn't constantly interrupted, which would hurt students, he argues.

By the same token, however, students are robbed of experienced teachers when districts are laying off instructors. We suspect parents might be willing to let students suffer an occasional interruption to have an extra teacher in the building. Or school and union officials could save their matters for after-school hours.

Teacher union presidents also tend to be more experienced and better instructors. Keeping them out of the classroom may hurt student achievement.

Full-time or even longtime release from teaching is an artifact of an era when Michigan was flush with money. Jackson seems to realize this and is requiring its union president, a former co-educator of the year, to teach four high school classes by 2009, with one class hour and one conference period set aside for union business.

"That is a progressive thing to do in tight economic times," says Justin King, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

If it is essential to free a local president for union duties, the union should pay for it. While Detroit's school system pays the $144,000 annual salary of Detroit Federation of Teachers President Virginia Cantrell and those of other union officials, the union reimburses the district for the full amount. Grand Rapids and Flint do the same.

The next time a teacher contract is being bargained, taxpayers and parents should know whether a teacher is being paid not to work. Only public pressure may force districts and unions to think about students first and getting inactive or halftime teachers back in the classroom.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Livingston Press & Argus is a Howell Board Watchdog, not Lapdog!

The Howell school board has been interesting to watch. They seem to have something in common with the Rochester school board: as soon as someone begins questioning the status quo, the board becomes dysfunctional.

I’m writing this entry because the situation just took an interesting turn, and can give people a glimpse of what reform-minded trustees face.

Wendy Day and Phil Westmoreland are two board members in Howell that are reasonable, dedicated, and solution-driven trustees. They’re doing what needs to be done on school boards across this state; they’re attempting to discuss the academic and financial challenges facing schools in a realistic and objective way. But rather then be called upon to debate these issues, they’re attacked. Wendy, in particular, has had to face vicious attacks from those who would prefer to take the ostrich approach, and pretend that problems don’t exist, or that there may be another point of view.

Among the most hateful of the critics has been someone who goes by the handle “Puppet Watcher” on various Howell chat boards. He doesn’t attack Wendy’s positions, but instead attacks Wendy.

Then, in an unbelievable move, the Howell Board of Education just
appointed Mr. Dean Miller –- aka “Puppet Watcher” –- to the board to fill a vacant seat.

I guess the board felt the open discussion had gone too far, and they needed to bring in an attack dog. An enforcer. Someone who is willing to body check -- brutally -- anyone that dares to question the status quo. Who cares whether he knows anything about education or finance.

The board could not have made a more divisive choice.

But fortunately the local media is watching, and weighed-in with two opinion pieces in the same issue. The first was by the managing editor of The Livingston Daily Press & Argus, Ms. Maria Stuart. The editorial board of the paper offered the other.

Livingston Press & Argus: Maria Stuart: What message did Howell school board appointment mean to send? (06/24/07)

Livingston Press & Argus: Miller's appointment a slap in the face to Day, district taxpayers (06/24/07)

Both of these opinion pieces are encouraging. First, it hopefully signals that the Press & Argus will continue to cover education issues. Objective media coverage is essential if we are to have hope that parents and taxpayer can eventually become more involved in electing action-oriented school board trustees. The second thing I find encouraging is the unusual candor in both of these pieces. Journalists are supposed to serve as the watchdogs of governments, but all too often the local papers instead serve as lapdogs for school boards. Bravo to both the Argus and to Ms. Stuart!


Friday, June 22, 2007

Establish a "Prevailing Benefit" Cap for Schools

Senator Mike Bishop offered the following opinion piece:

Detroit Free Press: Add competition to public benefits system (06/21/07)

In it, he reminds readers of the The Public Employee Health Benefits Act, which Senate Republicans proposed in an attempt to drive competition in public sector benefits through the use of pooling, and through access to claims data.

This is truly a needed reform. Responsible leaders on school boards could use this as a first step in trying to wrestle control of school health care costs.

A legitimate concern, though, is that
many school boards might not act responsibly. I write about that concern in a Detroit News opinion piece that coincidentally ran one day earlier. The article can be found in my blog entry here.

For example, schools had the opportunity to move their elections to November, but chose to keep them in May. The annual cost of these elections in Oakland County alone has been totaling approximately $1 million, which is money that belongs in the classroom. Despite what would appear to be a no-brainer decision to move to November elections, school boards have been able to concoct a variety of weak excuses for maintaining May elections. With nobody watching, many continue to get away with it.

Likewise, with this legislation, boards could solicit their required four bids, but the benefits would remain a negotiated item, subject to collective bargaining with the MEA. School boards will likely offer weak excuses about why they need to (or are being forced to) stick with coverage that provides excessive benefits. Again, with nobody holding boards accountable we run the risk of seeing the same poor decision-making pattern be repeated.

But all things considered, Majority Leader Bishop and the Senate Republicans earn high marks in my book for making this good first step. Hopefully it’ll prod school boards into making responsible decisions. Or, if they don't, it may at least cast a spotlight on the types of poor business decisions that have gotten schools into the financial crisis they presently face.

And Bishop also points out that he and his team are continuing to explore other measures as well that can bring long-term structural reform.

A great option would be to create a "prevailing benefit" cap, which would limit public sector benefits to the levels found in local communities. This should be a familiar concept to the unions, which have ardently supported provisions in public sector construction contracts that require districts to pay the "prevailing wage". What's good for the goose...!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trading Reform for Tax Increases

Everyone seems to talk these days about being willing to accept tax increases in Michigan, assuming the government reciprocates by cutting spending and reforming operations.

I too think that is a reasonable approach.

The problem lies in trying to determine what are the appropriate levels of cuts, and what is true reform. I don't think we're anywhere close!

I wrote the following article to address some of the talk that has focused on education reform, and specifically education benefits:

The Detroit News: Teacher health reforms aren't worth tax hike (06/19/07)

The headline is a bit provocative. A more accurate description would've been, "These two specific teacher health care reforms aren't worth tax hike", but that's not up to me!

In the article I discuss the concept of health care pooling, and gaining access to MESSA health care data. Those are both valuable and important reforms, but they can only succeed if school board's do their jobs, which very unlikely unless school boards change dramatically. Therefore, I'm concerned that we'll agree to a tax hike, but really get nothing in return.

I think a more appropriate reform might be to create a "prevailing benefit" cap, determined in a way that's similar to the "prvailing wage" requirement demanded by unions in government construction contracts.

Here is the original piece submitted:

There’s a desperate need to reform education health benefits before they financially kill our public education system.

Fortunately, this is one of the few things on which state leaders seem to agree.

Reforms under consideration involve merging district health plans into one large pool, and providing access to teacher healthcare claims data. They’re necessary reforms, but it’s unclear whether they’re truly systemic changes that’ll produce tangible and meaningful long-term savings, especially if the ultimate responsibility for change rests with local school boards.

This is particularly alarming if they’re being offered as bargaining chips in exchange for Governor Granholm’s tax increases.

These reforms would threaten the stranglehold MESSA has on teacher insurance. MESSA is a subsidiary of the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. They’ve given critics plenty of reasons to get behind these reforms.

Districts are strong-armed by MEA negotiators into purchasing benefits through MESSA, who arguably charges excessive administrative fees, and offers no cost-effective plans resembling what’s seen in the private sector. They maintain a near-monopolistic practice of withholding claims data from school districts, which effectively prevents districts from obtaining competitive bids

But MESSA isn’t the root problem. Rochester Community Schools, where I serve as a trustee, is self-insured and doesn’t have MESSA. The healthcare costing data I’ve seen for Rochester is outrageously expensive – just like MESSA.

The problem lies in the fact that most K-12 schools provide nearly 100% coverage of health care bills. Unfortunately, neither of the proposed reforms address benefit levels.

The initial effect of these proposed reforms would likely be a reduction in healthcare administrative charges. MESSA reportedly charges an administrative fee equal to 10 – 12 percent of the roughly billion dollars in annual healthcare claims. However, even cutting those costs in half won’t offset the increase in health plan costs, which are projected to rise 8 – 10 percent next year. Reducing excessive administrative costs is a correction long overdue, but it’s a one-time fix and isn’t structural reform.

The push to receive access to claims data holds greater potential, but depends entirely on school boards taking action. History suggests this will look better in theory than in practice. Rochester has access to its data, but benefits approved in a recent contract still cost nearly 50 percent more than benefits offered by private sector employers. Many non-MESSA districts have access to claims data, but school boards have failed to use it in a meaningful way.

To achieve cost savings, boards would need to bargain with the MEA to eliminate over-the-top benefits as identified by claims data, or negotiate a switch to a carrier with more cost effective choices. Otherwise, access to claims data is likely to do little more than confirm health care is indeed expensive.

For example, MESSA’s policy provides for no in-network deductible, and covers massages, diet medication, and cosmetic drugs such as Rogaine and Propecia. Knowing what’s spent on those specific benefits doesn’t help, and the high cost of providing them is unlikely to significantly change with pooling or competitive bidding.

It’s risky to bank on these specific reforms because the potential for success depends entirely on local negotiations conducted by school boards. As a school board trustee I’ve witnessed first-hand the inability of boards to reach meaningful settlements on healthcare. The MEA bargains with a “just say no” strategy, and many board’s simply have a weak backbone.

School boards haven’t shown any ability to control their budgets, and are the wrong place to seek solutions. Trustees are elected in low-turnout May elections, and many are supported with MEA union PAC money and endorsements. Boards consistently show they don’t understand the long-term impact their poor financial decisions have on public education. Quite frankly, school boards are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

True reform requires employees to become effective consumers, which only happens when they’re required to share some of the costs when purchasing health care services. Private sector employees reluctantly, but successfully made this transition years ago. The public sector can do so too, while still retaining strong insurance for individuals that have expensive major health care needs.

Perhaps the solution lies in benchmarking private sector benefits, and preventing public sector employee benefits from exceeding that benchmark. Or the state could determine the average private sector premium, and require public sector employees to self-fund any cost exceeding that average.

Taxpayers should expect stronger reforms if they’re coupled with a tax increase. The thought of accepting tax increases based on the assumption that school boards will drive reform is nothing short of scary.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

AP benefits students of all ages

Great column in the Washington Post today.

Washington Post: AP - It's Not Just for Seniors Anymore (06/14/07)

I've collected most of the data for an update to my AP Participation in Michigan report (here is the most recent version), and I'm just waiting for the state to release the ACT scores so that I can produce the Balanced Achievement Indicator I created last year. Hopefully they'll release the data this century.

But in the meantime I'm attempting to contact some of the Superintendents and Principals of the districts and schools that have high AP achievement, and one of the things that seems clear is that many are NOT restricting AP classes to Seniors, or to Juniors and Seniors. I recently talked with the head counselor at one high school who had some gifted 8th graders take AP Calculus BC, and pass the exam with 4's!

Here is the Washington Post article, in case you can't retrieve it through the link above:

AP: It's Not Just for Seniors Anymore
Thursday, June 14, 2007; T08

Dear Extra Credit:

In your May 31 response to Elaine Jean of Loudoun County, you mentioned that the number of students who overdo Advance Placement classes is very small. How do you know this? Do you have any facts to support this? I have a real problem
with a journalist who cannot back up claims with facts. You spoke about how honors courses rarely merit the name. How do you know this? Where are your facts? That is a big statement you are making. I have a problem with that.

I think you might be wrong, by the way. I have worked with honors-level teachers at Potomac Falls High School. They do terrific work. How do you know so much? You say that an outside standard such as AP is needed to prepare students for college. AP is great. I have taught it for a number of years. But I think of hundreds of students who did not take it, and they turned out just fine.

Do us all a favor and be careful of what you say. Especially if you really do not know for sure or cannot substantiate your claims with facts.

Jay Whitehead

I apologize. When I do this column, I like to give readers such as you the maximum amount of space for your good thoughts and questions, and limit my responses, since many are sick of reading what I write. But in this case I did not provide enough facts. Here they are:

According to the College Board's AP director, Trevor Packer, using 2003 to 2006 data, 47.4 percent of AP students took just one AP test, 22.3 percent took two, 12.4 percent three, 7.2 percent four and 4.3 percent five. College admissions officers say three to five tests is fine if you are seeking admission to a very selective college. So, 69.7 percent of AP students took fewer, and 6.4 percent took more than five. Those who took six were 2.7 percent of the total; those taking seven were 1.6 percent. I often hear of students taking a dozen, but nationally they constitute less than a tenth of a percent.

As for honors courses, some are rigorous and well-taught. But my reporting over the years, and what little data exist, suggest that most do not do much to prepare students for college. I have burrowed into three very different high schools -- one poor, one affluent and one average -- for several years at a time, and in each case found several honors classes that did not merit the title. A study of 81,445 University of California students from 1998 to 2001 showed that students who took honors courses in high school had first- and second-year college grades that were no better than those of students who took no honors courses.

Dear Extra Credit:

As Ms. Jean said [Extra Credit, May 31], in Loudoun County, as well as in Fairfax, when an AP class is offered in a given subject, the honors class is not offered. So, for instance, in ninth-grade history, one could take honors or regular history. Then in 10th grade, because AP history is offered, honors is no longer an option. This puts a student in the position of choosing AP or a regular class. Her point was that that was not a very good choice for a lot of students. The difference in the level of difficulty between regular classes and honors is significant, as well as the level of difficulty between honors and AP.

I do not believe in having my children take an AP class in 10th grade, unless they are exceptionally gifted in that subject. Given that my children are considered very smart and have been in gifted-and-talented centers throughout their schooling, I still would not place them in that class in 10th grade. Why? It is a college course! Three years before they start college! Do you think we are getting a little out of control around here? But honors was not offered. So instead of being challenged, they were bored in regular history.

In 11th and 12th grades, when AP is more appropriate, the choice still is AP or regular. So, for example, my son loves and is great in science. He took many APs in that area. But he is not in love with history, and he chose to take "only" three APs in his junior year (BC calculus, AP chemistry and AP English). He chose not to take AP history and therefore was stuck taking regular history, a class so easy that he did his calculus homework in class. Had he been able to take honors English, he would have been challenged and had to work hard.

Marcy Newberger

Many people agree with you about ninth- and 10th-graders not being ready for AP, so I hope the many students in other school districts in this area who have taken AP in those grades (or their parents) will tell me what they thought of the experience. I have visited some ninth- and 10th-grade AP government courses in Montgomery County and saw no significant difference between the quality of student discussion and student work and what I have seen in many 12th-grade classes.

The problem, I think, is the weight you and many others put on the word "college." Your son was probably right not to have too many APs on his plate. But I would challenge the assumption that because AP is a college-level course, it is too far above a regular high school course, and there should be an honors course alternative for students who cannot leap so high. But the difference between high school and college courses is sometimes not so great. I had college courses 40 years ago that were not as difficult as some of my high school courses then, and that situation still exists. These AP courses are intro college courses, and like the introductory courses in average state colleges, not that demanding if you do the reading and listen in class (something many of us during freshman year of college did not do).

Some advanced college courses are, of course, out of the reach of ninth-graders, but those do not include AP geography or AP world history, the AP courses most often taken by ninth- and 10th-graders. One of my children also did fine in AP chemistry in 10th grade, and he will assure you he is no science genius. That is why he, like his parents, went into journalism. But I would like to hear from people who have more recent experience in ninth- and 10th-grade AP.

Please send your questions, along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number, to Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 526 King St., Suite 515, Alexandria, Va. 22314. Or


Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm still around...

What a busy couple of weeks!

Thank you all for the kind "Where the heck have you been?" emails.

The end-of-year activities for both of my kids have kicked into high gear, along with the beginning of summer activities around the house.

Plus, last week included a board meeting, plus three consecutive nights of commencement ceremonies for each of our high school graduating seniors.

I've got plenty of accumulated stuff in the "to be shared" folder, so check back soon. Note that you can set your browser to receive my RSS feed, or register on with Feedburner in the area on the right to receive email notification of new posts.

In the meantime, check out this great editorial:

Detroit News: Michigan must streamline cost of employee benefits (06/11/07)

I absolutely agree with the premise of the article, which is that, "The structural deficit plaguing state government can't be erased for the long term without a radical restructuring of public employee benefits. This is perhaps the most pressing reform the state must make as it turns the budget crisis into an opportunity to create a more efficient and sensible government."

However, I'm not sure that insurance pooling is the panacea that some are making it out to be. More on that soon...

As an interesting aside, I thought the Rochester Board of Education fully deserved the dishonorable mention in today's Detroit News editorial, which read, "School districts must be financially punished by the state if they do what Rochester schools recently did and approve contracts that maintain the health insurance status quo, which in that community costs $15,000 annually per teacher."