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Local teachers union may strike to maintain free health insurance

May 17, 2013 by

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Schools don’t function very well when the students are more mature than their teachers.

Parents and taxpayers in the Evergreen School District are learning that lesson first-hand. reports the 600-member Evergreen Teachers Association – the local teachers union – has been staging a “work to rule” protest over stalled contract talks with the district since last October.

As part of the protest, ETA members are only working the bare minimum of hours that are required in their current labor contract. That’s led to the cancellation of the district’s annual science fair, student dances and plays, after-school sports and tutoring opportunities for students who need extra help, reports

Unfortunately, “work to rule” protests are fairly common in states where Big Labor is allowed to run the public education system. What makes the Evergreen protest uglier than most is the ETA’s flair for dramatic and childish behavior.

“On May 9, the union staged a mock funeral, with members donning paper tombstones for the death of respect, quality teachers and integrity in Evergreen,” reports the news site.

While the Evergreen community likely found the mock funeral to be silly or in poor taste, taxpayers couldn’t have been too surprised by the union’s over-the-top behavior. reports that on multiple occasions, union members have delivered “profanity-laced outbursts” during school board meetings.

The ETA also passed a no-confidence vote in Superintendent Kathy Gomez and is demanding that she resign.

Since those various temper tantrums haven’t worked, the union is preparing members for a possible teachers’ strike, according to the news site.

As usual, the union anger can be traced back to money.

But in the case of ETA members, they’re not primarily upset about their salary. It’s understood that Evergreen teachers have one of the more generous pay schedules in the area.

The source of the union’s angst stems from district officials’ request that teachers help pay some of their own health insurance costs.

The district currently pays 100 percent of teachers’ health insurance premiums, but officials say they can’t afford to maintain that level of generosity.  Not only is the district facing a $5.8 million deficit for the upcoming school year, but student enrollment is in decline, which means per-pupil state aid is going to drop even while employee benefit costs grow.

ETA members say they are entitled to free healthcare – due to missed cost-of-living raises – and are demanding that school leaders dip into the district’s savings account to keep paying the entire health insurance tab.

As sixth-grade teacher Jeff Beckley explained: “I’m very upset, I’m very angry. We’ve given them distinguished schools. We’ve given them Title I academic achievement schools. It hurts our morale to know we are not appreciated.”

Actually, Mr. Beckley, delivering a quality education to students is what you’re paid to do.

It sounds like Evergreen teachers have done their job well, and you and your colleagues should be congratulated on that.

But simply doing your job does not entitle you or any other ETA member to a hugely expensive benefit  that’s going to inflict real financial pain on students and taxpayers.

Teachers serve the taxpayers, not the other way around.

If anything, Mr. Beckley, it sounds like Evergreen teachers are highly “appreciated” – maybe a little too appreciated. After all, those generous health insurance benefits that teachers have been enjoying over the years are probably a significant reason why the district is in financial doo-doo today.

But this isn’t really about benefits or pay raises; it’s about a mindset.

When adults choose to become teachers, they do so knowing they’ll never become the highest-paid members of society.

But the adults who pursue a teaching career do so because they understand the job comes with certain benefits that most working Americans don’t get – particularly the satisfaction of making a difference in children’s lives.

That’s the trade-off adults make when they choose to become teachers.

Admittedly, that deal’s not going to be enough for certain adults. In those cases, it’s better for everyone involved if they leave the teaching profession immediately.

What is intolerable is what’s currently happening in the Evergreen School District: a group of whiney, self-centered adults are ruining children’s learning experience because they think schools exist to serve the financial needs of grown-ups.

To all the disgruntled ETA members who might happen to read this: do everyone a favor and resign. Let the district hire young, eager teachers who haven’t forgotten why they chose this profession.

It’s time for you, pouty ETA members, to move on and find a private sector job that will give you free health insurance in exchange for a 184-day work year.

We’re sure you can find such a job.

And when you do, how about letting the rest of us know about it?

Local teachers union may strike to maintain free health insurance – :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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