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This Can't Be Healthy


In Ohio and other states, an increasing number of school districts are requiring teachers to pay more for health coverage, angering underpaid teachers and generating talks of strikes. According to an article in Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal, several Ohio districts are scrambling to settle negotiations with teacher unions over higher health costs before the school year begins. According to the Ohio Education Association, Ohio's largest teacher union, some districts' additional medical costs are offsetting teacher raises, resulting in pay cuts. But, Renee Fambro, an Ohio School Board Association official, is unsympathetic. She says requiring teachers to cover up to 10 percent of their premiums is acceptable and comparable to the policies of other public and private employers. "I was shocked that [teachers] had the sort of coverage that they did," Fambro said. "There were still districts [where teachers]...paid nothing."

Facing similar worries, Pennsylvania teachers are also fighting to hold onto to their salaries and health benefits.


This makes me so angry. 10% huh? I pay 100% (850 a month) and have a 10,000 deductible. UNderpaid? my niece starts teaching this year and she will be making $40,000 - where do we get this underpaid? If they were producing a quality product maybe - they always say it comes down to the parents but when I was working I was responsible for turning a good product or I got fired. The parents have a role but the teacher has a responsibility to get their attention and not bore them to death. These kids are bored - we are still teaching the same way we were in the 50's and times have changed. God forbid that the teachers union should see all this and take some responsibility - no they just want more and more money and that will make them better teachers? I don't think so.

@ Beverly:

Human beings are not "products". This is something fundamental that teachers understand. We cannot shape and contort human beings and force them to become something they are not. If a student comes to a classroom hungry, terrified of an abusive parent, or otherwise lacking basic needs at home, even the most dedicated, skilled educators can do very little to make that student ace a trigonometry test.

As for the concern that schools operate the same way they did in the 1950s, understand that this has little to do with teachers and teacher unions. Administrators, school boards, and other busy-bodies who are removed from classrooms make the policies that stifle change and innovation. Your concern that schools are outdated is a legitimate one, but remove the blame from the people who care most about the students.

I think your comments are a slight generalization. Does every teacher use the same methods that were used in the 1950s? How many classrooms have you visited lately? I have been teaching for 15 years and know many, many, teachers who use creative and innovative ideas on a daily basis. My own children attend public school and I am continually impressed with the level of education that they are receiving. I am not saying there are not some bad teachers out there, but there are so many good ones! Most teachers I know have at least a Master's degree, and some have doctorates, or are working toward one. Thanks for your comments.

You really got of the subject> The subject is insurance. I pay $391 for my spouse and I and yes for the last several years any small raise we got was offset with an immediate raise in our insurance. Every walk of life has been recently hit with huge increases in insurance. If a group has benefits that are great they need to try to hold on to them. I wish I had better - however my state never goes on strike - although we have had a one day walk out on occastion - big whoop.

Where to start...
People are getting off the topic/issue.
I am a teacher and have trouble telling my cohorts that we do not "deserve" a raise every year (we had not gotten one in few years until this year). They don;t believe that many professions don't get automatic raises. When a contract concession like health care results in a net pay cut, that is a problem. Do I feel we are underpaid...I make enough money. Do other teachers in the same position make more..yes. Do some make less....yes. Should society value education more....YES!!!!

To paraphrase Rob Lowe on "The West Wing" schools should be palaces that every kid wants to go there & do their best. Teachers should be the highest paid profesion in our country and there should be great competition for every teaching job.

We are using an 18th century school model with 21st century kids. Partly because of money (how many businesses have 1 24-computer lab for 750 employees) We should be exposing kids to the latest and greatest tools that they will be using in the world. Also most people don't like change (human nature) and resist it.

There are so many facets to education, that "fixing" 2 or 3 does not affect the whole product.

I could go on.

I have been in education, mainly as a special ed teacher for 30 years. Teachers don't want to give up benefits that are contractual, just like any other employee that is part of a bargaining unit. That being said, I disagree that teachers are still teaching the way it was done in the 50s. What!! I've been in the classroom since the mid 70s and have seen many changes. Standards based teaching, progress monitoring has increased the chance for every child to learn.
More importantly, I have seen extremely dedicated individuals who truly care about their students. Are there bad teachers?? Sure, just like there are bad mechanics, plumbers, lawyers, etc. My experience has shown me that there are far more great teachers than bad ones.

I'm embarking on my second year of teaching after working in the business world for seven years, so I think I can speak to both sides of the issues raised above. Healthcare costs are on the rise and as a result so is health insurance. When I was in the business world I paid anywhere between $50 and $70 per pay as a single person for a PPO or HMO. I didn't mind because my co-pays for healthcare were low and that included prescription drug coverage. It was so worth it, that I continued coverage through COBRA ($350 a month) while I was student teaching. Then I got my first teaching job. Yes, I only pay $12 per pay but I'm on a high deductible health plan with NO prescription drug coverage. I now avoid going to the doctor because I don't want to have to pay $50 for the visit and whatever extra any tests might cost. I'm terrified of getting sick because the prescriptions could be too expensive. Because I'm a career changer, I have a large amount of student loan debt so unforeseen expenses can really hurt. Teachers had it good when it came to healthcare in the past and I do think it's time to consider changing our mindset and think about contributing more to our own healthcare plans in order to maintain better coverage.

As for the pay issue, I will never get rich being a teacher and that's fine with me. However, when you break down the first year teacher's $40,000 salary into an hourly wage (studies show teachers work on average at least 60 hours a week during the school year and about 20 hours a week during the summer...though we don't have to, yes, most of us work in the summer), we are not on level with other professions that require the same amount of education (in Ohio and many other states teachers are required to have a Master's degree by a certain point in their career). We do receive some help for the costs incurred to receive our master's but we still have to pay a portion of it out of our own pockets and the portion is increasing. We also spend hundreds of dollars out of our own pockets to make sure our classrooms have the appropriate supplies for our students.

As for teaching the same way as in the 1950s, Ms. Edberg, I suggest you observe some classrooms before you make such a generalized statement. I was an elementary student in the 1980s and when I went back to school for teaching, I began to wish I had been taught the way students are being taught now. If I can see the change from the 1980s, then there certainly has been improvement from the 1950s. There is plenty of research to support that today's kindergarteners are learning the skills (successfully) that 1st graders were learning 20 or 30 years ago. Can we do more or better? Of course, any person in any profession can, but that does not mean we are failing our students or not turning out a quality "product" now. Unfortunately, the system of accountability, as it currently exists, does not always accurately reflect student or teacher achievement, nor, does it allow educators to use what we know are THE most effective and enjoyable ways to learn.

I don't mind someone having a different opinion. That is what makes our country great. I do mind when someone bases their opinion on assumptions and out of date information rather than fact. If you feel that strongly, do something like volunteer at a school or read with a child to make a change rather than posting inflammatory messages that are rooted in feeling and assumptions instead of fact.

Everyone is ignoring the huge elephant of a healthcare crisis in our nation. In the past, schools have been able to retain teachers by offering job security and benifits in lieu of pay. The increasing costs of health care and insurance are making this course unaffordable for schools. Nevertheless, the healthcare crisis is the real issue here. As a teacher, I am concerned not just for myself, but for my students. I have witnessed how a lack of health care has impacted my students' ability to learn, not to mention grow up as a healthy adults. Our nation gives lip service to caring about children, but we don't really want to spend the money to provide decent healthcare and education to all children, even though it would actually pay off for our nations economy in the long run. Just watch how the debate plays out in the national elections.

I have been in the classroom lately and I do volunteer my time and my money. I work with high school students to help them find the right path for college and a career and I read and attend the school board meetings. The whole system needs to be revamped from top to bottom. I work with at risk kids to help them understand how thier choices are their responsibiity and that no matter how tough their situation they can persevere and make their life better.

Thank you for your concern for education, Beverly. It is great that you volunteer your time and energy to helping students. I am sure that you are making a difference. My only concern is the generalization of your comments. There truly are some wonderful schools and teachers that have dedicated their lives and spend countless outside hours on work.

The insurance issue really is more of a national healthcare issue which is affecting everyone. Whereas it used to be less expensive to be on a school's group policy, that is no longer the case.

My sister, who has taught in the public schools for almost 20 years, found that it was actually less to get individual coverage for her family. She had been paying almost $900 per month on the school district's plan. Who can pay that much? That is almost one-third of a teacher's take home pay, depending on where you teach.

I am really hoping our country makes some headway with the insurance issue in 2008!

Thanks again.

Wow, while reading the posts, I vowed to "stay to the subject", but then I realized that Beverly didn't, and I couldn't resist either after reading her second post. How can you work with at risk students and still blame the teachers? You can lead a horse to water...I am a teacher of at risk teens and I pour my heart and soul into it every day (somedays wondering if I do it to the detriment of my own children)using creative and hands on approaches and they continue to make bad choices and put little effort into their school work. What gets me out of bed in the morning? My mom's voice saying,"If you help one person in your whole career, you've done a good thing". Well, I may (and have) helped more than one person, but the reality is that there are classrooms full of children that respond to those outside influences and not the teachers. We are not in the business world and are not producing a "product", we are producing a human being. Whenever you introduce the human element into the equation, you have to find another way other than the "finished product" to determine success (pay). If a teacher is lucky enough to work in a school with good benefits, fight long and hard for them until our government figures something out and gets rid of the money hungry insurance industry.

When I worked in the corporate world, I had excellent insurance that was completely paid for. If I carried my family on my school district insurance now, it would eat up roughly half my paycheck. Luckily, my husband works for a large company that picks up most of the insurance costs.

Health insurance is broken in this country; teachers aren't the first to feel the effects.

I don't think there's much we can do to convince some people that we sit around with our thumbs up our butts all day not teaching (using whatever methods they imagine were being used when they were students) and sitting on the beach all summer. I wouldn't waste my energy on them. Heaven knows we need it for our students.

It's not only in Ohio that insurance has gone up. I teach in Indiana and have been unable to afford school insurance for several years. Even with increased employer contributions family insurance runs over $500 per month. When our familiy went through a financial crisis due my husband's lack of work in the construction industry, we were unable to afford health insurance. We've made it through on prayer and good health even with 3 kids. You learn not to run to the doctor for every little thing. You find creative, holistic ways to get/keep your family healthy. I sometimes wonder if everyone had to do without good insurance, perhaps they would find that they are not so sick after all. A friend with 5 kids and good perscription coverage ends up with almost every kid on some kind of perscription. Prescriptions and health coverage in general are great (I'm getting a raise this year and hope to reestablish insurance coverage) but maybe people are just too ready to run to doctors instead of taking care of themselves, treating illnesses themselves, and praying about it.

The underlying issue here is the corporate greed that motivates the insurance industry. To start the discussion with a personal viewpoint about how awful teachers are and how school systems are stuck in the 1950s misses the point from my perspective. As a retired elementary school teacher and principal who gave 32 years to the profession, I have always paid out-of-pocket for family health insurance. My district provided only coverage for a single employee and for the most basic coverage plan. My monthly coverage as a retiree is currently $848. (My insurace costs will climb each year but there is no COLA built into the retirement system so I will lose ground each year to insurance premiums along with most Americans who pay for coverage.) I hope I never have to file a claim for a serious health issue. By doing so, I potentially risk cancellation of my coverage or denial of payment. The same holds true for my auto and homeowner's policies. Insurance is a comforting thing until you actually have to use it.

Educators have historically been the "whipping boys" for what is wrong with society. Public educators are charged with teaching all. Not most. Not some. Anyone who has walked in the shoes of a career teacher understands that the public at large tends to go for a "but you get three months off" argument whenever the issues of adequate compensation and benefits surface. To fault teachers for trying to get the maximum coverage for the lowest possible cost seems counterproductive.

If there is a "profession" that needs revamping from top to bottom, I would place the insurance industry towards the top of the list. The local teacher and volunteer who are trying to make a difference in the classroom both deserve reasonable health coverage that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. They also deserve coverage that actually pays for services rendered to either of those extremities should illness or injury occur.

If I understand this lady correctly, she is implying that students are/can be products "products." Not in my classroom!

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Jamie: If I understand this lady correctly, she is implying that read more
  • Gary: The underlying issue here is the corporate greed that motivates read more
  • Jeanette-Middle School Science Teacher: It's not only in Ohio that insurance has gone up. read more
  • Rita: When I worked in the corporate world, I had excellent read more
  • Mary: Wow, while reading the posts, I vowed to "stay to read more




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