The Park Record editorial, September 19, 2009
September 18, 2009
Apparently some of the employees of the Park City School District haven’t been paying attention to the national news. If they had, they would have known better than to stand up and shout at school board members during a public meeting. They might also have been sensitive to the fact that many of the business and home owners whose taxes pay for their generous health benefits are having trouble holding onto their own insurance policies.
The employees who stood up and walked out of Tuesday’s school board meeting deserve the same kind of reaction Rep. Joe Wilson (R- South Carolina) got when he shouted at President Barack Obama during his speech on health-care reform.
BOOOOO! Wilson’s outburst was roundly criticized even by members of his own party.
Had the Park City teachers who disrupted the meeting been watching TV that night they would have seen a perfect example of how inappropriate they were — and how damaging that kind behavior can be to their own cause.
They might also have picked up a few clues about how most Americans have experienced huge hikes in their monthly insurance premiums, their deductibles and their copays. And they would have understood that employers all over the country have had to choose between reducing employees’ health-insurance plans and going bankrupt.
Essentially, that was the decision confronting the Park City School Board. Faced with a $2 million deficit, they have spent the last year hunting for ways to reduce expenditures without cutting into educational programs.
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One way they found was to alter the district’s health-care plan. Requiring teachers, classified employees and administrators to pick up the cost of their deductibles (about $250 to $500 per year) and to accept a $5 increase in their copay would save the district $440,000. The staff’s monthly premiums, however, would still be paid in full by their employer — i.e., local taxpayers. Additionally, employees who thought those out-of-pocket increases might be burdensome could keep the previous plan for a modest monthly fee. That was the decision that ignited tempers Tuesday and caused a handful of employees to stomp out of the meeting room.
School district employees are justifiably disappointed about paying a bigger portion of their health-care costs. But these are difficult economic times for everyone.
The school board’s only other alternatives would be to raise property taxes at a time when more people than ever before are barely holding onto their homes, or to cut programs that directly affect students.
No one who truly cares about this community wants to force that hand. Instead, local teachers, administrators and other school employees should gracefully offer to share the burden of maintaining the district’s high educational standards.