Walkering the Bottom Line

It’s been a little over a year since Wisconsin exploded in response to Governor Walker’s reforms. What are the results? Well, we won’t know for many years. But early returns are
good
:

For the first time in decades, school administrations are now actually able to administer their districts without union interference, and the savings have been huge. The MacIver Institute, a Wisconsin think tank, reports that of the 108 school districts that completed contracts with employees, 74 of them, with 319,000 students, have reported savings of no less than $162 million.

The biggest area of savings have been in health insurance. The teachers union insisted that districts use the union’s own health insurance company to provide coverage. No longer forced to use a monopoly provider, districts have either switched providers or used the threat of switching to force the union health insurance company to dramatically lower premiums. Savings have averaged $730,000 in districts that have switched providers or forced competitive bidding.

One of the result of this has been fewer layoffs of teachers. This despite shrinking state aide.

The unions and their supporters will respond that the negative impact will take a long time to be felt when fewer people want to go into teaching. That’s a fair point. But given that they also claimed these reforms would not save much money, I would take that with a grain of salt.

I worry that this debate will miss the important point. The biggest problem with our education system is not that we pay teachers too much, although the pensions and benefits are a big budget issue. The larger problem is that teachers, principals and administrators are hamstrung by red tape and regulation. What’s really needed is more local authority, not top-down solutions. There have been some proposals recently to allow a majority of parents to fire teachers or privatize. While I agree with Neal McCluskey that this is probably a bad idea, I think the philosophy behind it — more accountability, more educational freedom and more local control — is fundamentally sound.

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  1. Seattle Outcast

    Surprisingly enough, it appears that Seattle is walking the line of a similar reform in the beginning stages.

    About 1000 teachers formed a protest meeting just for the sake of the cameras and talked about how evil and stupid people were for not giving them everything they wanted and how they wouldn’t be able to use their own doctor any longer (generally a load of BS) once their insurance was changed.

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  2. Dave D

    Fuck ‘em. My health care was changed from a primo, provide-everything with no deductible plan about 10 years ago and I have went from paying nothing extra to about $400/mo for my premium family plan (health/pharma/dental). It’s the sign of the times and these coddled union educators just have to eat it like the rest of us. Same goes for pensions. My points-based, lifetime-secure pension has been replaced with a risky 401K that I have to contribute the bulk to. Give me ONE reason why they shouldn’t be forced to act just like those who pay their salaries?

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  3. Monolith

    I just read about the high school basketball team that counter-chanted in the Wisconsin Capitol, pissing off the union protestors who, apparently, live there. The unions were so pissed off, the school in question received threatening calls from self-identified union leaders. Threaten the children, for the children.

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  4. InsipiD

    In other news, Walker’s success has brought him a recall election. We can only hope that reason among voters allows him to keep his office.

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  5. Mississippi Yankee

    Governor Walker is going to need every ounce (and dime) of our support during this recall vote coming up.

    Everything he has managed to do is at grave risk of falling back into the hands of the commie rat-bastard union bosses.

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  6. hist_ed

    Surprisingly enough, it appears that Seattle is walking the line of a similar reform in the beginning stages.

    About 1000 teachers formed a protest meeting just for the sake of the cameras and talked about how evil and stupid people were for not giving them everything they wanted and how they wouldn’t be able to use their own doctor any longer (generally a load of BS) once their insurance was changed.

    SO normally I don’t support a lot of what my union does, but in this case I do.

    The current system for health benefits for Washington school districts allows districts to negotiate with private insurance coverage for their employees. They get set funding from the state and get to figure out what to do with it. This means private insurance companies are competing for teachers’ insurance. Competition, a semi-free market and choices. The reform plan folds all district employees into the state employee insurance plan meaning no competition and teachers have to deal with the state bureaucracy rather than private companies. Part time empoyees would lose access to insurance (most districts currently pro-rate the insurance funding for part timers and let them choose whether or not to buy it with some of their money). There have been a few studies of this proposal. One says it will save some money. Others say it will cost more. The cost savings are dependent on the theory that a state run monopoly will be more efficient that a competitive market based situtation.

    The only winners will be employees with familes, their cost to cover their kids will go down (that’s me by the way). Every other employee will see cost increase. And the coverage is worse than the average district plan.

    And our plans are not the cadiallac style stuff that Wisconsin teachers were yelling about. I would love to have the plan that the those teachers were protesting, never mind the old one. At the moment I don’t even bother to cover my kids under my insurance because my wife’s is a lot better and covering the kids is essentiall free.

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  7. Seattle Outcast

    I hadn’t really looked into it; I saw the union protesting and telling well-rehearsed lies for the camera, and figured “if the teachers’ union is pissed, it’s most likely a good thing”…

    As for part timers getting insurance benefits, that generally doesn’t happen, but pro-rating them seems like a fair deal.

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