EAST LANSING, September 23, 2016 — MEA President Steven Cook lauded the introduction of three bills this week in the state House designed to reduce financial pressure on Michigan school employees.
HB 5924 and HB 5925, introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township), would help rein in skyrocketing out-of-pocket health care costs that school employees have suffered since the passage of PA 152 in 2011. That law requires school districts to choose one of two formulas for sharing costs with employees. Rep. Lucido’s legislation would eliminate one of those cost-sharing methods, known as the “hard cap,” which sets a ceiling on the dollar amount districts pay toward health care premiums. The “80-20” option, which requires employees to pay 20 percent of the premium, would remain in place, spreading annual increases across both school districts and employees.
As health care premiums have soared in recent years, the hard cap model adopted by many districts across the state has eroded take home pay. With stagnant wages and increased health care premiums, many school employees are earning less each year.
Rep. Lucido said the proposal would restore some needed balance to the system. “This bill would still protect school districts from exorbitant health care cost increases, as it maintains the 80-20 cost-sharing formula,” he said. “However, it would keep health care affordable for employees, so we can continue to attract good people to the profession.”
Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) is sponsoring a second financial relief proposal that targets educators carrying college student loan debt who are working in school buildings where 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
HB 5967 would grant tax credit to those educators based on the amount of student loan debt paid during a calendar year.
“Educators who serve Michigan’s most vulnerable, at-risk students should not be left feeling vulnerable themselves,” Zemke said. “This bill is one step toward encouraging and rewarding educators who work in the state’s most demanding environments.”
President Cook pointed to the two legislative initiatives as a promising development for public school employees. “In the MEA/AFT survey results we released earlier this week, 80% of school employees said they were under-compensated for the job they do, with many reporting that take-home pay has fallen several thousand dollars compared to five years ago. The introduction of these bills shows that some legislators are listening to the school employees and acting to alleviate some of that financial pressure,” said Cook.
Cook also expressed optimism for bipartisan cooperation on education issues. “Education is not a partisan issue. Treating school employees fairly is not a partisan issue. The fact that these two measures have both Democratic and Republican sponsors is a positive sign for more progress in the future,” Cook said.
Contact: David Crim, MEA Communications Consultant, 517/337-5508