r.richardson@mchsi.com

Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and coronavirus

Randy Richardson: “As a former baseball player and coach, I miss the sport as much as anyone, but is opening high school baseball and softball seasons really a good decision?” -promoted by Laura Belin

Governor Kim Reynolds announced on May 20 that summer athletic seasons may proceed for high school baseball and softball in Iowa, following a two-month activities suspension due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Her proclamation allowed the reopening of school facilities and practices beginning on Monday, June 1.

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Who’ll stop the rain

Randy Richardson: Iowa’s “rainy day” funds were created with a promise, to be used on a rainy day. Legislators should tap them now to fully fund schools. -promoted by Laura Belin

For the past year Republicans have touted their record-breaking commitment to funding education in Iowa. They have done this despite the fact that State Supplemental Aid only increased by an average of 1.73 percent from 2011 to 2018. That is slightly below the 1.81 percent average annual rate of inflation during that same time period. (School district costs typically rise by 3-4 percent annually.)

When questioned about this disparity, Republicans quickly revert to their consistent talking point that their funding “is responsible, sustainable, and demonstrates that education is a top priority.”

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Iowa needs one insurance plan for all public employees

Randy Richardson argues that it’s time to revive an idea first proposed for public school districts four decades ago. -promoted by Laura Belin

When I started teaching in 1976, I received fully paid family health insurance as part of my benefits package. That coverage included a $100/$200 deductible. Although this was considered to be a “Cadillac plan,” it was not uncommon to find similar coverage at schools across Iowa. The teachers in my district felt this insurance plan was very important and, over the years, often sacrificed salary increases to keep the coverage.

Shortly after I left the district in 1996, one of my former co-workers was diagnosed with a serious illness and claims from that incident ran well into six figures. Insurance premiums skyrocketed and, in an effort to keep premiums at a reasonable level, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses increased.

Today that district offers a high deductible insurance plan with a single deductible of $3,250 and a family deductible of $6,500. Teachers in that district who wish to have family coverage must contribute more than $1,000 per month to receive that coverage. That alone would be tragic. Even worse, the same scenario has played out in every school district in the state.

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Salary gap between Iowa teachers and school administrators widens

Randy Richardson found that Iowa teacher pay is lagging further behind salaries for principals and superintendents. The growing disparity “should be a cause for concern,” he argues. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Economic Policy Institute released a report on August 14 detailing the huge wage gap between CEOs and their employees. That report focused on private sector workers and their bosses.

Since local school districts are among the largest employers in Iowa, I thought it would be worthwhile to compare the salaries of school district administrators and teachers.

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The level playing field has tipped against Iowa teachers

Republicans claimed collective bargaining changes would level the playing field in contract talks. Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, examines the impact on teachers. -promoted by Laura Belin

In February 2017, Republican lawmakers rammed through a bill that quickly changed the dynamic of collective bargaining for public employees in Iowa. The bill eliminated virtually all of the mandatory items that unions and their employers were required to bargain, with the exception of base salary. It left in place a short list of “permissive” items that public employees and employers could bargain by mutual consent, and prohibited bargaining on some other topics. The bill sparked outrage among all public employees and their supporters.

Shortly before the bill became law, House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow published an article on the Iowa House Republican website called “Collective Bargaining: Fact vs. Fiction.” One passage from that article became a major Republican talking point in defense of their actions. Hagenow wrote,

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Iowa teacher salary dollars go unspent

Randy Richardson, retired associate executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, has closely followed contract negotiations in public schools for many years. -promoted by Laura Belin

This is the time of the year when “bargaining season” wraps up for Iowa’s teachers. Under the collective bargaining law in place for more than 40 years, most local unions would have either reached a voluntary agreement with their school board or be headed to mediation, or possibly arbitration.

Unfortunately, the bargaining law enacted in 2017 has changed this pattern. Now, local teacher groups can only bargain their base salaries and have limited abilities to seek help through the arbitration process. Consequently, many school boards across the state are offering teachers “one-time” increases in pay with no advancement on a salary schedule. Those increases are often so little that when combined with the additional costs of health insurance, many teachers will be taking home less money in 2019-20 than they did this year.

School officials will say that minimal pay raises stem mainly from a lack of state government support. They are correct that Iowa schools have received historically small increases in state funding over the last eight years. However, some school districts have managed to accumulate a large “pot” of money that can only be spent on teacher salaries, and for some reason, they aren’t spending it.

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