Sunday, May 9, 2010

Busy Week Ahead

The week that begins Monday, May 10th will certainly be eventful. Here are a few things on my mind.

On Tuesday, May 11th, School Board races will be held across the state. This blog recommends: Eric Anderson for Christina; Martin Wilson and Catherine Thompson for Red Clay; Melodie Spotts for Colonial; Rodney Layfield for Indian River; Julie Johnson for Appoquinimink; and Chevis Anderson for Capital.

The Delaware Office of Management and Budget is floating an idea around Legislative Hall for another tier of health and pension benefits for newly hired educators and state workers. DSEA has opposed this idea since it was first mentioned in Governor Markell's State of the State Address.

First, the pension plan is both well funded and managed. Pension, even in these difficult times is not financially distressed. There is no reason for fixing what is not broken.

Second, DSEA has been a strong advocate for good management and transparency in all matters connected with the State Employees Benefit Committee. DSEA commissioned an actuarial report on the Plan which suggested a number of reforms and best practices. Consistent with the organization's prudent approach to everything connected with the Health Plan is our opposition to attempting to legislate change this year. After next week, the legislature is out for two weeks while the Joint Finance Committee works on the budget. Which would give the legislature about 12 working days to do major health care policy work affecting thousands of future educators and state workers and their families. This would be irresponsible.

Finally, this push for tiered benefits is in part a response to the Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB). OPEB is the health care offered to educators and state employees who retiree before being eligible for Medicare. A few years ago states had to begin showing financial accounting for their future OPEB liability. Because health care in the US is so out of control and often has double digit inflation yearly, the OPEB liability for all states is enormous. For Delaware, the liability is currently projected at $5.6 billion. Delaware has established a trust for the liability and has been putting in millions. It's not enough, but it is more than most states have accomplished. Yet, in the end health care is going to take a federal fix. The US Congress needs to go back to work and complete the work started with the recent passage of insurance reforms. In the meantime, Delaware needs to stay the course and see how issues play out with more reform measures before pushing the destruct button on health care for retirees.

Speaking of the federal health insurance reform, the legislation included a provision encouraging employers to provide pre-Medicare health care to early retirees. The federal government could reimburse up to 80% of the cost of this health care under certain conditions. Delaware needs to take advantage of the federal reinsurance program.
A bill will soon be moving in the Delaware legislature to change teacher due process in termination language in the state code. The change will bring the statute in alignment with regulatory change that has already happened around Race To The Top.

The language change addresses the need for teachers with less than three years in the state or less than two years in a district to have two of three years with a "Satisfactory" rating in the Student Achievement component of the evaluation, before being given due process in termination. The slang for due process in teacher termination is called, "tenure"; although, as this blog has discussed before, the term is misleading.

Currently, Student Achievement is component five of the DPASII. It is possible now to be on an Individual Improvement Plan for component five, fail to show improvement, and not be given due process. So, in substance there is nothing alarming in the bill. However, the work between the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Education Association to determine the definition of Student Achievement under RTTT will be important.

Budget Mark Up will begin the week of May 17th. Now that the restoration of the furlough days with pay is looking promising, DSEA is pushing for other needed money for our members. DSEA is very concerned about the elimination of the Math and Reading Specialists from the budget. There are 210 of those positions around the state, and we want all of our members to have a job in the Fall. DSEA advocates restoring Short Term Disability. DSEA would like to see our members made whole by restoring National Board Certification and Cluster stipends.

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