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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker should rein in teachers union

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Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 12:00 am

Oh, that bad old Gov. Scott Walker picking on the poor defenseless teachers in Wisconsin. Gee, he wants to take away their Viagra (cost to taxpayers, $780,000) and their sexchange operations courtesy of the taxpayer.

The Wisconsin taxpayer pays Milwaukee public school teachers 74.2 cents for retirement and health benefits for every dollar they receive in wages. According to the manager of financial planning for Milwaukee public schools, the average Milwaukee public school teacher salary is $56,500, but with benefits, the total package is $100,005.

The district's contribution for pensions and Social Security total 22.6 cents for each dollar of salary (teachers contribute nothing) and the school district pays the entire premium for medical and vision benefits, and more than half the cost of dental coverage. Teachers can retire in their 50s and their entire premium in effect in retirement is paid until they are eligible for Medicare, and then retirees cover only the growth in premiums after they retire. Overall, the school districts' contributions to health insurance for employees and retirees total about 50.9 cents on top of every dollar paid in wages.

"In Wisconsin the teachers union doesn't just bargain for more health dollars. It also bargains to require that local school districts buy health insurance through the union-affiliated health-insurance plan, called WEA Trust. This gives the union (not the state) ultimate say over health benefits. It also costs the state at least $68 million more annually than it would if schools could buy the state-employee health plan — money that goes to the union outfit" (Kimberley Strassel, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 25).

"What these numbers ultimately prove is the excessive power of collective bargaining. The teachers' main pension plan is set by the state legislature, but under the pressure of local bargaining, the employees contribution is often pushed onto the taxpayers. As the costs of pensions and insurance escalate, the governor's proposal to restrict Collective Bargaining to salaries — not benefits — seems entirely reasonable" (Robert M. Costrell, professor of educational reform and economics at the University of Arkansas, WSJ, Feb. 25).

Phyllis Roche


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