Debating teacher insurance costs is a distraction from the big picture

Students get support from passing motorists on South Broad Street during an Oct. 8

Students get support from passing motorists on South Broad Street during an Oct. 8

The “big picture” problem with debating in the press about who pays what for Philadelphia teacher health insurance costs is that we are debating a tiny tip of the iceberg.

Of course the SRC wants to focus public discussion on this tiny tip, but not on the iceberg — where teachers earn a base salary 20 percent below their suburban counterparts, while teaching in a more complex context with fewer resources. A deceptively incomplete picture, and a dishonorable way for SRC to publically bully teachers. Since it wasn’t offered in rational negotiations, the SRC is very willing to take salary back by force — in a sense, like the bully who “needs” your lunch money.

The public conversation should instead, openly and honestly, incorporate the holistic contract to maintain perspective:

Base salaries $10,000 to $20,000 below market.
Three years (in March) without a raise.
Class sizes 40 percent to 50 percent-plus higher than elementary schools elsewhere, and those larger classes including more deeply injured kids — and without necessary counselors, nurses NTA, SSAs.
Add another $xxx out-of-pocket cost for supplies, basic office supplies (and the personal time to procure) — plus, in my own case, costs (and personal time again) to build a $5,000 classroom library. Now we have a clearer picture.

Have you heard us complain ?

But now, this latest week we are we are misled even on the tip of the iceberg, and teachers’ sacrificing is totally mischaracterized or ignored. For perspective, my family’s health care costs will instantly increase more than $8,000, just to retain what we have, if the SRC has its way. It is way more than the “13 percent” the SRC publicizes. It’s not the $21 to $70/per pay numbers the SRC fed to the press.

So, debating this insurance “tip” in a vacuum is a sure-lose proposition. It’s a compensation package which has to be debated (negotiated) as a total package. I will gladly help pay for insurance, like suburban teachers, when I’m paid a salary like suburban teachers as part of a package.

The total package was always, and now, is even more obviously a “steal” for the SDP. The total package is now way over the line.

It’s time to stand up to the bully.

Daun Kauffman has been teaching in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia for 14 years.

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