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Bills Would Alleviate Financial Strain on School Employees

Sep 24, 2016

Two separate proposals aimed at reducing financial pressures on Michigan school employees were introduced in the House this week.

The proposed bills come in the wake of Monday's release of a joint MEA-AFT Michigan membership survey that revealed widespread demoralization among Michigan educators and support staff - with stagnant wages and rising benefit costs among respondents' biggest concerns. 

One proposal would reduce health care costs for school employees, while a separate bill would extend a tax credit to offset student loan debt for educators working in schools that serve at-risk populations. 

MEA applauded the introduction of these bills in a press release today.  As the Legislature is on break for the election and back home in their districts, members should talk with lawmakers - and candidates - about these bills and the importance of addressing the compensation issues facing school employees.

House Bills 5924 and 5925 were introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) to rein in skyrocketing out-of-pocket health care costs that school employees have suffered since the passage of PA 152 in 2011. That law required school districts to choose one of two formulas for sharing costs with employees.

Lucido's bill would eliminate one cost-sharing method, known as the "hard cap," which sets a ceiling on the dollar amount districts pay toward health care premiums. What would remain is the so-called 80-20 option, which requires employees to pay no more than 20 percent of the premium cost out of pocket.  

As drug prices and health care costs have soared nationwide in recent years, the hard cap model adopted by many districts across the state has proven burdensome to teachers and support staff. The 80-20 split would spread annual increases across both school districts and employees.

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, because it maintains the 80-20 cost-sharing formula," he said. "However, it also would keep health care affordable for employees, so we can continue to attract good people to the profession." 

Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) sponsored a second financial proposal that targets educators carrying college loan debt who are working in a school building where 50 percent or more of students qualify for free or reduced lunches.