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Forum, June 12: Scott Is Right About Teachers


Sunday, June 11, 2017
Scott Is Right About Teachers

There are three reasons why Gov. Phil Scott is right to push for statewide collective bargaining of teachers health benefits.

1.) Economics — After the previous six years of the Shumlin administration, Vermont is taxed and fee’d out. While we have many unmet needs like funding the cleanup of Lake Champlain, the well is dry and we will need to make adjustments and find funds within our existing revenue stream. Going to statewide collective bargaining for health benefits (as is done for state employees) would provide an annual estimated savings of $26 million dollars every year that could go to lowering property taxes and meeting these other needs.

There would also be significant savings in the negotiating process itself. Currently the VTNEA pays seven field operators a total of over $1 million each year in salary and benefits to help negotiate contracts on a district level. School boards often bring in their own consultants as well. Both sides are ultimately paid from our property taxes.

2.) Timing — Due to changes in the Affordable Care Act, the “Cadillac Plans” that teachers had been getting are no longer available this year and all teachers will have to go to “Gold Plans.” Having all teachers’ health benefit contracts come up at the same time provides a unique opportunity to go to a statewide system this year.

3.) Children — Thousands upon thousands of hours are currently being spent by teachers, administrators and school board members in often-contentious negotiating of contracts at the district level. This time would be far better spent by focusing on the common goal of educating our children.

Statewide negotiations for teachers’ health benefits was first proposed years ago by Democratic Speaker of the House Ralph Wright, a teacher and union activist, because he knew it was both fair and would help to contain costs. It is supported now by the Vermont School Boards Association, the Vermont Superintendents Association and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for the same reasons. This is the right action to take at the right time, and Gov. Scott should be commended for taking this stand.

John Freitag

South Strafford

Let’s Talk About Trump, Not Clinton

In response to Bob Bruzik’s Forum letter of June 3 (“Ease Up on President Trump,” I voted for Hillary Clinton, but Donald Trump is now the president. We should stop referring to Clinton and turn to Trump for answers to our problems. That means we may have to question President Trump’s decisions.

The arrest of a farm worker in Vermont on immigration charges doesn’t keep us safe, but it may prevent a farm owner from harvesting “our” food. If we arrest all the undocumented immigrants in Vermont and New Hampshire who work on the farms picking our vegetables and fruits, it means the farmers will have to find local people to gather our food.

Will Mr. Bruzik and his fellow Trump supporters apply to harvest our food?

Babette Hansen

Lebanon

A Valuable Insight

We were all fortunate to get an insight into the views of a Donald Trump supporter in the letter from Bob Bruzik on June 3 (“Ease Up on President Trump”). Pretty scary stuff. And, I don't mean the part about seeing a bad guy at my front door ...

Louise Harrison

Newbury, Vt.