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Forum, July 25: Don’t blame teachers for health costs

Published: 7/24/2021 10:00:10 PM
Modified: 7/24/2021 10:00:11 PM
Don’t blame teachers for health costs

I am weary over the annual battle with employees and unions when it comes to health insurance and benefits. It is even more infuriating when a longtime Dresden School Board member like Neil Odell has such a lack of insight and creativity to call out the teachers union over its demand for affordable health insurance (“Brace for Vt. NEA’s health care demand,” July 19).

I have written to him and to the board multiple times over the years suggesting that they join other health care organizations — the Vermont chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, Health Care for All and the Vermont Workers’ Center Health Care is a Human Right campaign — to extricate ourselves from this trap of escalating costs, but not the way that some would like. The sad truth is that health care insurance costs long ago spiraled out of control because there are stakeholders who are profiting from our miserable reality.

School boards are not alone in this crisis. A huge chunk of municipal taxes goes to town and city worker health benefits. In order to attract employees, most employers need to pay part of worker health insurance costs and, of course, everyone who lives, breathes and works has to pay for this expensive product, which doesn’t even cover what is needed, or we go without it altogether. Everyone suffers collectively without universal health care. Teachers are also taxpayers.

We already know that the United States pays more than every other developed country for health care, with worse outcomes. When will the school boards, the cities and towns, and the unions realize that health insurance should not be a bargaining chip? We should all be fed up over these negotiations and point the finger at the real culprit — Congress — for taking contributions from the insurance, pharmaceutical and medical industries.

It is past time to remove this burden. We should not be blaming the teachers. Every person deserves health care and we should pay progressively for it. This is the answer.



Our right to peaceably assemble

The First Amendment to the Constitution is first for a reason. It reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Our Founding Fathers realized that the ballot box alone did not guarantee that the people’s representatives would always be responsive to the people’s will. Citizens have the right, and sometimes the obligation, “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The time to exercise that right is now.

As legislation to restrict voting is being introduced in statehouses across the nation, and as the gerrymandering of voting districts based on the 2020 census threatens to skew elections for the next decade, citizens of the Upper Valley have an opportunity to voice their opposition to these antidemocratic schemes and to support legislation that protects voting rights. Open Democracy has scheduled a nonpartisan rally in support of S.1 (the For the People Act) for Thursday, from 4-7 p.m., in Lebanon’s Colburn Park. The For the People Act protects voting rights and curtails gerrymandering. In a provision especially relevant to New Hampshire, the bill requires states to establish independent commissions to carry out congressional redistricting. Join this rally in support of the For the People Act. The future of our democracy is at stake. Register to participate at


West Lebanon



Incentives the key to climate action

The Hartford Selectboard and School Board declared a climate emergency in 2019 and resolved that the town shall achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In addition, Hartford’s response to the climate emergency “must be just and equitable, especially with respect to the most vulnerable and impacted members of society.”

The well-researched and exhaustive plan reveals that 98% of CO2 emissions come from buildings and vehicles. To satisfy the net zero goal, other considerations are relatively minor.

So, how does Hartford massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and vehicles in 8½ years in a way equitable to the most vulnerable and impacted members of society when most of Hartford’s residents would be vulnerable and impacted? The solution can only be realized through incentives, not mandatory compliance or regulatory burden alone.

For buildings, the town might offer property owners financing on extremely favorable terms to be used toward efficiency improvements (insulation, ventilation, windows, solar panels, etc.). For vehicles, the town might implement changes in transportation and infrastructure to reduce internal combustion engine use, public and private.

Let’s consider 2,000 houses on the grand list. Most need energy improvements. If, on average, each needed $75,000, the town would need to provide $150 million. If the transportation sector required some similar amount, perhaps the town would need to finance $300 million total.

Those numbers may seem ludicrous, but given the magnitude of the challenge, and the parameters of the resolution, I think the above roughly states reality.

The federal government is currently receptive to this kind of thing, and interest rates are low. With careful management and execution, Hartford would become known for its proactive approach. Property values would rise, there would be growth, and the town might make good on the immense challenge of the 2019 resolution.

Again, thanks so much to the climate action plan committee for providing the groundwork for a response.



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