MPS Shows its Math How the district will save $48 million, 480 teacher positions if the union agrees to concessions

MacIver News Service [Milwaukee, Wisc…] Milwaukee Public Schools has released its math showing how many teaching jobs could be saved if teachers agreed to a less expensive health care plan, after the teacher’s union accused it of fabricating the numbers.

This year the district was facing a $33 million deficit, and planned on 680 layoffs at the start of the budget process. However, throughout budget meetings MPS insisted it could save $48 million if teachers switched healthcare plans. That would save 480 of the positions to be cut.

The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association disputed that claim, and said the switch would only save $7 million, which it said would only save 50 jobs. The union again blasted the district last week, accusing it of exaggerating the truth.

“District spokespersons continue to stretch the truth, mislead the public, and worst of all, use teacher layoffs as a bargaining tactic. The budget the Board adopted showed that their public proposals would generate only $7 million in savings – no where near the district’s claims,” said Pat O’Mahar, MTEA Interim Executive Director.

MPS then released its math to the MacIver Institute, showing how it calculated the savings.

The difference between the current PPO and the proposed EPO is $4,512 for single plans and $7,380 for family plans. The district current pays for 2,610 single PPOs and 4,810 family PPOs. Based on those figures, switching plans would save MPS $11,776,320 on single plans and $35,497,800 on family plans, for a total savings of $47.3 million. Since each teacher costs about $100,000 a year (salary and compensation), $47.3 million could pay for about 472 positions.

On Wisconsin Public Television on June 18, O’Mahar was asked if the union would accept the cheaper healthcare plan if MPS could prove the potential savings.

O’Mahar answered “I don’t believe our members should ever be asked that question in the context of having no choice.  What we have in the contract now for teachers is the two different choices, and over 80% of our members choose the more traditional PPO plan than the HMO.  The 20% that choose the HMO, that’s their choice, but we know from our surveys of our members, from bargaining, that our members are just like all of the other teachers in the rest of the state.  There is no district has only an HMO option for teachers.  And I don’t believe going forward that this district should not provide the benefits that all the other teachers in the state have, especially when our salaries are at the bottom of the surrounding districts.”

During that same program Michael Bonds, Milwaukee School Board President, explained “The reality is, we can’t sustain the current fringe benefit package.  We’re one of the few government entities in the nation that provide this high level.  And also, there’s no co-payment on a lot of stuff and we just can’t sustain it.”

Here is more of our coverage on MPS.