Speaker introduces new teacher health insurance plan into end-of-session mix

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, right, meets with union leaders. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Weeks into a stalemate among the House, Senate and governor over how to negotiate teachers’ health care benefits, a new proposal is emerging from the House.

Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, shared the latest counterproposal with Senate leadership and Gov. Phil Scott on Monday.

However, as Johnson sought to work out the House response to proposals offered by the Senate and the governor, a coalition of unions confronted her over what they perceive as an assault on collective bargaining rights.

At the start of the unbudgeted 19th week of the legislative session, Johnson offered her response to a conundrum that has twice stymied legislative adjournment.

Phil Scott
​Gov. Phil Scott​ speaks at a news conference in April. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

The House and Senate have been unable to reconcile with Scott over his requirement to change how teachers’ health care is negotiated in order to capture up to $26 million annually in savings, in part because of concerns about implications for labor rights.

Johnson proposes to keep teachers’ health care negotiations at the local level but set parameters for those talks.

Every district would be asked to negotiate health care benefits based on the value of a plan in which employers pay 80 percent of premium costs while teachers pick up the remainder and are responsible for $400 out of pocket.

Each district could negotiate a different package but would be expected to work toward the value of that model package. The premium divide could be set at a different ratio, but the out-of-pocket payment would need to be adjusted accordingly. A lower premium share for teachers would correspond to a higher out-of-pocket expense, for instance.

If costs for a health care plan went above that value, the excess expense would be split equally between teachers and the district.

Johnson argues that the flexibility within the set parameters “preserves the spirit of the local bargaining” and addresses what in her view is the “most egregious” element of the governor’s initial proposal: that it split negotiations so one element of teachers’ contracts would be negotiated at a statewide level while the rest would be negotiated locally.

As of midday Tuesday, House members were expected to reconvene the following afternoon. However, Johnson was uncertain if her proposal would be ready to come up on the floor by then.

Whether she will be able to get the governor on board remains to be seen. House leaders are still in talks with the administration, she said.

“They haven’t said no,” Johnson said. “We’ll take that for now.”

Scott spokesperson Rebecca Kelley said the governor sent suggestions back to the speaker’s office on how to adjust her proposal to meet his priorities, but Kelley would not go into specifics. She said Johnson’s idea is “moving closer” to accomplishing the governor’s goals compared with previous legislative counterproposals.

“It was a productive conversation today,” Kelley said. “We put forward some constructive recommendations for ensuring we’re maximizing this opportunity to the benefit of all Vermonters.”

Tim Ashe
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, refused to offer a public reaction to Johnson’s proposal Tuesday. He canceled a press briefing scheduled for early afternoon and would not comment when asked by reporters as he went in to a meeting in the speaker’s office. By 4:30 p.m., when Statehouse staff turned off the lights in the building, he still had not made himself available to reporters.

His chief of staff, Peter Sterling, issued a statement later. “As frustrated as Sen. Ashe is that a solution to the impasse with the governor hasn’t been found yet, he doesn’t want to say anything publicly that could preclude an agreement being reached,” Sterling said.

Ashe was the architect behind a plan that passed the Senate on Friday that would reduce school spending by $13 million in the next fiscal year and suggest to school boards that they look to health care to find those savings.

Johnson said school boards are “very concerned” that the Senate proposal would take money from school budgets in areas other than health care.

Meanwhile, early details of Johnson’s plan got a chilly reception from the leader of Vermont’s largest teachers union.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, Martha Allen, president of the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, called the proposal to set limits on teachers’ health care negotiations an “affront.”

“Setting parameters, to me, is an erosion of collective bargaining rights. It’s conditioning of bargaining,” she said.

The Vermont-NEA has support from 16 other Vermont unions against efforts to change how teachers’ health care is negotiated.

Martha Allen, of the Vermont-NEA, speaks against proposals to change how teachers’ health care benefits are negotiated. Photo by Elizabeth Hewitt/VTDigger

Allen contended that the governor’s proposal is not really about reducing the pressures on property tax payers, but instead is an effort to erode collective bargaining rights.

“The governor and his allies see this issue as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take power away from working people in this state, and in particular to take power away from working women, the vast majority of my fellow members,” Allen said.

Asked if she feels the governor’s proposal is the beginning of a broader effort to erode union power, Allen referred to the Republican governor of Wisconsin who spearheaded controversial labor reforms.

“This looks an awful lot like Scott Walker’s work to me,” she said.

Johnson later sat down with more than a dozen representatives in the Statehouse cafeteria. She said she believes the House has passed many labor-friendly initiatives this year.

However, she said, when collective bargaining rights came up against property tax relief in a recent floor vote on Scott’s proposal, the body very nearly came down against the union’s position. Johnson’s vote was the one that scuttled Scott’s plan.

“‘Just say no’ isn’t working,” Johnson said. “It isn’t working and the political reality is there aren’t, there aren’t the votes for ‘just say no’ to get us all the way through the process.”

A threat from the governor to veto the budget if lawmakers do not meet his demands requires her to seek middle ground, she said, acknowledging that there are not the votes in the House to override a veto.

“At some point, we need something that everybody can say yes to. It’s not going to be everybody’s first choice, I will promise you that,” Johnson said. “But if we’ve disappointed everybody in equal amounts and what we come up with is not everybody’s first choice and not everybody’s last choice, then … we’ve hit the right balance.”

Nicole Mace, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association, said she had not seen a proposal out of the House.

“Sounds like an interesting concept, but I haven’t seen the language,” Mace said.

She last spoke with Johnson on Friday, she said. During that meeting, the proposal was mentioned as one of several ideas, she said.

“There’s a long distance between a concept and language,” she said.

If you read us, please support us.

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer.

We moderate every comment. Please go to our FAQ for the full policy.

Elizabeth Hewitt

Recent Stories

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Speaker introduces new teacher health insurance plan into end-of-sess..."
  • Kudos to Speaker Johnson both for not making this a hyper-partisan issue and for attempting to find compromise even if the Teaches’ union doesn’t approve.

    The plan proposed by Gov. Scott is not only good for education and for taxpayers; it is also very good for teachers. It holds them “harmless” even though the rule of the affordable care act require that they give up their “Cadillac plan”. Their deductibles and copays go up but the majority of the money saved in lower premiums is returned to the teachers in Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which they can use to pay the deductibles and copays. Being held harmless is pretty good at a time when Blue Cross is proposing a 12.7% increase for private sector workers and their employers.

    It is also good for teachers that the Governors’ plan moves future health care negotiations to the State from the local level even though their union apparently doesn’t want to lose the opportunity to spend staff time on these issues in every jurisdiction.If I were a teacher, I would want negotiations with my school board to focus on local issues of educational policy and excellence. There are no local conditions which require different health benefits in one district than another; but health care discussions are exceedingly complex – a time sink for the local boards. Also the local boards are not in a position to negotiate as effectively with Vermont’s healthcare duopoly on behalf of their employees as the State is.

    Tripartisanship seems to be breaking out around this issue. That’s great for Vermont. My hope is that teachers will see that it is in their best interest both as employees and taxpayers as well as the interest of students to tell their union to back off. more at http://blog.tomevslin.com/2017/05/vermont-teachers-should-send-their-union-to-detention.html

    • Peter Chick

      Teachers do not tell the union anything. It is union against management. Teachers will never ever win.

      • J Scott Cameron

        When have they ever lost?

        • Peter Chick

          Every time there is a bargaining agreement the teachers have to give up something.

    • walter carpenter

      “If I were a teacher, I would want negotiations with my school board to focus on local issues of educational policy and excellence.”

      If I were a teacher, I would not want my health care locked into high deductible policies by the state with the idea that, maybe, just maybe, there might be some money to help me pay for these high deductibles.

    • John Freitag

      Tom ,
      Thanks for your positive take on things. Hopefully all involved will be able to see the light.

    • tom Johnson

      Great points. If I was a teacher, I might get nervous if school boards had the time to focus on excellence in teaching and perhaps hold some teachers accountable. Yikes. Keep the school board dazed and confused over health care and our hidden pay raises. Please copy and paste this to ready article researched by Dr. Robert Letovsky , economics professor at St. Michaels college and his explanation of how teachers jump salary as high as 28% in 3 years… ( https://vtdigger.org/2015/02/03/robert-letovsky-teacher-salary-grids-driving-unsustainable-school-budgets/

  • Edward Letourneau

    I know of no company in the private sector that pays the taxes, who also pay employee out of pocket health expenses. Its time for the educators to show they are not greedy.

    • Peter Chick

      Will not happen.

  • John Freitag

    Statewide collective bargaining for teachers health benefits in Vermont is not at all similar to what was done by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Rather it is a common sense practical proposal supported years ago by Democratic Speaker of the House Ralph Wright, a teacher and union activist.
    It is time to stop the contortions by both Senate President Tim Ashe and Speaker Mitzi Johnson in order to preserve the bargaining advantages now held by the VTNEA. There really is a pretty simple compromise. Go to statewide collective bargaining for health benefits in a way similar to what is currently the case for state workers and their union as the Governor proposes. Since Democrats hold the majority in both House and Senate, they get to choose how the savings will be used.
    The longer this goes on the worse it looks for the VTNEA and those Democrats and Progressives who support, (and I hate to have to say it because it is so harsh), the greed of the VTNEA over what is right for the people of Vermont.

    • walter carpenter

      “Statewide collective bargaining for teachers health benefits in Vermont is not at all similar to what was done by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. ”

      It’s very similar in fact, just being done a little differently.

    • Bud Haas

      Statewide collective bargaining for Health Care is not possible alone. The only way to do that is to collectively bargain everything. This would change the entire education system in Vermont, as it would require statewide teacher salaries, benefits, working conditions, and total elimination of any local input, and would require a major rewrite of Vermont Education Law. Is this what you are asking for?
      Please explain how you could only “bargain” health care statewide.
      If it not statewide “bargaining”, then the Governor’s real goal must be the elimination of the teachers union by imposing a health care package statewide on teachers.
      I’d suggest a reading of this editorial from the Times Argus:

      • John Freitag

        Could you cite the Vermont Education Law statues that would prohibit collective bargaining for statewide teachers health benefits? It would seem hard to believe the the Vermont School Boards Association, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the Governor would propose and support something they knew was against the law.
        I worked for 33 in a Vermont school, served three years as PTA President, and have been an unabashed supporter of our local school. At the same time I have seen how much time and energy that should be going into our kids education is wasted on often divisive contract negotiations. As a Selectboard member I have heard time and again complaints about why we are not addressing problems yet at same time hearing again and again complaints sometimes from the same people about high property taxes, Finally, at the state level we are also hearing again and again about how many unmet needs there are in our State even after years of raising property taxes and fees, Going to a statewide negotiations that will provide significant savings for property tax relief and/or other needs and at the same time will leave teachers with the among the very best health care plans and retirement benefits in Vermont seems to be a reasonable course of action..

  • Daniel Carver

    Speaker Johnson, enough of the politics.
    The plan Governor Scott has proposed is exactly what the VT-NEA was in full support of when the Affordable Care Act was passed. With the Scott plan, teachers are help financially harmless and taxpayers get relief.

    If you were paying attention during the fall election, the Vermont voters demanded change from the usual games, yet you are hindering, what many see as very positive change–including many seasoned, well respected members of the Democratic party. Enough of the cannabis driven ideation sessions. Pass the Scott plan and adjourn!
    Thank you.

  • Governor: “Hey – I got a last minute, not at all thought out idea for you guys in the legislature to deal with. Pass this last minute concept into law or I’ll crash the rest of our government.”

    Legislature: “Sure – only thing we need to think about is how complex we want the Rube Goldberg style outcome to be.”

    Here’s an idea for the House and Senate: Do it Scott’s way or do the RIGHT thing and say “No thanks, while your idea might have merit, the people of Vermont really, really need us to flesh this out.”

    I’m a Vermonter willing to sit and watch all of you in the Legislature and Governor’s office sit around and stare at each other.

    • Edward Letourneau

      Nonsense. The state already negotiates healthcare for retired teacher and state employees. They are not whining. Its the NEA that wants to muddy the water and make education more expensive.

    • Jim Manahan

      The fact of the matter is that the Governor’s idea was well thought out, however that was deemed “too late”, until Sen Ashe and Rep Johnson submitted their back of the napkin, half-baked schemes and suddenly it’s not too late. You and I both know the RIGHT thing is for the legislature to represent the taxpayers rather than the NEA.

  • David Schoales

    Just say “NO!” The legislature passed a budget. Send it to the Governor and let him do his job. Any hasty solution is going to be bad for Vermonters and we will still be paying 12.7% more for health insurance next year. Just go home.

  • Lucas Barrett

    The true savings in Gov. Scott’s proposal is in the time energy and money spent negotiating. Speaker Johnson’s proposal does nothing to improve efficiency of governance. If health insurance negotiations are moved from the hundreds of bargaining tables around the state to one table in Montpelier the cost of negotiating will be significantly reduced for this year and for many years going forward. Union dues will be reduced, time will be saved, and local bargaining of salaries and other benefits will not be changed. The Governor’s proposal is by far the best proposal to improve governance for school boards and the VT-NEA. The Governor’s proposal should have universal support.

  • Christopher Daniels

    More examples of teachers being called ‘greedy’. Our commentators here have a warped sense that someone making 40k-70k and fighting for good health benefits should be considered greedy.

    • J Scott Cameron

      Teachers and VT-NEA are not fighting for good health benefits. They are fighting for good health benefits at little or no cost. School boards are fighting for good health benefits for their employees at a reasonable cost. Don’t get confused as to what this struggle is about.

      • Jim Manahan

        Great health benefits as well as full coverage of co-pays, deductibles and other out of pocket costs that Joe Taxpayer has to cover on their own, and this doesn’t consider the defined benefit pension and health insurance benefits no one else gets.
        Keep up the good fight Scott.

      • Christopher Daniels

        Of course that’s what they are doing. Why is that any different than you, me, or anyone else asking for a raise or improved benefits? It’s not greedy for you or I to do it, is it?

    • Steve Baker

      Well compared to the average Vermont their compensation is way above and beyond.

      • JohnGreenberg

        Actually, no it isn’t. If you look at these two sets of statistics, you’ll see that teachers’ pay is well within the range of pay for Vermont workers with at least a BA or BS. Teachers: http://www.teachingdegree.org/vermont/salary/ Vermonters with degrees: http://www.payscale.com/research/US/State=Vermont/Salary/by_Degree

      • Phil Greenleaf

        That’s a good thing.That means we value the custodians of our children’s welfare and safety slightly more than some other states. We can do better – but that’s a hopeful sign. Thanks for pointing that out.

    • Edward Letourneau

      They are greedy. If we have an 80/20 split, and the savings are also split 80/20, we have a system fair to both teachers and taxpayers. The teachers want all the savings. That is greed.

      • Phil Greenleaf

        Obscene greed and injustice primarily exists across the national budget (corporate welfare) and within the tax code – which causes this silly debate about dribs and drabs of state money. If Our priorities were centered on health and education and we valued teachers as “we” apparently do CEO’s, the quarrel over loose change would never even start. How about join the fight for populist equality instead of knee jerk bashing?

        • Edward Letourneau

          Non-sequentor. There is no connection to corporate welfare and the education property taxes Vermont home owners have to pay, or lose their homes to the towns.

          • Phil Greenleaf

            Ed – are you at risk of losing your home?

  • Tim Vincent

    Maybe the cost issue is because of the NUMBER of teachers, not their individual compensation.
    Vermont has a student teacher ratio of 10-1 (lowest in the nation) AND declining enrollments.
    Way too many teachers.
    Drive by your local elementary school and count the cars in the lot.
    It sometimes looks like each student has their own teacher.
    Lay off a bunch and raise the compensation of the survivors.
    The union – which exists to collect dues and bargain for more pay, less work – would have a nervous breakdown, thus no chance of this happening.
    Throw in a commensurate reduction in the number of administrators.

    • Gerry Silverstein

      I agree that the ratio of students to teachers and students to all salaried employees is quite low in Vermont.. and that is part of the problem with public school education spending sustainability in Vermont

      However, reductions in force through layoffs is painful for those people affected. Better to achieve the goal of reducing the number of salaried employees through attrition and retirements… without replacement whenever possible.

      Additionally salary increases should be no higher than inflation and health insurance should be a 80:20 split with teachers paying the same level of co-pays and deductibles as other members of the community who, through taxes, pay their salaries and benefits packages.

      • Edward Letourneau

        The problem is most of the high school contracts limit student contact time (teaching) to 3.5 hours per day. From a management point, it means all your have are part time teachers, which makes scheduling staff reductions impossible. If you don’t replace retiring teachers, you don’t have enough available teaching hours to cover all the students, unless you allow class size to increase. Vermont is hell bent on keeping that number low. Which also means teachers can wing it a class of ten. A class of 20 or 25 requires them to be prepared, and to follow the plan.

    • Gary Murdock

      BINGO! You are correct. For example, Middlebury’s and Weybridge’s elementary schools are 3.6 miles apart. Since VT’s education funding system forces me to pay for both of these schools without living in either town, I have a right to insist they be consolidated and staff positions be eliminated.

      • Phil Greenleaf

        Gary – I suppose you might have that “right” (another debatable topic – but for the sake of this discussion, granted). In turn, you then will gladly relinquish your free speech pass on social issues like crime, drug use, “failing” schools, economic conditions, etc. What your ideology creates is a capitalistic/cost-cutting/industrial mentality which fearfully ignores the basic fact that a massive and permanent national prioritization of healthcare, education, bias-free law enforcement and subsequent job creation will alleviate a majority of the social ills that you and other right wingers continually complain about.

        NO more BAKE Sales for troopers needed; and plenty of dough left over for our sacred bloated military budget because a better educated and more productive populace will create more tax revenue for the MIC to flourish. Of course the Prison Industrial Complex will come crashing down, but that I can live with.

    • Peter Everett

      My first year teaching…36 – 39 students in my classes. My compensation was $7,000.00. Granted that was over 40 years ago. My health insurance cost (my entire career was 50%), district paid 50%. This was non negotiable. Graded papers by hand, not computers. Times were different, still I wouldn’t have changed anything about my job. On several occasions I required surgery. Scheduled them on vacations so I would lose little time in school.
      I’m old school, I know it and am proud of that fact. When I signed my annual contract, it wasn’t with the district (it really was). Instead, I viewed it as a contract with the taxpayers. I owed them the best I could give. Unfortunately, today the unions have brainwashed teachers to believe they are worth more than they really are (some, very few today, are worth more). Go and ask for teachers attendance records, you would be amazed at some of them.
      Sorry teachers, healthcare costs should be shared, to a larger portion by you. It shouldn’t be a free ride, or close to to free ride. Times change, 36 – 39 in a class down to low teens. Computers do much of your work today. It may not be too far down the road where schools, to save money, put the entire district curriculum onto computers with fewer teachers helping more students. Technology is taking over many types of industries. What makes you think your not replaceable?
      It may not be too far down the road where retiring teachers will be replaced with a laptop, saving districts money…lots of money. Let’s think of your future beyond one or two years. Time will show I’m probably more accurate than you realize.

      • Christopher Bennett

        Well said Peter. You have hit the nail on the head using good old VT common sense. Unfortunately there isn’t much of that left anymore . I think we could all use some right now.

      • rosemariejackowski

        Peter… Your work history sounds a lot like mine. During my second year of teaching I was making $5000. Someone in town happened to notice that in the town records. Some citizens became upset about it and went to the School Board and asked why a teacher was making $2000. less than the janitor. I immediately received a raise in pay so that I made as much as the janitor. (The towns people liked me a lot. I often spent Saturdays with the students, just because I liked being with them. Remember what happened a few years ago in Burlington when the teachers were asked to spend a few extra minutes with the students because of a bus schedule? A strike was threatened.)

  • Clancy DeSmet
  • Tyler Samler

    It’s frightening that so many in the middle class want to come after our own – teachers who lead the fight against poverty, and are carrying the torch for organizing labor – to give the 1% – who own 40% of our wealth – yet another tax break.

    To quote Eugene Debbs: “Under our constitution the American people can have almost anything they want. It just seems like they don’t want much of anything at all.”

    • Tim Vincent

      And when the people discover that they can vote themselves “free” money – socialism – then what?

      • Tyler Samler

        It already is Venezuela … oligarch corporate state

        …in our country we have kids that are so malnourished they have rickets. 1/2 of our people suffer from obesity because of what’s pushed on them during childhood – which provides great profits for insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Tens of thousands dying from hospital malpractice. 60,000+ die from air pollution each year. Why do our workers still need to be mired in student loan debt while trying to make ends meet? Our paychecks go to subsidize corporate welfare. The bulk of every dollar earned gets siphoned out of our hands for oligarchs. Thousands of workers die in this country on the job every year. Thousands more are living with a lifetime of pain and suffering from toxic working conditions.

        Look at our elections… our crumbling infrastructure…

        Time for the wealthy to start paying their fair share.

        • Jason Brisson

          How does taking $$ from 100% of Vermonters, address the 1% paying their fair share?

          • Tyler Samler

            The amount of evasion and avoidance of taxes by major corporations has been perfected to a science. GE, for one, gets massive kickbacks and pays essentially no federal income tax.

            There’s too much control over the government by corporations. Close loopholes and it’ll raise revenues. The systemic fraud and abuse, and white collar crime, goes unnoticed and politicians let it slide through as if it’s normal.

            People who make over $1 million are not “working” for it. They’re sitting on gigantic hordes of idyll cash, while opiate addiction, poverty, and trauma plague the poor. Who supports the poor and works in the trenches to raise them up – Teachers.

          • Jason Brisson

            I agree with the first two paragraphs. Third is where you lose me. How will making teachers pay their own deductibles change any of the problems in the first two paragraphs? Teachers only see kids M-F for several hours of the day, education is only part of the equation. Not all learning, and perhaps not the most important lessons, happens in schools. Some of the worst behavioral/academic students in school, are the most knowledgeable, pleasant, and engaging on a nature hike.

          • Steve Baker

            Generally people with money employee other people. Generally poor people don’t employee people.
            Capitalism has pulled more people out of poverty then and Social program or teacher. But you seem to want to place blame on wealthy people (addiction, poverty, trauma). But in the most general term I don’t have more because you might have less. There is more for everyone who has drive and determination.

            This started out as why shouldn’t teachers pay “their fair share”

          • Phil Greenleaf

            Dream on Steve – this economy has been engaged in the classic race to the bottom for 2 decades (through Dems and Reps). Inflation divided by stagnant wages in soul sucking jobs = no way out of poverty. Your capitalist mantra is attached to a fading polaroid snapshot, one generation (essentially end of WW2>1968) in which wages outpaced inflation and the American Dream shone. Just look at the rest of American history and you must see it’s a sham. The fact that you were raised by a teacher only deepens the irony of your false consciousness.

          • Tyler Samler

            I live and work in the same place you do, and I get ripped off by Insurance Companies and banks the same way you do. The trillions of dollars that a few major corporations are sitting on was at one point our consumer dollars. If we had sharper systems, like medicare for all, that kept the money in our hands, we could undercut the these giant multinational corporations, who have no allegiance to community and no loyalty, who pull the strings on us from their skyscrapers in Tokyo, Chicago and New York. They’ll close down and get out and go into communist and fascist countries abroad where workers are forced to know their place at .80 cents /hour.

            If you look at the research, raising workers’ wages is a win-win. It puts more money into the hands of consumers, and improves the overall economy, improving infrastructure options, etc. In this case, our Governor will have to see his crony CEO’s have to pay their fair share.

    • Chet Greenwood

      Tyler, can you be more specific on who gets the tax break? I think ALL residential property payers get a reduction, not only the 1%.

      • Tyler Samler

        We all need a bigger slice of the pie… Pay all workers more.

        • Jason Brisson

          The pie is only so big.
          Bigger slices come at the expense of someone elses slice being smaller.
          Who slice to you really want–the 1% that owns all the wealth or the 99% that doesn’t?
          Education in Vermont is financed by taking tax $$ from 100% of the Vermont tax paying property owners, not the 1%.

    • Steve Baker

      simply isn’t true. The Teachers make FAR more then the middle class in Vermont. The median income is around $29k and the Teachers make how much? The median adjusted for fulltime is $13.94/hr for teachers its closer to $53.00/hr plus $14-$18k in healthcare.

      • Tyler Samler

        How is median a good measure if 1% have 40% of the wealth?

        …and are you taking into account whether or not they are college educated?

        • Steve Baker

          median is a better gauge then average generally. But be careful picking on the evil 1%, they pay an overwhelming share of the tax burden.

          • Tyler Samler

            the 1% need more than a “picking on”. These people have done absolutely nothing useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

      • DougHoffer

        You said :”The median income is around $29k.”

        Not even close. The average is over $47,000 and the median is $37,000.

        • Steve Baker

          Household or Individual?

          • DougHoffer


          • Steve Baker

            So if we go with your number (which i haven’t seen, but that may exist) the average full-timer makes $3.85 more then what I said, or approx 1/3 the hourly rate of a teacher.

            Since you have a lot of numbers at hand….Why do you think Teachers Salary in VT are generally expressed as “Average” and not “Median”?

          • DougHoffer

            If you have sources for the numbers you posted please provide them.

          • Steve Baker

            Likewise to the Auditor.
            But an average full time work year is 2080 hours, A teachers full time year is nearly 990 hours, so the math should be easy. No?

          • Jon Corrigan

            Apparently not to some people Steve.

          • DougHoffer

            “A teachers full time year is nearly 990 hours”

            Absurd. Clearly, you’ve never known a teacher. Your disrespect for the profession is really offensive.

            As for the information I provided, it’s from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Facts matter.

          • Steve Baker

            Perhaps you should take a moment to read the details of a typical VT teachers contract before you become so offended? I’ve also challenged several publications to do a breakdown of the hours per day, per week, per year and the teaching hours as that is different then the hours per week.
            And just so you know, I was raised by a teacher, but that was back when they worked part time jobs during the summer.
            And “Disrespect the profession”? There are not a lot of professions that are allowed to strike and or disrupt their jobs for wages nor are there a lot of professionals with 100% paid healthcare.

        • Homer sulham

          What is the difference between average and median? Just wondering, I guess that I missed something.

          • Jason Brisson

            average is add them all up, and divide by the # of #’s you added.
            median is the middle number in the range of a data set.

    • Craig Powers

      What is frightening is a 17% decline in the student population since 1997 and still no adjustment to the number of school employees and staff. Reminds me of the pickle the US Postal Service is currently in. This is clearly unsustainable from a financial standpoint. Your answer is to blame billionaires and cite class warfare talking points instead of bringing the workforce in line with reality.

      • Tyler Samler

        What’s frightening is that teacher compensation hasn’t kept up with inflation since the 60’s, and the economy has doubled since then. Cost of living has soared. Workers have doubled productivity, but the wages are relatively unchanged. $1 today is $6 less in purchasing power from 1970.

        Since 1968, housing prices have doubled, the cost of gas has grown by 60%, health care costs have increased by 1500% and food costs have increased. CEO compensation has skyrocketed over 900 percent. CEO of Wal-Mart makes$12,000 per hour, surpassing the country’s lowest paid workers yearly salary by noon on his first day of work. The Top 100 CEOs all made more than $15 million last year, raking in a wage of $7,000 per hour.

        That said.. you’re right: this shouldn’t be a “class warfare” issue… Health Care is a right and everyone should have it.

        • Edward Letourneau

          Hmm. Most of them by the time they retire are earning 75 to 100K, and have a retirement of 50% pay based on the highest 3 years, and full medical insurance — none of which the people paying their salaries get!

          • Tyler Samler

            Because of tax loopholes for the super rich who pay nothing.

        • Steve Baker

          You know, the teachers are free to become CEO’s if they want. Generally a CEO works for a company that employees people that pay taxes. CEO’s can be fired also

          And the Average CEO make $178K

          • Tyler Samler

            You think teachers would wanna give up all of that money and summers off? Don’t be crazy…

            The Hyundai sounds way nicer than the Porsche

      • Phil Greenleaf

        There are several pockets of the workforce where downsizing is regressive. Teachers, Social Workers, Medical professionals, public safety workers, etc. are as mandatory as a strong national defense. Domestically we have become far too enamored with the industrial labor analysis. This mentality simply is at odds with what should be a national priority to provide cutting edge health, economic and welfare programs. We aren’t doing the best job possible in these areas and we won’t until the mindset changes.

  • Steve Baker

    The contortions continue….
    “Johnson proposes to keep teachers’ health care negotiations at the local level but set parameters for those talks. Every district would be asked to negotiate health care benefits based on the value of a plan in which employers pay 80 percent of premium costs while teachers pick up the remainder and are responsible for $400 out of
    Ever notice Vermont income is generally noted as “Median Household” as to two workers. But Teachers are always noted as “Average Salary” which generally skews the number much lower. (Difference between Median & Average)
    South Burlington Teachers are mad because they only average $75,000 (source BFP) plus $18,000 in healthcare benefits……..
    with a contract of 990 hrs, teaching classes 15-18 hrs of their 26hr week. That breakdown to a measly $76 / hr. plus $18 / hr in healthcare benefits plus thousands in other reimbursement……
    The average Vermonter drags home $27.40 as a household……

    It’s clear where Mitzi support stands…
    And Mr Ashe, has No Public comment……
    Martha Allen, pres of NEA, called the proposal an “affront.”
    The NEA has support from 16 unions against efforts to change how teachers’ health care is negotiated.

    And of course…SCOTT WALKER!!!!! But Wisconsin has a lower Tax Burden and lower public debt then VT.

    • Edward Letourneau

      I’m glad someone else notes that high school teachers are only assigned 3.5 hours out of the 7.5 they work each day. — No other job anywhere, only allow the boss to tell you what for do for half the day.

      • Steve Baker

        Do you think anyone has read through a teachers contract? Certainly VTDigger and other publications won’t breakdown the language and expose the gravy

        • Phil Greenleaf

          What is your beef with teachers? Or is it an anti-union thing only? I’ve never met a more dedicated and hardworking bunch of people and all the pay citations are gross exaggerations. See below replies to Ed for more.

      • Phil Greenleaf

        Ed – you can be the boss of your own ideology and make foolish comments, or analyze exactly what teachers at all levels are responsible for in the 7.5 and beyond. These folks are the chaperones of our kids in clubs and sports at all hours of the day (paid time – but essentially a seasonal full-time job and not compensated as such). I assure you that hours of grading and tracking digital data for the state are not the most rewarding part of the job, but are mandated for schools to remain in compliance with mind boggling performance standards created by industry and private educational corporations like the current Fedral Ed Secretary promotes.

        Until the cost-cutting mentality is eviscerated from education and social services we will continue to have programs and schools which become the bogeyman of society when the discussion turns to crime and drug abuse. If you want to cut costs in these areas be prepared to hold your tongue when the social result is not what you fancy.

        • Edward Letourneau

          I’ve been in the classroom. Not allowing the boss to direct your work for more than 3.5 hours a day is featherbedding. The end result is twice as many teachers on the job, and fluff courses.

          • Phil Greenleaf

            More teachers the better. It’s money well spent. Well qualified teachers don’t need bosses directing them. Where do you get that mindset anyway? Your thinking has nothing to do with social work. We haven’t even started on the uncompensated hours teachers spend on their work. What makes you qualified to comment on this?

          • Edward Letourneau

            The 3.5 hours per day, means you twice as many teachers — which is the exact problem causing the outrageous taxes home owners have to pay or lose their homes.

          • Phil Greenleaf

            You believe in the free market correct? Therefore, in your worldview, teachers bargaining for the best deal they can get (which is dribs and drabs compared to the heavy hitters in industry) is perfectly logical. What exactly to you begrudge with your hypocritical ideology? Why don’t you recognize that industry tax breaks have the same economic effect as strong benefits for teachers? You can’t really believe teachers are amassing exorbitant wealth? what’s your beef? And what do you mean you’ve “been in the classroom”?

  • Peter Chick

    The NEA wanted the ACA I say let them enjoy the ACA like the rest.

  • Homer sulham

    Speaker Johnson met with the Union, maybe she should meet with the people in general. Maybe a day at the capitol, I bet many people would attend.

    • Tim Vincent

      She had to get her marching orders.
      Does anyone think that the Democrats represent “the people?”

      • Tyler Samler

        does anyone think the Republicans do?