To the Editor:
I applaud the recent agreements struck between the School Committee, WISE union, and Warwick Teachers Union. Most importantly, the agreed-to 20 percent health care co-pay has enabled the School Department to realize more than $2 million in savings. In addition, the privatization of special education buses should result in an additional $1 million in savings. Now that these two issues are resolved, we can focus more on the system’s most important constituents – the students.
A couple of years ago, the City Council chastised the School Committee to go back to their contracts to extract cost savings (after having already closed schools and cut positions) and the mayor bemoaned the fact that the then teacher co-pay of $11 per week “tied his hands” in dealing with the municipal, police and fire unions – so much so, evidently, that the administration was only able to get a $14 (single) and $28 (family) weekly co-pay for those unions in the current contract. But the administration was quick to tell us that it was “nearly a 10 percent” co-pay – as if that somehow changed the math. (I’d also note that the 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation study of employer health benefits shows the average employee co-pay for single and family plans at approximately 18 percent and 26 percent, respectively.) Kudos to the School Committee, WISE union, and Warwick Teachers Union for showing some leadership by doing the heavy lifting with respect to health care co-pays. Mr. Mayor, your hands are now untied.