Public Not Welcome at MMSD Talks about Future Health Insurance Costs

Last August, MMSD parent KJ Jakobson asked “whether the new joint district-union task force for investigating health insurance costs be a truly collaborative effort to solve a very costly problem? Or will it instead end up being a collusion to maintain the status quo?” Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?
Her question remains an important one. If the task force of representatives of the school district and Madison Teachers , Inc. identifies future cost savings from changes in health insurance providers, the district could save million of dollars per year after 2007. Although the savings would go to higher wages for teachers during the 2005-07 collective bargaining agreement, there would be possible savings for the district budget in future years. The district now pays about $37 M per year for health insurance for its employees.
Unfortunately, the history of the task force to date suggests that Ms. Jakobson’s fears were well-grounded.

The deadline for determining whether savings are possible is February 2006. There were no meetings of the task force between the June ratification of the collective bargaining agreement that created the task force and the end of 2005. There has been no board discussion of the meetings or our goals for the task force.
At first, Board President Carol Carstensen publicly announced that the meetings would be closed. When the attorney for the school board corrected her, she conceded that the meetings to look for savings, rather than negotiate changes in the collective bargaining agreement, would be open.
How open? Not very.
If you go to the MMSD web site, then to Board of Education, then to Board calendar, then to January 2006, you will find two scheduled meetings of the task force, one on January 11 and one on January 25. Both meetings are at 1 p.m., during work hours for most people, including board members, who might want to observe the discussions. There is no location listed for the meetings except “MTI”. So you need to go to the phone book to find out that Madison Teachers, Inc. is located at 821 Williamson Street in Madison [Map]. There is no information about the room. BOE calendar for January 2006
I asked President Carstensen to move the meetings to the Doyle building and to change the times of day to make the meetings more accessible. She declined to do either. I then asked that the district video-tape the meetings and broadcast them. After conferring with the superintendent, Ms. Carstensen told me that there would be video-tapes. Apparently broadcasting these meetings was out of the question.
So, stay tuned to this blog if you want information about these financially important task force meetings. I will post the videotapes as soon as I receive them.
As for what to expect, a recent Isthmus article reported that the task force will discuss the status quo health providers at the first meeting and others at the second meeting.