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February 24, 2006

What a Sham(e)

Jason Shephard, writing in this week's Isthmus:

Last week, Madison Teachers Inc. announced it would not reopen contract negotiations following a hollow attempt to study health insurance alternatives.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who suggests the Joint Committee on Health Insurance Issues conducted a fair or comprehensive review needs to get checked out by a doctor.

The task force’s inaction is a victory for John Matthews, MTI’s executive director and board member Wisconsin Physicians Service.

Losers include open government, school officials, taxpayers and young teachers in need of a raise.

From its start, the task force, comprised of three members each from MTI and the district, seemed to dodge not only its mission but scrutiny.

Hoping to meet secretly until Isthmus raised legal questions, the committee convened twice for a total of four hours – one hour each for insurance companies to pitch proposals.

No discussion to compare proposals. No discussion about potential cost savings. No discussion about problems with WPS, such as the high number of complaints filed by its subscribers.

Case closed. Never did the task force conduct a “study” and issue a “report” of its “findings,” as required by last year’s contract settlement.

Conspiracy theorists point to the power of Matthews – both in getting the district to play dead and in squelching any questions about conflicts of interest based on, as reported last week, his $13,000 income from WPS.

While the school board is often accused of dodging tough issues, this tops the list. A change in insurance could have resulted in higher pay for teachers and, some argue, could save the district millions in the long run.

Background links and articles here. Link to current school board members. Governance is another significant issue in the April 4, 2006 Madison School Board election.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at February 24, 2006 7:57 AM
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