Wisconsin school districts ratcheted up health care costs on teachers and other employees after the state’s Act 10 collective bargaining changes, with the average district now requiring teachers to pay about 12 percent of their health insurance premiums, newly released data show.
Madison schools are near the low end of what districts now require for premium contributions, at 3 percent, according to the data, released by Gov. Scott Walker’s Department of Administration.
It’s the first time the state has released a comprehensive look at teacher health care costs in all 422 of the state’s public school districts after the 2011 enactment of Act 10.
And it’s one more example of the far-reaching scope of the law — in this case, how it paved the way for state and local workers to pay much more for benefits. The 2017-19 state budget required the Department of Administration to collect the data, which is from the 2017-18 school year.
Barry Forbes, associate executive director for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said the figures show health care costs for school district employees generally matching “what greater society is experiencing now.”
“It was clear before Act 10 that public-sector employee fringe benefits were typically far superior to the private sector. Now, not so much,” Forbes said.
That becomes a concern for school districts’ attempts to attract and retain quality teachers, Forbes added — since the lure of good benefits was one way they used to do so.
In the 2010-11 school year, Forbes said the average employee contribution for health premiums was 5 percent for family plans and 3 percent for single plans.
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That compares to an average, or mean, employee contribution of just less than 12 percent in the data released Monday. The median contribution was slightly more than 12 percent.
Within that, however, there’s considerable variation.
Twenty-three of the state’s 422 school districts still don’t require teachers to pay anything toward their premiums for a family plan, while Wilmot Union High School in Kenosha County requires contributions of 27.7 percent for a family plan.Act 10 blocked unions from negotiating over benefits, but it didn’t require districts to compel teachers or other employees to pay a certain amount for health insurance.
However, Walker’s budget that year cut school funding by an amount that he said could be recouped by requiring employees to contribute more toward health insurance and pensions.
The data show that maximum out-of-pocket costs vary dramatically, too. Sauk Prairie schools cap those annual expenses at $200 for a family plan, compared to a cap of $24,000 in Lake Geneva schools.
The 12 percent contribution matches what Walker, when he proposed what later became Act 10, suggested that school districts require of employees for health care to offset cuts in state aid.
In the last state budget, Walker proposed requiring that state-funding increases for school districts be contingent on whether a district met the 12 percent threshold. But that provision was scrapped by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, which instead substituted the requirement for districts to report the data released Monday.