A quality education is unquestionably one of those things most everyone agrees is one of the keys to, at least, financial success, and irrevocably hooked to that idea is the fact it takes teachers, other educators and support staff to make it happen in a way that pays off for all stakeholders. The bull-in-the-china-shop issue that’s present in nearly every political race this election---the financial future of PEIA has profound implications not only for those who need it for medical coverage, but the future of education itself rests on being able to create a compensation package that’s realistic for future teachers.
If you were a young man or woman who has a tendency to like the idea of teaching others as life’s work, would you seriously consider it as a field of study for college or would you consider the earning power of other professions or vocations and choose something else. Thankfully some do in spite of the poor outlook on wages and benefits based on today’s offerings by government. And even though the recent strike produced some good results, the key to success for our educators will be sustaining buying power and reasonable healthcare year in and year out.
The trick for those asking for your votes in all of this will be just how to accomplish fairness and affordability in the PEIA system. They will realize very soon, the new ones, that no matter how much money they throw at the PEIA issue the costs continue to rise annually. It reduces policyholders spending power and even medical providers get hit hard as well because of the very low reimbursement rates paid to them by the insurance company. It’s a very real problem for all involved, especially if you are retired and your spending power is reduced every year that medical and insurance costs continue to rise.
A number of ideas were presented at a recent listening tour stop at Logan High School’s Little Theater. Some of the scenarios described by school personnel were heart rendering and just plain sad. The group representing the governor’s task force on PEIA were there led by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, listened, even made some comments, but nothing compared to some of the medical horror stories told by the mostly teacher filled crowd which filled the theatre. The need is great and it is at an emergency status. But I digress.
Without a solid and longlasting solution to improving the financial lot of those who teach our children, fewer and fewer will choose the profession creating even more trouble for future generations of students just because there won’t be enough qualified educators to do the job correctly. It will have a profound effect not only on those students and their futures, but business, industry, every possible area in which qualified personnel are needed to fill a job requiring training or education of some sort.
The debate will continue and will even heat up some during the coming campaign and come to a head again when the legislature meets in January. The answers are not going to come easily. But for those teachers and support personnel that are in the system today, it is of utmost importance this issue be met head on by lawmakers, not only for today, but for the long ranged future as well.
And, don’t forget that in this mix of stakeholders are retired teachers and state employees, active state employees and most importantly taxpayers and an economy limited by about 400,000 bread winners who pay the bills across West Virginia.