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Nampa schools take a small step forward … sort of

Nampa schools take a small step forward … sort of

Wayne Hoffman
June 30, 2014
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June 30, 2014

Believe it or not, the Nampa School District’s new collective bargaining agreement with the local labor union reminds me of a scene from “Star Trek.”

In this particular episode, the supercomputer android Data, who owns a cat named Spot, kisses his girlfriend, Jenna, for the first time. Afterward, Jenna asks him, “What were you just thinking?”

Data answers, “In that particular moment, I was reconfiguring the warp field parameters, analyzing the collected works of Charles Dickens, calculating the maximum pressure I could safely apply to your lips, considering a new food supplement for Spot …”

Jenna replies, “I'm glad I was in there somewhere.”

Like Data, school boards wrestle with interests competing for time and attention. They’re supposed to 1) be stewards of taxpayer dollars 2) who are supposed to direct limited resources toward the education of children and 3) retain employees and keep them happy. Sometimes those values are at odds, but school boards have to think about all those things at once.

We have been writing since 2009 that it is unfortunate that school districts fret about lacking basic classroom supplies, and yet millions of dollars could easily be saved if only employees were asked to actually pay for their insurance plans.

When the Nampa School District wound up $4.5 million in the red a couple of years ago, we advised the district to start out by adjusting employee benefits. But the labor union preferred employees to take furlough days instead, believing that furlough days were temporary, but changes in benefits would be forever.

The new labor union agreement, at most, is a step in the right direction, but the step is so marginal it borders on ephemeral. Employees who had previously paid nothing for their insurance will now have to pay $11.49 a month. But that’s just 2 percent of the premium, with the rest of the $476 monthly cost borne by taxpayers. Two percent. That’s it.

At least the district had the wherewithal to increase health insurance deductibles from $750 to $1,000 and from $1,000 to $2,000. Even still, you will note such deductibles are nearly unheard of in the private sector.

But I can’t help but empathize with Data’s jilted girlfriend, wishing he’d put a lot more thought into her and a little less time on the warp engines. In the case of Nampa, the district should give attention to the needs of taxpayers and students as much as it does the desires of the labor union.

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