Education, Pontiac — July 12, 2013 at 6:41 am

Pontiac teachers’ health insurance cancelled when district uses insurance premiums to balance its books


They’re being attacked from ALL sides

This story is truly outrageous. Pontiac teachers have filed a lawsuit against the Pontiac school district for collecting money from their paychecks for health insurance coverage and then using the money to make their bottom line look better to the state of Michigan rather than paying premiums. As a result, the teachers’ health coverage will be cancelled at the end of the month.

Pontiac teachers are accusing the school board, business manager and former school superintendent of fraud, deceit and malfeasance for taking money out of their paychecks for health insurance premiums and using it in the general fund for operations.

In fact, Michael Lee, attorney for the Pontiac Education Association, alleged in an Oakland County Circuit lawsuit filed this week that the reason school officials were putting the money into the general fund was to try and deceive Michigan officials as to the status of the state-approved plan to reduce the district’s deficit of $37.7 million.

“They have been taking money out of our checks and they haven’t been paying MESSA (Michigan Education Special Services Association),” said Aimee McKeever, president of the PEA.

As a result, the insurance carrier canceled coverage effective July 31. […]

The lawsuit names each trustee individually, including Board President Carrol Turpin, Vice President Karen Cain, Secretary Brenda Carter, Treasurer Sherman Williams II and trustees Susan Loveland, Mattie McKinney-Hatchett and S. Barbara Raby.

Also named are Paul Bryant, business manager, who, according to the lawsuit, has sole authority to make payments to vendors; and former Superintendent Brian Dougherty, who was charged with running daily operations from Aug. 27, 2012 until May 17, 2013.

The district actually owes MESSA $11 million going back as far as the 2011-2012 school year.

This case will likely be used to defend taking over the Pontiac school system under the control of an emergency manager. It is currently “under review” by the state of Michigan. The first thing that should happen is that these corrupt school officials should be sent to jail for their crimes if the allegations are found to be true. What happens all too often is that corruption at the top is then projected on to the teachers who are the innocent victims of poor management, corruption, and malfeasance. They are then victimized again by being portrayed as greedy for wanting health insurance in the first place.

Rather than using this as an excuse to screw teachers over more, we should be using it as a motivation to (a) better fund our schools, (b) start treating teachers with the dignity and respect that they deserve, and (c) pass a single-payer, universal health care law that would solve this issue once and for all.

If one single teacher or one of their family members is harmed or, Goddess forbid, dies because they lack health insurance from this, the people responsible for this heinous act will bear the full responsibility.

It’s important to note that this isn’t just moving around piles of money that are in the school district’s budget. They literally took money the teachers paid out of pocket and applied it to their bottom line. The outcome is that these teachers effectively had their benefits stripped and their pay cut at the same time and they never even knew it was happening. It is theft, pure and simple.

These teachers deserve better. So, so much better.