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Beebe seeks consensus on teacher insurance, prison funding

story by Roby Brock, with Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with The City Wire
roby@talkbusiness.net

Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday (June 19) he’s not calling a special session on changes to the public school employee insurance program until he sees a roll call from each chamber of the legislature with a big majority in both.

The Governor also said he wants to deal with the prison overcrowding situation in a special session and he’s open to a provision to restrict lottery games, but beyond that he does not anticipate adding to a special session agenda.

In a Talk Business & Politics interview on Thursday morning, Beebe said he still wasn’t sure if he would call a special session on the insurance issue.

“We don’t know yet,” he said. “If the bill we’ve already seen and that theoretically is being circulated among the members of the General Assembly is the bill, then I will support that bill and will call a (special) session if I get a roll call from each house that suggests that there is significantly over the majority needed to be able to pass it.”

Beebe said he has heard from lawmakers who are troubled by the potential solution to the teacher insurance crisis, which includes eliminating part-time employees from the plan as well as spouses who have other insurance options. Also, lawmakers are talking about earmarking a portion of state funding that goes to general education needs specifically to paying for insurance premiums.

“I think feedback that I’ve gotten is there is some disagreement among members of the General Assembly,” Beebe said. “I think there is opposition to taking part-time [employees] off. And I think there is some opposition to re-directing some of that FICA saving money, that’s theoretically going to be generated, away from the public schools generally and into insurance payments.

OTHER ITEMS
Beebe is open to adding other items to his call for a special session, if it materializes.

“If we’re going to have a session then we’re going to have to address the problems our counties are having in county jails and our prison back-up,” he said.

County officials are housing a backlog of state inmates, which is putting a strain on local resources. There is also a funding shortfall that is preventing the state from access some existing prison beds, but Beebe said there is a way to free up $6.3 million to resolve the problem.

“That $6.3 million will get you 600 beds in existing areas,” he said. “It could reduce that backlog.”

Beebe said he is also open to adding the issue of a potential lottery restriction to a special session’s call. State lottery officials have expressed interest in adding monitor games as way to boost sagging lottery revenue; however, some lawmakers are worried it will lead to more addictive gambling behavior and they want to enact legislation to restrict the new game’s introduction.

“I will include the lottery restriction on the call for a special session if the consensus is there in both chambers,” Beebe said.

Beebe said he did not foresee a possible call item to include changing a state law allowing more access to the state’s ARE-ON network, which offers super high-speed bandwidth and is restricted to research universities and medical networks.

State education officials and some members of a task force studying broadband access for K-12 schools have advocated for allowing the schools to tie into the ARE-ON network. Broadband providers have expressed skepticism on the costs and need for the move in certain areas of the state.

Beebe, who supports a law change to allow for more ARE-ON access, said the broadband law needs to be addressed, but he doesn’t think the legislature has had enough discussion on the subject to add it to his special session call.

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“That’s not ripe. The legislature is not ready to address that,” he said. “There hasn’t been enough discussion about it. There’s still a lot of stuff that needs to be worked out. They’ll probably have to deal with that later.”

Also of interest, if a special session is called, the Arkansas House of Representatives is undergoing a massive renovation in its main chamber. The House would have to meet in other quarters. Sources say the Big Mac building and the Old State House are two venues being considered.

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Comments

Teacher Insurance, etc

Here's a novel idea about funding. Make do with what you've got, and stop spending money you don't have. Teachers need to contribute to their own health insurance, not rely on the state taxpayers. We pay for our health insurance, teachers can do the same. Many are over-paid and under-worked already. Cease feeding kids during the summer months, during breakfast, and any other time parents don't pay up. No whining about hungry kids, the parasites feeding at the public trough get enough welfare to pay for kids's lunches. It may seem harsh, but life is harsh sometimes.

Overpaid?

Not sure who you think is over paid? Sure we may have adminstration positions out our ears. But the average teacher starts around $35,000. Thats with a 4yr education (have you priced college educations?). They also spend quite a bit of their own money on their classrooms. Theres room to trim, and ways to improve our public schools, but starting with reducing classroom teacher pay is a sure fire way to make the problem worse. We spend more per pupil than most developed countries. Why is this? Where is all the money going? (hint: look at the top dozen salaries at the larger school districts, I think it would alarm you)

Not Bad Pay For

less than 9 actual months of work and that would total about 48,000 dollars in pay for a worker who worked 12 months. Do agree that top management at the school system is way out of line and needs to be adjusted down but starting pay at 48,000 for a 12 month job is not bad pay at entry level.

I disagree

Just because you average something out does not mean they make that. I guarantee you most would work 12mos if that meant they could make 48k starting out. But they dont have that chance now do they? Its not possible, so your averages really dont matter. How about adminstration jobs paying $200k+? I guess lets hammer the ones making $40k or less first. When you figure the average person gets 2-3wks vacation, a few sick days, etc. The teachers really dont get that good of a deal. School ended around here around June 6th, they go back the first of August. Thats barely two months. They get a few weeks at Christmas and Spring Break, but keep in mind the average worker gets 2-3weeks a year off or more as well. So bascially they get 2months off in the summer. Teachers have a lot of gov regulation, parents that think little johnny can do no wrong, require lots of continuing education (see gov regulation). Can you imagine teaching 25 or more 1st graders? I'm glad we have people willing too!
Just because you average something out does not mean they make that. I guarantee you most would work 12mos if that meant they could make 48k starting out. But they dont have that chance now do they? Its not possible, so your averages really dont matter. How about adminstration jobs paying $200k+? I guess lets hammer the ones making $40k or less first. When you figure the average person gets 2-3wks vacation, a few sick days, etc. The teachers really dont get that good of a deal. School ended around here around June 6th, they go back the first of August. Thats barely two months. They get a few weeks at Christmas and Spring Break, but keep in mind the average ...>> Read the entire comment.

Survey...Who is making too much money here?

Teachers are one of our main sacred cows primarily because they can tell the kids to tell mommy and daddy who they should vote for because they know who's the best one for the job. Translation this is the one that has promised to take care of them the most convincingly. The astronomical increase is due to Obamacare which transfers a lot of former public costs to the private sector..the multiple and quite often sympathy ambulance $500+ runs to shelters all over the nation on a daily basis, inmates who may have meth withdrawal problems and need to be admitted, the Cadillac care...all these are now ours to cover instead of various governmental agencies freeing up money to perhaps campaign for a tax increase. The way bad laws get changed is people experience them first hand and get angry. People who are insulated from this experience will not mind bad laws. Pay up teachers!