With political leaders turning up the volume on talk of “the GIC,” parents may wonder why an issue that sounds like inside baseball could make a big difference for what happens in their children’s classrooms in the next year.
With political leaders turning up the volume on talk of “the GIC,” parents may wonder why an issue that sounds like inside baseball could make a big difference for what happens in their children’s classrooms in the next year. But here’s why this inside baseball could be a home run for Massachusetts children.
GIC stands for “Group Insurance Commission” — the entity that provides health insurance to state workers. Parents, however, should read it as “Guard Instruction for Children” because it’s key to preserving public school funding in these challenging economic times.
Municipal health benefit costs have risen on average 13 percent a year, but the GIC did much better, keeping increases around 8 percent because of its bulk purchasing power.
With budget cuts an inevitable consequence of the recession, one thing we should do right away is help towns and cities save money by moving into the GIC or an equivalent plan. Cautious estimates predict at least $100 million in savings if all communities got the same value in health benefits that the state gets. That’s $100 million or more we can use to keep teachers in classrooms.
This is critical because despite Gov. Deval Patrick’s courageous commitment recently to protect state aid for classrooms, the fact is the state pays less than half the bill for educating Massachusetts kids. Towns and cities pay the lion’s share of school costs, and in our incredible shrinking economy, they’re going to have to make tough budget calls this spring.
We should untie the hands of towns and cities so they can comparison-shop for the best value plans for their employees. Town managers ought to be free to choose health plans that best meet their community’s overall needs, while the collective bargaining process settles how towns and employees share the premium costs. That solution preserves teachers’ rights to health benefits, and saves money we can use to keep teachers in our schools.
State leaders have batted around a lot of ideas on GIC savings recently. They need to hear from voters that this inside baseball matters for kids.
We want to guard instruction for children, and health benefit savings are a potential $100 million home run for kids.
Leslie Nicholson is a Lexington resident and the state director of Stand for Children, a statewide education advocacy organization.