Lack of Empathy and Understanding

Last night a lawmaker in West Virginia, Eric Householder had a heated twitter exchange with a teacher (see some screen shots below).

The teacher tweeted that we need to #fixPEIA – PEIA is the Public Employees Insurance Agency in West Virginia.  All state employees are served by this and like all insurances, this agency is dealing with increased costs.  Instead of supporting the state workers, the government is passing along unreasonable cuts in service and increases in copays for these reduced benefits.

Rather than listening, working with colleagues to try to solve a problem or engaging in constructive dialogue with state residents, Mr. Householder chose to respond disrespectfully, suggesting this teacher could teach summer school or get a second job or cut internet at home to save money.  Seriously, this was the conversation.  On twitter.

As you can imagine, educators were upset.  All day long, they have been tweeting at Mr. Householder.

West Virginia consistently ranks 49th of 50 states for teacher pay, and consistently at the bottom of ratings for conditions, job opportunities and just about every other ranking that rates education conditions.  Yet, teachers continue to teach, stay in WV because of their love for the state and power through these conditions.

I’m the daughter of WV teachers.  I’m the granddaughter of WV teachers.  I’m the niece of WV teachers.  I grew up and went to WV public schools.  I went to college in WV.  And I never though I’d teach or live anywhere else but my beloved state.  However, here I am, 14 years into my career and I’ve been outside WV for the last 13.    I’ve lived through benefit cuts – when I was in elementary school both of my parents  were WV teachers and we lost our dental and vision insurance in budget cuts.  Later on, my grandmother, a retired teacher who was promised insurance benefits after retirement found them taken away in another round of budget cuts.  And now, my parents are facing incredible premium increases and benefit changes once again…you guess it, in the name of budget cuts.

WV State code states that employees contribute 20% and that the state pay 80% of the cost of healthcare. State employees are facing drastic reductions in benefits and much higher copy’s and out-of-pocket costs. Instead of working to find solutions, instead of amending the code to change the percentage and fund this cost increase, the legislature is on break right now and engaging negatively with educators. Another lawmaker has spent time this week promoting a bill that would ensure that the two major universities in WV (WVU and Marshall) continue to play a basketball game each year.   AND then, to suggest teachers should cut internet or get a second job to save money?

Please contact Eric Householder – you can reach him on twitter here – and let him know how you feel about educators being told to get a second job, being talked to as though we need to cut costs more and more.  The years of cuts have taken a toll on WV educators.  More and more of them are leaving for other states and better pay, working conditions and benefits.  In fact, WV reported just last month that there are more than 600 instructional vacancies that they are unable to fill.  I’m sure these comments and suggestions will help attract and keep educators.

And to all my friends and family teaching in WV – keep on fighting the fight! We stand with you and will advocate for the state to #FixPEIA.

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23 thoughts on “Lack of Empathy and Understanding

  1. This is insane. It’s crazy that the employees of this state are forced to pay out a fortune just to have good health. It’s not just teachers either, but all state employees, officers, social workers, clerical personnel. There have been NO cost of living increases for years but the workloads have increased and the benefits have decreased. It’s no wonder every state agency has trouble getting and retaining good people.

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      1. Because your beloved democrats really made this state a prosperous one. Please tell the class how the democrats brought WV to the top of all desirable lists again? I mean, they had control for 84 years, surely they must have been able to create job growth, and improved education results in that time. Let me guess, they were “almost there”, they just needed another 84 years to finish their plan?

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  2. The State budget is almost in free fall.
    Would you vote for State income tax increases and or State Sales Tax increases and or State gasoline taxes in order
    to pay for what you propose?
    Unlike the Federal government who can run on deficits (to the tune of almost 20 TRILLION Dollars now and that our grandchildren will be strapped with), the State of West Virginia must balance It’s budget.

    If ANYONE should be able to grasp this fundamental idea, it should be the more educated among us, namely teachers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I fully understand not being able to run on a deficit and the budget issues that are facing this state. However, lawmakers are elected to this job to do the hard work of balancing this budget – perhaps some of the tax breaks to business that treat our state residents poorly and destroy our land? Perhaps creative solutions that DO NOT mean balancing the budget on the pockets of state employees and retirees need to be investigated! This is NOT how a responsible state government should face these problems.

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  3. How about the expectation that our elected officials LISTEN TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS instead looking out for their own self interests!! Perhaps elected officials should also work to cut the CRAP out of budgets so that they can balance the budget while not unnecessarily adding tax burdens to the citizens of WV (or of the United States for that matter).

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  4. The West Virginia Chiropractic Society is working to bring a new model to Medicaid coverage for the 550,000 members in WV under new Affordable Care Act requirements. An organization from another state has utilized this approach with Doctors of Chiropractic as primary care physicians and was able to achieve the following: “Analysis of clinical and cost outcomes on 21,743 member months over a 4-year period demonstrated decreases of 43.0% in hospital admissions per 1000, 58.4% less hospital days per 1000, 43.2% less outpatient surgeries procedures per 1000, and 51.8% pharmaceutical cost reductions when compared with normative conventional medicine IPA performance for the same HMO product in the same geography over the same time frame.” This could save millions by changing from the current traditional medical model of sick care to preventative care currently taught to the chiropractic profession. I am a chiropractic physician and would love to share this study with others.
    My name is Byron Folwell of Folwell Chiropractic Clinic, Inc., located in Parkersburg, WV. I can be reached through email @ folwellchiro@gmail.com or by calling the office at 304-485-9124. P.S., my wife is also a teacher here in West Virginia.

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  5. Everyone is paying more for less when it comes to health insurance. Everyone! I work in the private sector and pay about $150 MORE per month for family coverage than I did before the affordable health care act was passed. Did everyone who pushed for that legislation actually think the insurance companies were going to absorb those costs? This mess can be placed squarely on the ACA.

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  6. Debbie Mills
    Friday we went to Kroger Pharmacy to pick up my husbands Nemenda XR. The pharmacist tells us that the medication is going to cost $750 a month because PEIA dropped it off the prescription drug formulary. It is no longer a preferred drug . There is no generic for Namenda CR. How can they not care about a person in the first stage of dementia. What are we suppose to do? We can’t pay for his medication that he so desperately needs. We are expected to pay 75 percent of any medication that is not on the preferred drug formulary. This is crazy!

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    1. https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/#methodology

      Check out this above survey. It lists West Virginia at 47th in pay when adjusted for cost of living, but list the state as 51st overall and as the worst place in America for teachers.

      The statistical data can differ, but most folks go with the NEA yearly survey. When comparing first year teacher’s salaries across the nation, West Virginia ranks 50/50 since our starting teacher’s salary is $31,000 per year. The only reason other surveys seem to make West Virginia’s plight a little less serious is because West Virginia teacher salary surveys are seriously inflated by the number of retiree-age employees still working in the system because they cannot afford to retire.

      I swear, it feels like we are arguing over something trivial like which apple from the tree has the least amount of bruises and the fewest worms.

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  7. Almost all the health insurers appear to be in a racket. They make money being middlemen. We pay them hefty premiums, they negotiate tremendous discounts with health providers. Those with little or no insurance have no negotiating power. Reminds me of TV programs of the mafia, when they collected “insurance premiums” to do business in their territories. One has to jump through their hoops as customers and sometimes so do health providers. Health provider’s charges are ridiculously high to cover administrative salaries, people who don’t help anyone get well but themselves, or so it appears, and for settlements and judgments against them for malpractice. I would also suppose that the exposure of the CEO of two companies who raised a crucial drug from $13 to over $750 just because he could, is probably the tip of the iceberg of drug company abuse. These people and other “industries” own congress. Put the bull’s-eye where it belongs. It is a problem for private and public alike. While I opine no Republican ever had in mind representing the interests of those who work for others or the state, i.e. the “workingman,” (and even though degreed and regarded as a professional, teachers aren’t treated as such, they are paid workingman wages and have been regarded as such by Dems and Reps alike), I doubt our legislature can fix this problem as it is national in scope. No matter what you think of our current president (remember he caved on the key part of his healthcare bill–“single payer” in order for any of it to pass); also the loss of coal jobs, putting Republicans in our state legislature, right to work, doing away with prevailing wage–anything they do is to help the business end. If you work for a living, they are not and never have been our friends.

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  8. I haven’t had home internet, cable/satellite, or a home phone for years now.  I’ve been driving a 20 yr. old vehicle and even did withOUT a vehicle for 8 months when it became inoperable!  I already go without medical care that I should have and endure pain that I shouldn’t have to endure.  I rent a duplex in town, but shame on me for paying a LITTLE extra for trying to get on a safer BLOCK on my street(if that even exists) out of concern for my children.   I tried to get a job this past summer, but that didn’t work out because I had to attend our Teacher’s Summer Institute to get some of the hours I need for renewal of my teaching certificate (which, yes, the graduate hours obtained from WVU cost me $$); I didn’t have a car for transportation, so I had to look within walking distance; and our opportunity to work gets shorter and shorter every year with the school calendar changes brought about by our legislature’s passage of the very law that turns a blind eye to educators’ need for summer employment, by potentially extending our school year to June 30th. Employers don’t want to deal with that for a temporary employee, but I’ll check with our law enforcement and see if maybe they’re having better luck with these extra jobs you’re speaking of.  I’m sure Mr. Householder doesn’t think they put in enough hours or need any time to recoup from their overworked, underpaid job either.  So, to Mr. Householder I say, do your job and find a way to represent the public employees of your state with a little less arrogance on your part!  When you give us an impossible job to do in our classroom, we don’t ask, nor do we WANT you telling us every detail of HOW to do our job.  I’m guessing you aren’t highly qualified to do our job.  You were elected because you convinced enough people that you were more qualified then your opponent to do YOUR job.   So, don’t just rest on your laurels, make a difference in the lives of all the public employees and their families in WV who are counting on their representatives this session!  If you don’t, you will not only lose many effective and engaging teachers with years of experience, but you will also set up yet another road block to hiring new highly qualified teachers. Does that even matter to this legislature?

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  9. I’m not sure where these jobs are coming from for the summer. I tried to get a job at the big and bad outlet mall we have but I was too overqualified and that was before I had a master’s degree! After I paid for daycare for my two kids, I’d be either in the red or make around $10 a week. That makes a LOT of economical sense. Don’t want to hear anyone griping about how parents should spend more time with their kids or work with their kids over the summer on reading and math. When would I do that if I worked? Don’t want to hear that WV kids aren’t getting enough exercise and how we lead the country in obesity. How would I have time to enter them into sports where they get exercise and learn how to play well together? There is nothing else here for exercise so that sounds about like my only option. Oh wait, we could go hiking at night when I returned home from my summer job where I made nothing. How about someone work on getting internet (period) or CHEAPER internet to rural areas instead of leaving us with the only option of getting satellite internet that is SO expensive and only works at the rate of dial up for half of the month? If I didn’t have internet, my child wouldn’t have the same advantages of the rest because he HAS to use the internet for research or else his education will suffer. How are teachers supposed to take those cheap online classes to renew their certifications? Go to the library that can’t afford to stay open from daylight till dark and then take my babysitter with me to watch them while I work? I beg you, Mr. Delegate to come to work with me and witness what I witness every single day. No one has any idea what these poor teachers go through every day with kids in the classrooms who can’t sit still and their parents won’t do anything to help. Multiply that by about 7 of those kids doing that at one time. Kids can’t get the services they need and that leaves the other 75% out there just hoping to be taught and leaves me hoping that at least 25% will be able to keep up with the rest of the kids in the US who are receiving awesome educational experiences. I could go on and on but what’s the use in trying to give you an idea about what it is like for both teachers and kids. No one will ever listen. Don’t give such stupid suggestions until you walk with one of these teachers on a daily basis for about a week. I trust you, it won’t even take that long to get the picture.

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