Grand Rapids cuts teachers' pay to poverty levels
The second-grade teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Burton Elementary was among nearly 150 teachers summoned by their union’s crisis team to pressure school officials Monday, March 4 to settle a pending contract and do something about applying a state law limiting what school districts and other public employers pay for employee health insurance premiums.
Since Feb. 15 when the district began deducting back health insurance premiums over what it’s allowed to pay under the state’s Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act of 2011, Ratliff said morale among teachers has suffered dramatically and a sort of depression has set in. Some are losing $300 per pay check.
“I am a five-year teacher who brings home $555.39 for two weeks and who currently qualifies for a Bridge Card,” Ratliff told the school board Monday to loud applause from her colleagues. “How is this possible?"
Some two dozen teachers told similar stories during nearly an hour of often emotional testimonials. Some told of renting rooms in order to keep their homes while others said they simply can no longer pay their bills.
“You can see it in people’s eyes and in the way they hold themselves,” Ratliff said after Monday’s meeting. “We don’t know what to do.