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THE TORCH:  NOVEMBER 2004

THE BOTTOM LINE

     Hugh M. Spoljaric, President

              Kingston Teachers’ Federation

                             “Unintended Consequences”

         It was in the 1860’s that Dorothea Dix addressed the plight of the handicapped in our society. To address the concern, state hospitals and institutions were established. In the early 1970’s, Geraldo Rivera  exposed the despicable conditions at Willowbrook State Hospital. By 1974, the first federal laws were enacted that began to move handicapped students from segregated classrooms to integrated settings. I remember having Louis, Vernon, Susie, Theresa, and Scott, all severely physically disabled, and incorporated into my Social Studies class from their new Resource Room assignment. The idea was to limit the segregated setting of a school classroom only for the handicapped. As the years passed, more classifications emerged and the integrated classroom became restricted to Resource Room students.

     In 1991, federal law reauthorized the original 1974 law once again. Two additional groups of classifications, Learning Disabled and Emotionally Disturbed, emerged. Terms like ‘least restrictive environment’ were used to determine classifications. The number of 504 (learning adaptation) cases increased. Inclusion produced a Consultant Teacher model that was created in an effort to have the special education teacher and the classroom teacher work more closely together. Annual reviews, three-year reviews, and annual reevaluation of Individual Learning Plans were mandated. The number of classified students in Kingston grew from 3% to 14% of the population and costs rose, as classified students were more included in the regular classroom.  Parent involvement was mandated and some parents utilized advocates to advance the interests of their child. If a parent or advocate challenged the school district in the assertion that the schools were not capable of meeting the needs of the child, then the district was forced to pay for the child’s private schooling. Sounds good, but here’s what happened.

     The private school is accountable to no one except, perhaps, the parents. They do not have to report back to the district that has provided the funding. It’s an open account that costs many public school districts into the six figures for the private placement in an institutional school for the handicapped. And, what has really been done? The child that society has promoted for 30 years to be integrated into the classroom has been restricted to a segregated institutional setting. The common evil that was prevalent 30 years ago has come full circle. It’s an unintended consequence of government decisions that empower self-interest.

    Citizens’ rights are enforced through the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Education is a right. Is it only a matter of time before every child will be eligible for an IEP. How will government respond? Will public schools come full circle and only offer the 3 R’s? There are many who would like to see that happen now.

    And, that’s the Bottom Line.                   

                 TOM HOBART TO RETIRE

     The only President that the New York State United Teachers has ever known has decided to step down. In a letter dated October 30 and sent to all local Presidents, Tom Hobart announced that NYSUT’s 33rd Representative Assembly in April will be his last and he will retire the next day.

     Hobart stated that with the move of Toni Cortese to the Vice Presidency of the AFT, he was the last remaining member of the group that originally formed NYSUT from the merger of the NYS Teachers and the United Teachers of New York in 1973. The merger did not happen overnight, During the time of interim governance, Hobart served as co-president with the legendary Al Shanker.

     KTF Hugh Spoljaric remembered Hobart as a person who was always easily accessible. “There were times when he would return my call while he was on a train or at an airport. He crisscrossed the state every week and was never too busy to attend an important event regardless of the time of day. And, Tom always greeted you by name.”

     Hobart said in his letter, “Every morning when I awake, I am excited to go to the NYSUT headquarters, to travel to a local, or to represent NYSUT at a meeting, a conference, or a convention.”

     The NYSUT RA will not only honor Tom Hobart, but it will elect the next President of a union that has grown from 100,000 members to 500,000 members under his leadership.

                             HEALTH TRUST NOTICE 

                                     Effective January 1, 2005   I          

       The following changes have been adopted and agreed to by the Trustees of the Kingston Trust Fund. All modifications are effective January 1, 2005, unless otherwise indicated. As our health plan landscape changes, the Trustees have a fiduciary responsibility to address needs. Please read the insert with this Torch. A complete explanation of the modifications and clarifications is available by going to the KTF website or by contacting the Trust Office.

#1 VISION--Increase coverage from 50% to 80% after $25 co-pay to a maximum benefit of $150 annually. Additionally, glasses, contacts, frames will be covered at 50% to a maximum of $150 annually.


#2: HEALTH CLUB DUES REIMBURSEMENT--The plan will reimburse members up to $100 annually for single membership and $150 annually for both the member and their spouse. Reimbursement will be made at the end of the membership year (beginning January 1, 2005) upon submission of proof of payment and membership in a health club for 12 months. WE WANT TO ENCOURAGE MEMBERS TO EXERCISE REGULARLY, EAT RIGHT, AND TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT AND LIFESTYLE. INDIVIDUALS HAVE CONTROL OVER AT LEAST 35% OF THEIR OWN HEALTH.

#3: DEPENDENT CHILDREN--Increase the age of dependent children who are non-students from age 19 to age 23. Coverage ends on the last day of the month in which the dependent attains age 23. Dependent gross income must be less than the IRS allowable($3,100 for 2004), unmarried, living at home, and claimed as a dependent on the parent's tax return. Coverage ends when dependent status ceases; when the dependent is responsible for more than 50% of his/her support, when dependent begins working with an expected income that will exceed the IRS limit; when dependent becomes covered under any other insurance plan. The failure to timely notify the plan within 60 days of any change may adversely affect the availability of COBRA for the dependent or may create a financial liability for benefits paid by the plan when the member was ineligible to be covered. Once a dependent no longer qualifies as such, they are eligible for COBRA coverage for 36months.


#4: PRESCRIPTIONS-- Prescription costs continue to rise at over 20% per year over the past 5 years (40% in the last two years). The Trustees have appealed to members to use the 93-day supply with mail order, especially for maintenance drugs. Yet, only 6-8% of members have complied. Mail order saves the member money and saves the Trust money. Therefore, as adopted on July 1 and effective January 1, 2005, any medication refilling more than three (3) consecutive times (i.e. maintenance drug) must be filled through the 93-day mail order. Any member who attempts to refill a drug that they have used for three (3) months or more will be refused the 31-day supply at the local pharmacy on the fourth attempt. (Please do not use mail order for any newly prescribed drug until you are sure that it works for you.

Call the Trust Office for mail order application. Please use it!


   Refills at the pharmacy level will not be permitted for more than 31 days.   DO NOT send restricted prescriptions that only will allow for a 30-day refill at any one time (
certain narcotic types of medications, etc.) to mail order.  These prescriptions need to be filled locally.                      

    Additionally, the local pharmacy 31-day co-pay will increase on January 1, 2005, to $10 generic and $20 name brand.

#5: CO-PAYS--Overall utilization of the plan has increased. Additionally, doctors and care facilities, both PPO and NPPO, are demanding increases for their services. On the plus side, 86% of all members use in-network (PPO) services. For out of pocket expenses, the KTF is negotiating an IRS 125 Plan with the district. This enables active members to set aside a designated amount of salary PRIOR to taxes, to be used to pay for out of pocket expenses. A 125 Plan saves the district and the member money.
    
PPO: The PPO deductible remains at zero, but the out of pocket percentage co-pay will rise from $300 to $500 (Individual) and from $750 to $1000 (Family) only when an IRS125 Plan has been ratified with the district.
  
NPPO: The NPPO deductible will increase from $250 to $500 (Individual) and from $500 to $1000 (Family) and the NPPO co-pay will rise from $750 to $1200 (Individual) and from $1250 to $2000 (Family) only when an IRS 125 Plan has been ratified with the district.
     Since an IRS 125 Plan uses pre-tax dollars, the actual cost increases for active members will be approximately 40% less than if they had to use after tax dollars. Unfortunately, 125 Plan are only available to active employees.
#6 EMERGENCY ROOMS: Members continue to use Emergency Rooms for non-emergency events. Emergency Rooms are open 24/7 and, as such, costs are high. There are alternatives the ER's (walk-in care facilities, i.e. Emergency One) that are less expensive to both the Trust and the member (Emergency One=$10). The Emergency Room fee will rise from $50 to $75.
#7 COBRA RULES: If a Trust member fails to notify the plan of a COBRA event (legal separation, divorce, child no longer qualifies as a dependent, child no longer qualifies as a student, etc.), the right to COBRA coverage will be forfeited. The member will be responsible for reimbursing the plan for the greater of the premiums paid on behalf of the ineligible dependent (or spouse) or the actual claims paid on behalf of such ineligible dependent (or spouse) during the period the dependent received coverage and was not eligible to be covered as a dependent under the plan rules.

They’re In! Kingston Neurological Associates have become PPO providers for the Kingston Trust Plan.

 

                               LET’S GO BOWLING!

     The Kingston Schools Bowling League meets at Mid-City Lanes at 4 pm (practice at 3:50 pm) beginning on Wednesday, November 17 and continuing every Wednesday that school is in session until March 16, 2005. The cost is $9 per week and games are finished by 5;30 pm. Any past or present school employee(and/or friend) is welcome to join.

     Sign up as a team or as individuals with Mary McLaughlin at Miller.

 

                       KRTF—ON THE MOVE!

     KRTF VOTE/COPE Chair Don Sweeney reports that KRTF members have contributed $6,239 to VOTE/COPE, the political action arm of NYSUT. This represents an increase of over 100% since the drive of 2004. The retirees should be congratulated for this remarkable achievement. Don reports that more donations are on the way and a final total will be available in the December Torch.

     The last retiree luncheon drew 80 retirees to Williams Lake Hotel. The KRTF will hold their December luncheon at Wiltwyck. Retiree Viola Opdahl will be doing a book signing of her book on the Shakers at the event on December 12. Contact Don Sweeney for reservations and additional info.

     

                            SPECIAL EDUCATION GUIDELINES   

     Procedures regarding the number of classified elementary school students who are enrolled in regular classes were developed in 1974 and placed in the contract. When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 1991, the contract language remained the same, but, with the Commissioner’s Part 200 regulations on inclusion, the interpretation was extended. The contract language states that no more than three (3) Resource Room students were allowed in a regular education class. The interpretation was that these were the least restricted students (along with the new area of Consultant Teacher) and that any other classifications were more restrictive. Any time that the number of classified students was greater than three in number in a regular class, a remedy was needed.

     The inclusionary regulations of 1991 also produced a grievance regarding the number of classified students in regular classes at the secondary level. A KTF agreement with the district, signed on September 29, 1993 by then Superintendent Bill LeDoux, initiated the following procedures:

1.     Individual class lists will now reflect an asterisk to identify students who are classified handicapped students under Part 200 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education;

2.     In those cases in which more than Five classified students are enrolled a review process will be conducted upon the request of the academic teacher to their department head. The review team will be based on the needs of the individual student(s) involved but may include all or part of the following staff: academic department heads, the special education coordinator, the appropriate guidance counselor, the special education teacher(s), a building administrator, the teacher requesting the review, and other support staff as determined appropriate by the department head and/or initiating teacher;

3.     The intent of the review process is to discuss, explore, and recommend possible changes including, but not limited to:

(a)   alternative scheduling; (b) alternative regular education or special education support services.

Additionally, teachers who are involved in IEP’s should be aware that some designated services create work place obligations for teachers the following year. Although well intentioned, they may compromise a teacher’s academic freedom and contractual agreement.

     Several years ago, the state education department allowed for 6:1:1 classes to be expanded to 8:1:1 and 12:1:1 classes to be expanded to 15:1:1 without a variance. Any numbers in excess of these is a violation of education law and must be reported to the principal. Also, please send a copy of the report to the KTF.

     Lastly, there are a number of students who become declassified, but still need services. Also, there are an increasing number of 504 cases that need to be supervised. If existing special education teachers are assigned the duty, it amounts to increased work and should be grieved. Teachers should inform their Principal and their building rep, in writing, if these situations occur.

                             

                                  BLOOD DRIVE

     KTF Grievance Chair Suzanne Jordan has, once again, organized the KTF Blood Drive for 2004. It will be held at the J. W. Bailey School on Wednesday, November 17. It will begin at 2:30 and continue until all donors are accommodated.

     Sign up sheets for scheduling a time are available from building reps. 56 pints were donated last year. The KTF is encouraging the huge number of new teachers (last three years) to sign up and to give. For those who can’t give, your volunteer efforts at the drive are needed. Every pint and every full shift is worth 50 Key To Fun points.