To the editor:

   On Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, all paraprofessionals (aides) in the Ripon Area School District were told that their hours were going to be cut to 27.5 per week, so that the school district won’t have to pay for their health insurance.

   There is a mandate attached to the Affordable Healthcare Act which states that employees working more than 30 hours per week will be considered full time, should be offered health insurance, and should not pay more than 9.5 percent of their income for their coverage. At this time, our aides are paying a much larger percentage than that, and the school district can’t afford to cover health benefits any longer.

   We have the best staff of paraprofessionals around. ... Teachers can’t be everywhere, and our aides are trained professionals who have been dedicated to the educational needs of our children.

   The purpose of the Affordable Health-care Act was not to reduce workers’ hours but to ensure that people in all walks of life have access to health care. Yes, the mandate is national, and all school districts across the country are facing the new rules. But to lay blame solely on the new health-care law is wrong.

   It is more difficult in Wisconsin to cover benefits; our schools are in dire financial straits due to the deep budget cuts from Gov. Walker. Last year, he cut $1.6 billion from the education budget, the fourth largest in the country and the largest in Wisconsin’s history.

   The state of Wisconsin is now paying $1,038 less per student per year than in 2008 (The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). This is in contrast to the 2- to 3-percent annual increase the state historically allowed.

   ... Where did the money go? Vouchers, for one. There is also a $977 million budget surplus in our state (Legislative Fiscal Bureau). Maybe that money should be put back into public education where it belongs. If it was, the Ripon Area School District could provide benefits for these employees, or at least offer an hourly wage increase to offset the cut in hours per week.

... The Ripon Area School District’s mission statement is “We invest in learning today for our tomorrow.” Let’s do that.

— Barb Mitchell  
809 Newbury St.

To read the entire letter, see the March 13, 2014 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.