'Belly up in 60 to 90 days'

The union that represents Clark County School District teachers has been merciless in panning the management skills and salaries of the system's administrators.

What's that expression about people in glass houses and stones? Last week, Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita told members the union's health trust -- the plan that provides health insurance for 17,000 teachers and their families - will go "belly up in 60 to 90 days."

As recently as a few months ago, trust CEO Peter Albert, who is paid $500,000 per year - about 50 percent more than district Superintendent Dwight Jones - was touting the plan as cheaper and better than private-sector coverage offered by the district to other employee groups.

The Review-Journal's Trevon Milliard reported last week that district audits show the trust has lost more than $3.6 million since July 1 because claims have exceeded revenues for years. The trust gets more than $100 million each year from taxpayers, and it has almost no cash reserves.

And the union accuses Mr. Jones and his administration of mismanagement? Last year the union refused to let the district take over medical coverage for teachers, and soon the trust won't be able to pay its bills.

If that happens, teachers will be liable for unpaid medical claims, from generic prescription drugs to hospital stays. For thousands of families, that would be devastating. School district support workers endured such hardships in 2001, when their own union's health trust collapsed, leaving behind $8 million in unpaid claims and debt.

The school district and the CCEA don't agree on much these days - they're at impasse again on a contract for this year, heading to binding arbitration. But they should be able to reach an immediate agreement on transitioning teachers to a new health insurance plan, one that ensures they won't be hammered by big medical bills before spring. If the union won't agree to that much, it will have failed its members.

And the next time its leaders levy accusations of mismanagement and bloated salaries, they should look in the mirror.