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Board benefits: Fund a teacher instead

Manchester's schools could hire at least one more full-time teacher if Board of School Committee members just took medical insurance from their employers, spouses or the private sector instead of from the taxpayers. Outrageously, the school board continues to defend this unjustified perk even as children are packed into classrooms of close to 40 students.

The issue of health and dental insurance for city elected officials comes up every few years. Not surprisingly, the aldermen (who also get taxpayer-funded insurance) and school board routinely vote to keep billing the taxpayers for their insurance. Most of them claim, as school board member John Avard did last week, that they devote a lot of time to their public service and they deserve the benefits.

It is a lame defense. Health and dental insurance are for full-time employees. Elected board members are not employees; they are volunteers. Many of them, like Avard, are volunteers who are employed in the private sector and could opt for private-sector insurance. They choose not to because the taxpayer-funded insurance is free to them.

Most people probably would take such a perk if it were offered. But it should not be offered because it is not an essential service the city must provide. A small stipend is justified, medical benefits are not.

As radio host Rich Girard discovered, 10 of 14 school board members take either health or dental insurance or both from the city. Ten of 14 aldermen get both health and dental. On the school side, the cost is $90,000 this year just for the premiums. The average teacher pay in Manchester is $56,283, according to the Manchester Education Association.

Do these elected officials really believe that the taxpayers would rather have their money fund politicians' health and dental benefits instead of another teacher for city schools?

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