Fair benefits

To the Editor:

In her op-ed column last week, Maine’s U.S. Senator Susan Collins bemoans the law that requires large employers to provide health insurance for their workers. She wants to redefine full-time work to let employers off the hook. But I say rather than rewrite the law, maybe employers just ought to provide health insurance. Shouldn’t that be part of fair compensation for those who spend at least 30 hours a week on the job?

One example she uses is the plight of school districts that would now have to provide such a benefit for substitute teachers. She surely misunderstands this job!

When I was young, I worked for nearly ten years as a “substitute” in an era when full-time teachers were not being hired. Although the rules on paper might only require me to be present from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. (a 32-and-a-half hour work week), this was not the reality.

It is necessary for a conscientious substitute teacher to come in early to check out the roster and lesson plans, gather materials, make photocopies, etc. More preparation time is needed when instructions say simply “The Emancipation Proclamation” or “Act 2 of Hamlet,” for example.

When a position lasts for more than a few days, time is needed outside the school day to study the curriculum, grade papers, make up quizzes, develop lesson plans, attend faculty meetings and parent conferences – I could go on.

Threats of benefit cuts also loom for paraprofessionals. My sister is a special education para who has stayed in a dismally low-paying job for years because of the health care benefit for her family. Who would even take these demanding jobs if compensation continues to erode?

When I had such a job, I received no health insurance benefits. Luckily, my spouse had coverage for our family through his employer.

I find it sad that some employers and their representatives in Congress are trying to figure out any way possible to avoid paying fair compensation for their workers. And as a taxpayer, I would be ashamed to skimp on teachers’ pay and benefits, even if they are “only” substitutes or paraprofessionals.

Ann Caswell

Seal Cove

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