Budget Deficit Threatens Insurance Program for Public Educators

With the Texas Legislature facing a $10 billion budget shortfall, the House Appropriations Committee is proposing a plan that would cut supplemental health care funding for public educators.

The cuts would affect 600,000 teachers, administrators and campus maintenance workers enrolled in the program.

Some local educators believe the plan is taking them a step backward in their quest for better incentives.

"Most of the teachers who are teaching are doing it because they have a calling to teach," says Hubbard Middle School history teacher Larry McMahan. "But we don't enjoy dealing with all these little things--like getting benefits, and then seeing them cut."

If Texas legislators agree to cut back on supplemental health insurance, teachers like McMahan  would see their annual $1,000 benefit sliced in half. And maintenance workers, bus drivers and custodial staffs would see only a few hundred dollars in extra benefits.

With the funding covering 25 percent of her insurance costs, eighth grade teacher Denise Attaway of Tyler says she's come to rely on it.

"My initial reaction was it was a slap in the face because they gave us the benefits in the first place, and they're taking them away from us," she says. "It's difficult for people to come into the field knowing that there are no incentives and compensations like there are in other fields of work."

The Texas house will vote on the plan in early April.