"It's not a decision they took lightly, " Kelly Rossman-McKinney says of the school board's decision to end a $166 dollar monthly stipend for teachers, " but it is a decision that had to be made.
Rossman-McKinney, hired to speak for the Lansing School District, on this issue describes the decision as not just necessary, but courageous as well.
"The bottom line is this ultimately benefits the kids."
That stipend came to be 3 years ago as part of a deal to encourage teachers to switch health insurance, from a fully-paid plan to one with co-pays. It amounts to nearly $170,000 in monthly spending for the district.
"This is not chump change," Rossman-McKinney says.
The allowance came to an end Thursday after the school board declared the union and district at an impasse in negotiations, and voted to end the payments as of December 1, at a special meeting.
The Lansing Schools Education Association, a local division of the Michigan Education Association, held its own closed door meeting Monday to organize. Union leaders adamantly deny they are at any impasse, and says that school board meeting was held behind their backs without any notice to the union or the press.
"We're disheartened," president Jerry Swartz says, "but we're at the table."
Swartz says that $166 is important money, especially to new teachers. He says it amounts to a 10% reducation in wages for some of the lower earners on the pay scale.
He says they'll respond with lawyers, likely filing an unfair labor practice grievance. They will also look at going to court to file an injuction and force the district to pay the stipend.
"We're not willing as an employee group to bail them out," Swartz says.
The board will re-vote on the issue at their meeting Thursday night. The union will be there to speak out.