Sunday, April 26, 2009

Attention all For-Profit Insurance Salespersons . . . . Kyle Olson Wants to Line Your Pockets With Millions of Tax-Payer Dollars

So you’d better join your colleagues and get your checkbooks out. Write a big one to Kyle for all the help he’s giving you.

Lately, Kyle’s mantra is “dump MESSA.” He writes it almost every chance he gets. He then suggests school districts should buy their employee health insurance from competitors who are mostly for-profit, and mostly provide inferior plans. MESSA is a not-for-profit insurance company and it charges no sales commissions.

At the standard 5% sales commission charged by these non-MESSA competitors, those insurance agents stand to gain over $50 million in sales commissions if Kyle’s mantra is fulfilled statewide. Kyle is their very own, “one-man economic stimulus plan.” Maybe this is why Kyle Olson insists on not disclosing his list of financial donors.

Kyle Must Have Forgotten to Read His Own Reform Agenda

In it, he calls for the disclosure of “information about any lobbying/political advocacy organization the district supports with its funds, including the name of those organizations, the amount of dues paid to each, and the legislative agenda that each lobbying organization is supporting or opposing.”

He also calls for disclosing “historical budgets and current budget” and “the district checkbook register.”

Kyle keeps inserting himself as the dauntless defender of quality and reform in our public schools. He invites himself to towns where, most often, nobody requested his presence, only to spew the same tired opinions that he left behind at the last place. “Beat the union, dump MESSA, and replace your non-instructional jobs with crummier ones” is what he offers up everywhere he goes.

Shouldn’t Kyle hold himself accountable to the same standard he touts? A person of ethics and good morale nature would. Why shouldn’t Kyle want to make the same obligation to the taxpayers of these communities relative to transparency in disclosing who is financially backing his agenda for public schools?

At you can read a whole lot of speculation on this question. A growing number of people in this state are beginning to agree with us. It is only Kyle’s disclosure of donors, amounts and expenditures that will prove us wrong.

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Utter Disregard for the Truth

The Education Action Guy, Kyle Olson, is a political operative not a policy wonk. You can tell this because he has a track record that demonstrates an indifference for facts. Winning's the thing.

For example, in an email the other day he railed against a 6.1% increase in MESSA insurance rates. Trouble is, today MESSA announced the increase will be 5.2% not 6.1%. Kyle's source? Disgruntled ex-MESSA  director Frank Webster. Frank is quoted: “The 6.1 percent MESSA increase . . . follows a 4.5 percent increase last year.”  Wrong. Last year's increase was 3.3. Maybe it's this kind of work what got Frank fired.

A quick Google search shows that nationwide "premiums for employer-based health insurance rose by 5.0 percent in 2008. In 2007, small employers saw their premiums, on average, increase 5.5 percent." MESSA rates were below these national averages both years. I'm sure Kyle has heard of Google, but doesn't look for these facts because he doesn't care.

Perhaps more important than what Kyle says is what he doesn't say. MESSA rates go up: Kyle complains.

But what about other provider's rates? How come Kyle doesn't complain about them? How much did they go up, Kyle?

MESSA provides health insurance for a little less that half the state's school employees. Why never word about the health insurance companies covering them?

How come Kyle never criticizes or second guesses any health care provider choice but MESSA? He bills himself as a school reform group. But his only targets are MESSA and the MEA. Never anyone else. Ever.

In a slip a few weeks ago, Kyle admitted: "we would like very much to convince every school board to dump MESSA..." He's a political operative charged with opposing the MEA and MESSA on all fronts: he's neither a group nor about school reform.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Advice for Kyle

I just had a great idea. Kyle can't point to any successes in his quest to convince school districts to dump MESSA or to keep unpopular school board members, and as a  consequence, he's having trouble convincing his funders to give him more money.

[click to download]

A good example of how his current plan is backfiring can be seen in Leslie. Kyle bought a full page ad for four weeks and wrote his usual villainizing Op Ed in the local paper, which only managed to generate a blizzard of outraged responses. Have a look at the Op Ed's in the last issue of the Leslie Weekly Guardian. It's a textbook example of what to do when Kyle comes to town.

So here's my suggestion: read the paper, find a district that's about to privatize. Then write an Op Ed in the local newspaper recommending privatization. Then if it happens, claim victory.

He's already done something like this. He claimed he was the reason the legislature refused to move the teacher early retirement bill. Not that a little detail like the fact that no one in Lansing has ever heard of him got in his way.

So give it a try Kyle. With your pals at the Mackinac Center doing the heavy lifting, I'm sure you'll get no complaints from them if you take credit for all the people they've put out of work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Kyle's Next Target

The Leslie schools have been a fixture on the MEA Critical List for years. The Superintendent has been targeting MESSA and talking privatization. Given this trouble, it can only be a matter of time before Kyle comes to town.

Word is that he'll run his usual slam job in the area's on-line newspaper, the Leslie Weekly Guardian, this time with a weekly ad buy. Here's something Kyle won't include.

SET-SEG was founded in 1971 by Michigan Association of School Boards to sell health insurance to schools. Which means that MASB has a financial interest in bargaining SET-SEG into it's contracts, something that one would think would outrage Kyle. Of course, not a word from him on this.

But it's worse. This ad in the MASB newletter, MASB Headlines, shows that SET-SEG makes money by developing free RFP’s for schools, and then bids on their own RFP. They even charge a commission on those they win. And most incredibly, they offer to advise districts on which bid to accept!

[Click on image to download]

Nice work if you can get it.