By Senator John Thune
South Dakota students stay busy with a multitude of activities offered in our school districts. From track and drama club, to FFA and volleyball, extracurricular activities provide students with opportunities to learn teamwork, leadership, and life skills outside the classroom. Of course none of these would be possible without the coaches, teachers, and faculty advisors who work with these students. Many South Dakota teachers wear multiple hats; the math teacher is also the gymnastics coach and the English teacher is the play director. Retaining quality teachers and offering students the opportunity to participate in outside activities are important to a well-rounded education. Unfortunately, mandates included in ObamaCare could jeopardize these activities and teaching positions for a number of schools throughout South Dakota.
According to news reports, some schools across the country are eliminating teaching positions and others are reducing the number of hours teachers and staff can work to comply with the health care law’s 30-hour work week. ObamaCare requires that employers provide government-approved health insurance to any employee who works at least 30 hours per week, a significant change from the general practice of providing health insurance to employees who work 40 hours per week.
In addition to jobs lost, the law includes higher prices for government-approved health care plans. These higher costs for colleges and universities are inevitability passed along to students in the form of higher tuition prices. According to one witness testifying before the House Committee on Education and Workforce, his university may be forced to increase tuition by 20 percent due to the increased costs and mandates associated with ObamaCare. In K-12 education systems, these costs cannot be passed along to students in the form of higher tuition, but are absorbed by eliminating teacher positions or cutting funding for extracurricular activities.
I believe school budgets should enhance students’ educations, not pay for the president’s costly health care law. That’s why I recently introduced legislation to help America’s students by exempting schools, colleges, and universities from the ObamaCare employer mandate, which is already cutting education jobs and driving up tuition costs across the country. My bill would put students and teachers first by preventing tuition increases and job loss due to ObamaCare and help our K-12 schools continue to provide high-quality education.Federal policies unrelated to education shouldn’t make it more difficult for teachers, administrators, colleges, and universities to provide the quality of education our students deserve. I will continue working with my colleagues across the aisle to protect all Americans from the devastating impacts of ObamaCare.