By Jed Graham, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY
The note from Oconomowoc Area Schools to parents in June celebrated the success of the year's "huge undertaking": the adoption of inclusive practices for special-needs students.
Then came the bad news: The district had no choice but to cut the work hours of the paraprofessional staff so critical to that success. Otherwise it could face a $1.5 million hit due to the Affordable Care Act's employer insurance requirements.
"Instead of one full-time paraprofessional working a full day; one part-time paraprofessional would work the morning half of the day, while a second part-time paraprofessional would work the afternoon portion of the day," the district explained.
The district in Oconomowoc, Wis., is among 11 school districts added this week to IBD's list of employers cutting hours or permanent staff in response to ObamaCare's employer mandate.
This week's 20 overall additions bring the total to 351 employers who have opted to cut work hours or take related job actions in order to limit liability under ObamaCare. All of the actions are documented with links to news reports or public records in a downloadable database.
In all, 101 school districts on the list have cut the hours of support staff such as teacher aides, bus drivers and cafeteria workers — or outsourced their job functions. The cuts to work hours don't only hurt employee finances but are likely to take a toll on student performance.
Oconomowoc officials tried to reassure worried parents that they were making every effort "to align students with paraprofessionals they are familiar with and work well with" and to keep the "staff intact."
IBD's list would be a good deal longer if it included districts where new hour limits — or new outsourcing pacts — affect only potential hours for substitute teachers.
Limiting substitute hours also will impact the functioning of classrooms where teachers have an extended absence. But IBD has not yet decided to add these districts to the list, in part because outsourcing subs or capping their hours is quickly becoming the norm and it will be hard to keep up.
IBD's list is dominated by public-sector employers — there are now 275 on the list — primarily because schools boards, colleges and local governments are relatively transparent about workforce policies.
Six more Indiana employers join the list this week, bringing the state total to 66. Among the additions are Howard and Miami counties and four school districts (Kewanee, North Harrison, Shoals and Anderson).
Earlier this month, Indiana challenged ObamaCare's employer mandate on 10th Amendment grounds, arguing that it intrudes upon a state's ability to manage workers and represents an unconstitutional tax on the states.
Among other school districts newly added are Warwick and Juniata in Pennsylvania; Carter County and Washington County in Tennessee; Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont in Iowa; and New Jersey's Livingston Public Schools, which cut instructional aides from 30 hours to 28.75 hours per week.
Other education-sector employers being added are Nebraska's Mid-Plains Community College, the Western Buckeye Educational Service Center and Auburn University, where a cap on student workweeks was lowered from 30 hours to 20 hours.
Fulton County, Ga., a Democratic stronghold, is cutting some full-time workers without benefits to part-time.
Among private-sector employers newly added to the list are a College Hunks Hauling Junk franchisee in New Jersey and H2Only Renewable Cleaning in Florida, which has decided to cut full-time workers to part-time.
Directions In Research advertised telephone interviewer openings at its Grand Rapids, Mich., call center for positions capped at 29.5 hours per week. But following July's delay of ObamaCare employer penalties until 2015, the company was "temporarily allowing schedules of up to 40 hours per week."
While the confirmed list of private-sector firms reducing work hours is relatively small, these anecdotes — and many still-unconfirmed reports — do help explain why the workweek has sunk to a record low in private industries where pay averages about $14.50 per hour or less.