From what I had read, there were some things I already knew. She is not a shrinking violet and she knows how to enlist a crowd to right what she considers a wrong.
Ashley is the wife of a Cherokee County Schools teacher, Nate Cline. They and their two children live in the Canton area. He teaches science at Creekview High School.
Like most of us who are state employees or retired state employees, the Clines got an unpleasant surprise after the beginning of the new year.
We knew our health insurance would be changing to another company. We also knew we did not have a choice of companies. One had been designated for us. That did not bother me, a retired educator, because the literature I received said if I did nothing my insurance benefits would remain the same.
I was pleased with that information and thought all was well until the new company sent me a letter saying it would not pay for one of my medications. Thankfully, my doctor handled that.
But others had much bigger problems. People were unexpectedly having to plunk down cash before some procedures could be done.
Many others were floundering in a world of co-pays, significantly higher premiums and a bevy of other near nightmares. Some even learned their doctors would not accept their new insurance.
Now I have said repeatedly, politicians should know not to make the teachers mad. There are too many of them to cross. Added to them, other school board employees and state employees make a huge crowd.
Nate and Ashley Cline were faced with a huge problem. Their 4-year-old special needs child gets occupational therapy. Under their previous coverage, they paid a $25 co-pay. Now for $1,000 per month they get four hours.
Ashley did not take that sitting down. Using social media, Facebook, she aired her concerns and plans to protest what had happened. A group named TRAGIC — Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes — was formed.
The organization “grew like Topsy.” When I last checked, there were 11,000 state employees and retired employees involved and TRAGIC was still growing.
They quickly got the governor’s attention with hundreds of calls. You may have heard on the news that he essentially said he feels their pain and is putting more money into education to bring some relief.
While glad they have been heard, Ashley and her followers see this as a Band-Aid and not a solution. “The battle is won but the war is not over,” she said.
TRAGIC will continue seeking affordable health care. On Feb. 18, they will rally in Atlanta on the grounds of the state Capitol.
Ashley has studied this issue for months. She places the blame on the backs of our state government officials.
She further explains the state should have been putting money into the state employees’ health insurance fund along with the employees’ contributions. It had not. “They set us up for failure,” she said.
Not all agree with Ashley and the members of TRAGIC. One group, Georgia Insurance, describes them as noble but misdirected. They say TRAGIC should “come out of the ether.”
Georgia Insurance places the blame on Obamacare. But Ashley Cline and her followers are not buying that. She says that is using Obamacare as a scapegoat.
In some quarters she is being personally criticized. Some say she is misinformed. Although she acknowledges she is somewhat out of her comfort zone, the criticism does not bother her. She is handling it well.
This insurance debacle is just another long list of things that have negatively impacted school system personnel.
Since the economy collapsed, educators have faced furloughs, layoffs, larger class sizes, loss of expected pay raises and other cuts of their benefits. They view this as a continual chipping away of public education.
As my mother often said, “They are fed up with it.”
For many years, educators steered clear of politics. Perhaps they were afraid for their jobs. But that is no longer the case with most of them. As Ashley said, they are no longer frightened to speak. “They are liberated.”
Since Ashley Cline has come into the spotlight with TRAGIC, some have said she should seek an elected leadership position in our county or state. Most often mentioned is a seat on the Cherokee County Board of Education.
While she does not confirm that she will enter the world of politics, she does not deny it either.
It would make a lot of people happy if she did.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.