Resources for School Boards
Status of Healthcare Negotiations after Fact Finding
At VSBA regional meetings during September and October the employer commissioners met with school board members to share information on the current status of statewide healthcare bargaining. If you were unable to attend your regional meeting or want to review the material they presented their presentation is linked below.
Vermont NEA claims that VSBA wants to quadruple out-of-pocket costs for teachers!
Have your teachers or support staff attended a recent board meeting and told you that VSBA’s commissioners are proposing to quadruple or quintuple out-of-pocket costs? Did they also say that two members of the VSBA’s negotiation team aren’t even sitting school board members? Did they tell you that the VSBA’s negotiation position will hamper your districts ability to attract and retain high quality teachers and support staff?
Did they urge you to reach out to your VSBA representatives at the regional meetings this fall and let us know that this approach is unacceptable?
And here's a form email that many board members are receiving.
Let’s unpack some the claims that the Vermont NEA is making so that you understand the real issues on the table during this round of negotiations.
Vermont NEA Claim #1: The VSBA is proposing to quadruple (or quintuple) out-of-pocket expenses.
The Employer commissioners have proposed decreasing the amount of employer contribution to the HRAs. Because these HRAs are 1st dollar, employer funded accounts the employee has no financial obligation on out-of-pocket costs until all employer provided funds have been expended first. In the current agreement the employer (the school district) provides $2,100 for a single plan and $4,200 for a 2 person or family plan. This means that the employee first has to spend $2,100 or $4,200 of employer provided money before they need to kick in the final $400 or $800.
In fact-finding, the employer commissioners proposed to decrease the employer contribution to $1,250 for a single plan and $2,500 for a two-person or family plan. Does this mean that a teacher could see a quadrupling of their out-of-pocket costs? That result is unlikely. According to claims data, the vast majority of teachers do not spend all of the employer funds in the HRA. This means that for the vast majority of the employees there will not be a significant increase in out-of-pocket costs. In fact, for most there will be no increase in out-of-pocket costs as they don’t exceed the $1,250 or $2,500 employer contribution being proposed.
Vermont NEA Claim #2: Two of the employer commissioners are not even sitting school board members.
That is correct. Elizabeth Fitzgerald stepped down from the South Burlington School Board approximately 6 months ago and Laura Soares retired as the head of VEHI earlier this year. Between the two of them they have a combined 35 years of school board service and nearly 20 years of VEHI service.
State statute sets out the parameters for appointing members to the bargaining commission. The statute does not require that members are either sitting school board members or current, active teachers.
Vermont NEA Claim #3: VSBA’s negotiation position will hamper your ability to attract and retain high quality teachers and support staff.
This was more likely the case prior to a single statewide contract, when different districts used healthcare and other benefits as a way to attract staff. Now that all school districts offer the exact same healthcare at the exact same price there is no variability between districts. Any changes in the statewide agreement will apply to all school districts.
What can you do?
If Vermont NEA representatives come to your meeting and make similar claims they are likely reading from a prepared statement. The following questions could be helpful in trying to determine the NEA’s position regarding bargaining:
Are you aware of the current Vermont NEA proposal and whether that would increase or decrease the cost of health care paid by school budgets/taxpayers?
Should school boards also assume that the Vermont NEA proposal is put into place and respond accordingly?
Does the scope of the Commission's legislative charge include reforming health care?
Do you know the last possible date the Commission's work must be completed by law?
Are the current proposals final? If not, can they change between now and the end of the process?
Is there a legal requirement that appointees must either be active school board members or active school employees?