“If you were wondering why there are so many people wearing red in the audience tonight, it’s to show support for the contract negotiations with the Board of Education— to improve teachers’ working conditions, salaries, and health benefits,” said West Hartford Education Association Negotiations Chair David Simon.
More than 100 West Hartford teachers wearing #redfored crowded into Town Council chambers to show their support for Simon’s remarks during public comment at a Board of Education meeting last night.
Teacher contract negotiations in West Hartford are at a standstill over the issue of health insurance. The West Hartford Education Association, representing more than 800 teachers, has asked the town to move teachers to the State Partnership Health Insurance plan.
“Moving to the state healthcare plan is a win-win for teachers and West Hartford taxpayers, providing a means to combat increasing health insurance costs,” said West Hartford Education Association President Theresa McKeown. “The plan would save the district over $800,000 in the current year, and over a million dollars a year for the life of the contract.”
At least 33 districts have moved teachers to the State Partnership Health Insurance plan since May 2015, when the State Legislature passed the bill allowing local associations the choice to join the state employee healthcare plan. The state plan shares the risk with a much larger pool of state and municipal employees, which helps hold down premium costs, saving cities and towns millions of dollars annually.
Instead of implementing the state healthcare plan for teachers, West Hartford wants a plan that would significantly increase premium share costs to teachers as well as shift the plan design, increasing prescription costs and out-of-pocket maximum expenses.
“The Connecticut Partnership Plan is better than what we have at the moment, and certainly much better than the plan being proposed by the board of education in our negotiations,” Simon said. “The plan the board is supporting would result in a loss of earnings for over half the teachers in our district.”
The proposed Board of Education health plan would require teachers to pay more for less coverage. These increased costs would negate any salary increases for the most veteran, skilled teachers. For many teachers, the increase in premium costs would result in a pay cut, with teachers taking home less pay this year than they did last year.
“With the loss of earnings, many teachers would leave for more lucrative jobs in the area,” Simon said. “Over the last 10 years of contracts, our salaries have not kept up with inflation, even as we still provide a superior education for our community.”
During her public comments, West Hartford parent and former UConn basketball player and assistant coach Meghan Culmo remarked that her red attire was coincidental as she was at the meeting to speak to another issue, but added, “Rock on teachers!”
Simon concluded, to cheers and a standing ovation, “People come to West Hartford for the education. If the people of our town value the superior education West Hartford is famous for and has traditionally offered your children and community, it is time to support your teachers.”