Teachers may get raises, but at a cost

By Rachel Christian

Staff Writer

Osceola County School District teachers are facing a bittersweet proposal – much-needed wage increases at the expense of major health insurance hikes, union officials said.

According to a March 8 School District press release, educators are set to receive an average 2 percent wage increase along with a $1,000 bonus. Additional incentives are outlined for effective and highly effective teachers.

According to the Osceola County Education Association (OCEA), the local teachers’ union, the possible wage increases are part of an “all or nothing” proposal. It was submitted to the union for review. OCEA representatives will sit down with district officials at the bargaining table in April.

The district is proposing the following changes:

An average of 2 percent salary increase per instructional employee for 2018-19. Additional incentives ranging from $900 to $1,200 are offered for teachers deemed “effective” during evaluation.

A non-recurring supplement of $1,000 for each instructional employee who has been employed with the Osceola School District during the 2017-18 school year and remains active through the end of the current school year.

A $250 employee recruitment incentive for each job candidate referred to and successfully hired by the School District.

A $900 increase in new teacher’s starting salary, from $40,100 to $41,000 a year.

But officials with the teachers’ union said the proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Apryle Jackson, president of the OCEA, said the new contract would boost teachers’ pay, but at the cost of higher health insurance rates.

“They’re offering more money than they have in quite some time, but even with these raises, people will be taking home less money at the end of the year because family health insurance rates are set to increase that much,” she said.

According to school district documents, teacher health care deductibles for Local Plus – the district’s basic health insurance plan – would increase by 50 percent, from $500-$1000 to $1000-$2000.

Premiums, or the amount employers pay per month for health insurance, are also set to rise, especially for family plans. Single employee rates will stay the same for Local Plus, but family plans are set to increase 52 percent, from $402 to $611 a month.

This means a teacher would take home about $2,508 less per year due to health insurance costs.

Major increases are also proposed for spouse plans (up 48.7 percent) and single employee with children plans (up 39.4 percent).

Meanwhile, documents show that employer contributions – the amount the school district pays into teacher’s health care plans – is set to decrease.

The district will contribute $71, or 16.7 percent, less per month to single employee with children plans, and $134.30, or 27.5 percent, less per month to basic family health insurance plans, according to proposals in the district’s Illustrative Plan Design Changes for 2018-19.

Officials from the school district were unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Jackson said health insurance has been a point of contention between OCEA and the School District over the last three months.

The union gets one month to review the contract before representatives from both sides sit down at the beginning table.

The “all or nothing” nature of the contract will likely make things more difficult, Jackson said.

“We either have to accept this contract as is, or start all over again,” she said.

Contract discussion will take place at 4:15 p.m. April 12 at the school district human resources conference room.