INSURANCE cost rising for area teachers

Friday, May 25th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Broken Arrow teachers are upset over news of a sharp increase in health insurance premiums. Teachers were notified Tuesday that coverage for a family of four will rise from $515 per month to more than $700.

KOTV's Glenda Silvey says Broken Arrow teachers wonder how they'll absorb the rising cost of health care. Cheryl Kelley, BA Education Association, "The teachers are extremely concerned in that we have a committee process in this school district and we have not been receiving ongoing communications so that they can make educated and informed decisions for their families."

Broken Arrow Superintendent Dennis Shoemaker said it was inappropriate to discuss negotiated items and issued a statement saying the increase is due to the amount of claims incurred and rising costs. The district said it's extremely concerned about employees and the cost of their health insurance. Skyrocketing health care premiums are not unique to Broken Arrow Schools.

The Oklahoma Education Coalition reports a state teacher family of four will pay $7,519 a year in health insurance premiums. Union School premiums are also going up, as much as $100 a month. Debra Jacoby, Union Schools: "Unfortunately, while teachers received a large pay raise last year, a significant portion of that was eaten up in the rising costs of health care premiums."

Union is doing its best to manage costs while educating employees on what they can do to help. Jacoby says schools face limited options unless the state provides additional revenue. "In essence, the schools are either going to have employees pay out of pocket, or the school districts are going to have to cut current budgets in order to pick up that out of pocket." "I think we need to form coalitions, we need to effectively lobby."

Kelly says teachers want to work with the district and state to reach solutions. Otherwise, educators say, Oklahoma will continue to lose teachers to other states or professions. The Oklahoma Education Coalition is calling the health care issue "a school employee crisis."

The group has asked Governor Keating to address the problem in the upcoming special legislative session.