To the Editor:
Tonight, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School board will release to the public the Tentative Agreement reached between the School Board and the UCF Education Association Negotiating Teams. We’re pleased that the negotiations between the parties have been professional and cordial and that the board has not had a need to hire expensive legal or public relations representation. We’re also pleased that there has been an open discussion of the issues among board members and that the board will release the TA one week before their vote in order to allow public input. We encourage both board members and the public to express their views candidly and constructively before the vote.
We will vote no on the contract, not because it is a bad contract but because it is not good enough. We know from experience that teacher compensation at UCFSD, together with our excellent teaching environment, is sufficient to attract and retain our outstanding faculty. This contract will require increases in total compensation slightly above the Act 1 indices of 1.7% this year and 2.2% next year. The Act 1 index, a 50/50 blend of changes in the statewide average weekly wage index and the educational cost index, is important because it limits tax increases that the board can impose and because it is a reasonable measure of fiscal responsibility. Balancing this increase in total compensation are improvements in quality and cost of the tuition reimbursement benefit and the conversion of two days of half day instruction to two days of full day instruction for our students.
The issue that persuades us to vote against the TA is the elimination of the healthcare opt out. Our district allows dual income families to opt out of our health care coverage in return for a payment of $3,250. This is a rare “win-win” contract issue. The employees who opt out have calculated that they will benefit by taking the $3,250 and using their spousal healthcare plan. The district benefits by avoiding purchasing healthcare policies that cost the district $15,102 for each family plan.
The board is naively assuming that we will save the opt out payments that total $140,000 and incur no new expense. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence is that the 43 teachers currently opting out will have a huge incentive to return to our plan because it is very comprehensive with a low employee cost (10% premium copay and low deductibles). Therefore, we expect substantial numbers to return to the district’s plan. We don’t know how many will return, but if they all return the loss to the district is approximately $600,000 per year. It’s not a good deal for the district to risk the loss of $600,000 for a maximum potential gain of $140,000. The teachers must be scratching their heads as they see the school board shooting themselves in the foot on this issue.
There is a more detailed critique of the TA at www.efficienteducation.org.
Maybe we should have used a professional negotiator.
Jeff Hellrung and Keith Knauss
School Board Directors, Unionville-Chadds Ford