School board defrays health costs

South Whidbey teachers will see an $8 increase in their monthly paychecks starting this month.

School district officials and members of the teachers union negotiated an agreement that the district will pay 25 percent of the amount every teacher pays toward the state retired teachers medical insurance fund.

The limited scope agreement, reached last week after several months of negotiations, reduces the amount taken from teacher paychecks from $32 to $24 per month. The cost to the district is $13,000 a year.

The agreement is retroactive to January 2002 and will be in force through the current contract period, which ends Dec. 31.

District officials and representatives of the South Whidbey Education Association began bargaining several months ago before reaching this agreement.

The same agreement has been negotiated with the district's other unions, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Public Service Employees Union whose members are office staff and teachers aids.

"Our interest is to be as supportive as we can be," said district Superintendent Dr. Martin Laster. "We are planning to honor the agreement.

Both teams were in a difficult negotiation. Laster said both sides were courteous and came to a good resolution.

Scott Mauk, a teacher at Bayview High School and SWEA representative believes the district should do more to help teachers with the overall cost of medical insurance. At a board of education meeting Monday he said increasing medical insurance costs and few, if any, annual increases in teacher salaries are hurting educators like him.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "I don't know what the future holds, but I'm starting to look out for myself."

The district's recent concession is a start, but only that, Mauk said in an interview Thursday.

"The $8 is a drop in the bucket," he said. "As the cost of monthly health care goes up, our paychecks are going down."

Mauk said the cost of health care is expected to be a hot topic at the table during the next contract negotiations.

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