Commission on Public School Employee Health Benefits
Act 11 of 2018 created the Commission on Public School Employee Health Benefits. The Commission was mandated to determine the relative shares of health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses that should be paid by Vermont school districts and their employees.
The school board representatives have presented a proposal that reflects a commitment to providing high quality, generous benefits to our school employees. The proposal being advanced by the employer commissioners will retain health care plans for educational employees that on average are rated as “platinum plus” under the metal designation criteria of the federal Affordable Care Act. Yet the proposal also balances the needs of school employees with the imperative to slow the growth of health care costs for school districts to a more sustainable level.
The school boards and the school employee unions have been unable to reach an agreement since beginning meeting in April. The two sides are now engaged in mediation and fact finding in an effort to reach a resolution.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, South Burlington School District
Elizabeth has served on the South Burlington School Board for thirteen years, and is currently as chair of the board. She has served on the negotiations team in a leadership role through numerous collective bargaining agreements with teachers, support staff, administration and the superintendent. During her tenure, the South Burlington school board made several innovative healthcare proposals, most of which would have reduced taxpayer and employee costs. Elizabeth has also served on the VEHI Board of Directors for over four years and has a solid understanding of the health insurance plans offered to school employees along with how those are plans are financed.
Susan Hamlyn Prescott, Lamoille North MUUSD
Susan has served on the Cambridge School Board since 1995 and the Lamoille North Supervisory Union Board since 2002. She has served as a member of the Board Negotiating Council (BNC) for many years and as BNC Board Chair for three bargaining cycles, one of which included successfully merging several contracts into one district-wide agreement.
Patrick Healy, Twinfield Union School District, Washington Northeast SU
As the director of a quasi-municipal corporation (Green Mount Cemetery) for the past 30 years, Patrick understands the relationship between employer and employee. Patrick is presently the chair of the Twinfield School Board; he has negotiated four contracts on behalf of the school district.
Adrienne Raymond, Mill River UUSD
Adrienne started on her local town school board in Shrewsbury, VT, in 2002 and has served on multiple boards; she is currently serving on the Mill River Unified Union Board. Adrienne is Shrewsbury’s Zoning Administrator and Lister, a Guardian ad Litem in the Rutland Family Court and has recently been elected as a Justice of the Peace. Adrienne has negotiated more than five contracts in her tenure as a school board member. The balance of providing a reasonable health insurance benefit at a reasonable cost has been the focus of the Mill River school district for many years.
Geo Honigford, South Royalton
Geo served on the South Royalton school board for over 15 years. He is a strong believer in the public school system and the potential that it can bring to children’s lives. He considers his biggest accomplishments on the school board to be a building addition, the start of collaborative bargaining with the teachers association, and closer cooperation between the various schools in the SU. Geo started and runs a successful organic vegetable and hay farm. In past careers he has taught high school, been a park ranger, and spent two years in the Peace Corps in West Africa.
The parties presented their proposals and supporting witnesses to the fact finder on August 6. The fact finder is expected to submit a written report to the Commission by September 15, recommending a reasonable basis for the settlement of the matters remaining in dispute.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Employer Chair of the Commission, recently published an op-ed on the negotiations.
Following the fact finder's report there is a 30-day period in which the parties will attempt to reach agreement. There is a mediation pre-scheduled for September 23.
If the Commission is unable to resolve all matters remaining in dispute within 30 days after receiving the fact finder’s report, the Commission must submit the matters remaining in dispute to the arbitrator. The parties must submit to the arbitrator their last best offer on all issues in dispute. The arbitrator is required to select one of the last best offers in its entirety, without amendment.
The arbitrator must hold a hearing on or before November 15, at which the Commission members will submit all relevant evidence. The arbitrator must issue the final and binding decision, accepting one party’s proposal or the other’s in its entirety, no later than 30 days after the close of the hearing.
VSBA Regional Meetings:
In order for school board members to better understand the status of these negotiations, ask questions of the Employer Commissioners, and provide feedback, the VSBA has invited the Employer Commissioners to send one representative to each of the 11 VSBA regions this September and October. These meetings are open to school board members who are members of the VSBA. You can register to your regional meeting attend here.
If you have any questions about the process, please contact the Act 11 school board team at Act11EmployerCommissioners@vtvsba.org.