Healthcare benefits, excess spending, and pupil weighting
Returning to the topic of healthcare benefits for school employees, H.81 version 2.1 passed out of the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs and the House Committee on Appropriations this week. This bill removes the requirement in current law that the premium responsibility percentages and out-of-pocket expenses for each plan tier shall be the same for all participating employees. Language that the VSBA supported in H.63 is not part of H.81, including language requiring an arbitrator to balance appropriate access to health care benefits with reasonable cost containment to ensure the financial sustainability of the plan. Additionally, the bill does not require the arbitrator to consider the percentage increase or decrease in education spending that is likely to occur under either party’s proposal for the full term of the award as compared to overall economic growth for the State of Vermont (see this side-by-side for more details). The full House of Representatives will be voting on H.81 early next week. Thank you to local school officials who submitted 23 letters to the Legislature as written testimony, expressing their concerns about H.81. If you are concerned about the impacts of H.81, please contact your House Representative. VSBA sent an action alert email to all school board members regarding H.81 on February 11 - there is still time to contact legislators. A list of legislators by supervisory union/supervisory district on the VSBA website.
There are currently three House bills addressing the excess spending threshold: H.35, H.78, and H.184. This week, the House Education Committee tabled a vote on H.35 and H.78, preferring to wait for the House Ways and Means Committee to take up H.184, which addresses excess spending more broadly as well as considerations of the pupil weighting study. Specifically, H.184 proposes to eliminate the excess spending penalty and change the way the homestead property tax rate is calculated. Under this bill, the Agency of Education is required to make three separate recommendations on pupil weighting factors, an adequacy amount for all school districts’ education spending, and education quality standards, including mechanisms for enforcing those standards. This bill would also amend the definition of education spending to include the normal contributions to the Vermont Teachers’ Retirement Fund that are attributable to the employer. Representatives from VSBA, VSA, and VPA testified in House Education on H.184, focusing on the pupil weighting study.
There are currently three bills addressing pupil weighting: H.54, S.13, and H.184. The House Education Committee decided to postpone discussion on House bills addressing the pupil weighting study. The Committee plans to return to this topic when they receive a bill from the Senate.