Legislative Update and Alert
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VSBA continues to monitor legislation that affects school boards across the state. Be sure to watch for legislative alerts in your email with action items that we need help with during the legislative session.
One such alert was emailed on Friday, January 29th regarding statewide healthcare benefits for school employees. The House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs is making decisions early this week about two bills proposing changes to the process for statewide collective bargaining for public school employees’ health benefits: H.63 and H.81. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two bills. The Committee will be working on H.81 section by section and deciding whether or not to add in language from H.63.
VSBA supports H.63 because it balances appropriate access to health care benefits and reasonable cost containment to ensure the financial sustainability of the benefits. We have heard from school officials around the state that cost containment is needed in order to avoid further jeopardizing educational opportunities for students and maintenance of facilities.
We are asking school board chairs and superintendents to work together to communicate any or all of the following information by letter sent as a pdf through email to the members of the Committee (with copies to each district’s own representatives) by the end of the day on Tuesday, February 2nd:
How many dollars are dedicated to healthcare expenses in your budget?
What percent of your total budget is represented by healthcare expenses? How does this compare to the prior three years?
What percentage of the increase you are presenting to voters is attributable to increased healthcare expenses?
What is the cost of healthcare as a percentage of average cost of compensation of (a) teachers and (b) support staff?
Have you had to reduce your budget proposal in other areas resulting in increased operational risk (for example deferred maintenance) or reduced programming as a result of these increased healthcare expenses? Please specify areas and amounts.
Does your proposed budget anticipate a reduction in force? If so, please include.
Please specify in your letter that you are requesting that the letter be entered into the written testimony of the Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs on H.81 and posted on the Committee’s website. If you support the approach in H.63, please state your support in the letter. Please send the letter via email to all Committee members (emails are listed below). Contact information for your own representatives is available on VSBA’s website via a list of legislators by supervisory union as an Excel spreadsheet from which email addresses can be easily copied and pasted.
Members of the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs:
Tom Stevens, Chair: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph “Chip” Troiano, Vice Chair: email@example.com
Barbara Murphy, Ranking Member: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Birong: email@example.com
Tiffany Bluemle: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Hango: email@example.com
Mary Howard, Clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Killacky: email@example.com
John Palasik: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph Parsons: email@example.com
Tommy Walz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send a copy of your letter to Sue Ceglowski, VSBA Executive Director, via email so that we can verify it has been entered into the legislative record as written testimony. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Sue at any time via email (email@example.com) or cell phone (802-275-8666).
VSBA Board President, Neil Odell, wrote an Op Ed regarding statewide healthcare benefits, highlighting the importance of affordability for tax payers and stating that “with a good bargaining construct, we can both maintain excellent health care benefits and get on a path to a more affordable and sustainable cost approach.” The Op Ed was published in The Bennington Banner today and may appear in other publications this week.
Last week, the House Committee on Education held discussions on school meals, community schools, literacy, census-based funding, and the Governor's Childcare Plan. Many of these same topics appear on the legislative agenda for this week, with the addition of school construction.
The Senate Committee on Education held discussions on the creation of a school discipline advisory council, literacy, cultural liaisons, firearms, and the provision of menstrual hygiene products. Several Senate Committees have heard a presentation from State Treasurer Beth Pearce regarding recommendations to address the situation of educator pensions.