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October 4, 2012

NA-FC OKs contract with teachers union

Teachers take hits on raises, insurance

FLOYDS KNOBS — Teachers will again make concessions on raises and insurance with the new Education Association contract with the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. board of trustees.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the contract at its meeting Wednesday. For the third year in a row, teachers won’t get pay raises without earning a higher degree. In addition, while teachers will see an increase in their take-home pay because of insurance changes, they also have a decrease in the benefits they’ll receive.

Joy Lohmeyer, president of the NA-FC Education Association, said though the majority of the teachers in the association voted in favor of the proposed contract by the board, they’re not happy about the concessions they had to make.

“The mood is serious,” Lohmeyer said. “There’s no doubt that morale is down right now. Teachers are working extremely hard to create quality education in their classrooms — have been over the last two years. And obviously, it’s extremely disappointing to not be able to be compensated for achieving what they’ve achieved with students in their learning and test scores.”

Though teachers will take home more money and have the same three options in health care coverage that administrators have — preferred provider organizations, health savings accounts and coverage first plans — they’ll see a big increase in costs for emergency room visits and will have to pay for services like allergy injections.

The cost for emergency room visits will increase from $75 to $200 per visit.

Also, teachers will not get the same retirement health benefits as before — a fear which caused last year’s exodus of retirement-aged teachers in the district.

Now, instead of receiving full benefits, teachers will receive a certain amount of money depending on their time spent with the district. A three-tier scale with teachers who spent 20 to 30 years with the district will receive between $6,000 and $18,000 in health coverage.

Teachers with 18 to 19 years of service will get a one-time $1,000 payment into a 401(a) account.

Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent, said the average teacher salary at NA-FC is about $53,500.

Briscoe said the district had to do something to make up for its $1.6 million budget shortfall.

But he said the issue has been ongoing for several years, beginning with the closure of four elementary schools in 2010. He said the district is funded by the state about $2.5 million less than it was four years ago, which as the practice continues, adds up quickly.

“The issue is really not just this year, it’s that we’ve been funded at such a lower rate over the last four years,” Briscoe said.

Not only pressure from lack of state revenue contributed, but federal dollars also disappeared over the years. Funds the district has benefited from — such as economic stimulus and education jobs money — have all stopped making their way into school district budgets.

Though Lohmeyer said teachers are down about the changes, she said she hopes it motivates them to hit the polls this November to take a hard look at who’s in the legislature, the state superintendent’s seat and some on the school board.

But she said the mood won’t stifle their dedication.

“I want the people of Floyd County to know, though, that we are professionals and we are still working as hard as we can to be sure that their kids are getting the absolute best education,” Lohmeyer said. “We just would like to see in the future that they be compensated for their efforts.”

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