“This is an insult to teachers,” Educators furious over plan to cap health care benefits in pay raise proposal

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OKLAHOMA - Leaders in the state house have a plan to give Oklahoma teachers raises but not without a big cost to them.

The plan would cap teachers’ health care benefits.

Oklahoma educators are furious.

“Teachers are frustrated. Parents are frustrated,” said Oklahoma Education Association Vice President Katherine Bishop.

Oklahoma ranks 49th in teacher pay.

So, teachers associations have been asking lawmakers for a raise to at least stay competitive with surrounding states.

In Oklahoma City Public Schools, for example, a first-year teacher will make about $34,000 a year - less than the average Oklahoman.

“We’d like to see more leadership out of the legislature and get a more permanent fix for education in Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers President Ed Allen.

House leaders, under Speaker Hickman, sent a teacher pay plan to the Senate.

It does allow raises, from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on years of service.

But, in turn, it would put a cap on health care benefits.

“Educators have not received a pay raise in over a decade. Frankly, this is an insult to teachers by saying you can give up your insurance to get a pay raise. Teachers are smarter than that,” Bishop said.

“At some point, with the way health costs keep going up, that will be a temporary raise for employees, and you’ll be paying  more out of pocket for your health care,” Allen said.

“We currently pay about $530 a month for teachers’ health insurance. The state of Texas pays $75 a month for teacher health insurance. The local school district picks up another $150, then the teacher pays the rest of it, so that’s an element that could be done,” said Speaker Jeff Hickman.

Hickman said the state is spending $30 million more this year on health care for teachers.

Senate leaders are not on board with the plan.

They are working on their own.

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