Public School Employee Insurance Program facing a projected $70-million shortfall

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Despite the state reporting a nearly $1-billion surplus, Arkansas teachers are unhappy with cost-cutting measures related to their health care coverage. 

Thursday leaders of the AEA, and some legislators, made that known in the halls of the capitol.

To find out why teachers believe this would be unjust, we connected with local educators. 

The Public School Employee Insurance Program is facing a projected $70-million shortfall, and as a result, we could be seeing an increase in health insurance premiums. Something Ashley Pledger, Librarian at Siloam Springs High School, says is unacceptable. 

“I think it’s a slap in the face that we have all of this money left over, yet we are asking our educators to pay more,” said Pledger. 

We asked Jake Bleed with the Department of Transformation and Shared Services if they’ve kicked around the idea of using some of the $1-billion surpluses to fill the deficit. 

“The legislative council has received a request for $35-million. So to an extent, the Department of Finance is already asking for help from the ALC,” said Bleed. 

Hosea Born with Hope Education Association, a non-profit that advocates for local teachers, agrees that paying anything more than they already are would be unacceptable.

“My district recently just got to the state minimum for teacher salary. So what that means is with this increase, teachers aren’t going to see any of that because all of that increase is going to go towards health insurance,” said Born. 

The $35-million request will be going before the legislative council tomorrow, going specifically towards that shortfall.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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