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Health insurance cap eliminated in new educator contract language

        Everyone is back in school after negotiators avoided a strike by educators in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President David Brighton said the two sides were finally able to overcome issues over health care costs.

“I think it was a very good compromise," he said. "This addresses the rising cost of health care that had employees so nervous and I think that this moves us forward in the right direction.”

Under a previous contract, educators and the district were splitting the cost of healthcare premiums after it reached a designated cap. That cap was reached years ago.

In the tentative contract that cap was eliminated. But there would only be one plan available.

School district spokeswoman Pegge Erkenef agrees it’s a good compromise. But she says the district will have to make future budget cuts to pay for the contract:

"When we project out forward there's going to be some reductions," she said. "This was a hard decision to make, but it was made on behalf of meeting the needs of our staff that we value and we're moving forward together."

Educators didn’t receive details about the agreement until Tuesday afternoon. But, teachers like Walter Love, said hearing that there was a tentative agreement came as a relief. The Homer High strike coordinator hoped it would bring down the costs of healthcare.

"We have some people in our district that are not well and as they have reached their limits, it has gotten to the point where it's it was unsustainable," Love said.

Teachers and staff will vote on whether to ratify the agreement next week. Then it will go back to the school board for final approval.    

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