On Friday, the Policy and Planning Board of the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits (OGB) met to consider a proposed rate hike. Increasing rates would result in added health insurance costs for teachers and school employees across the state, along with other public employees.
LFT sent out an action alert as soon as news of the meeting was made public. In less than 24 hours, thousands of teachers and school employees wrote to the board, asking them to vote ‘no’ on the proposed increase to the cost of their insurance.
LFT Legislative and Political Director Cynthia Posey spoke before the Board on Friday, relaying the concerns of our members and asking the board members to oppose any rate hikes this year. While we fully recognize the importance of having a stable, well-funded account balance that will ensure reliable insurance coverage for our members, we oppose efforts to unnecessarily increase costs. Currently, the OGB fund is well above target rates. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor recommends that the OGB fund balance should be roughly $275 million. Currently, it sits at $430.8 million. This is money that state agencies and state employees, like teachers and school employees, have paid into the system.
On Friday, August 25th the Policy and Planing Board for the Louisiana Office of Group Benefits will meet to consider an across the board premium increase of 6.15%. This rate increase would raise costs on all health plans offered to state employees, like public school teachers and support staff. This is the 6th consecutive rate increase, despite a growing and sufficient fund balance.
In fact, the OGB fund balance is already above the amount recommended by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA). According to the LLA, the recommended fund balance should be roughly $280 million. Currently, the OGB fund balance is $430.8 million. This is money that state agencies and state employees have paid into the system.
The AFT has always been a solutions-driven union, and our new campaign, launched during TEACH on July 21, proves it once again with a fresh, practical approach to strengthening public education. As AFT President Randi Weingarten pointed out during her keynote speech, the $5 million, yearlong campaign, “Real Solutions for Kids and Communities,” stands up against attacks on public schools and offers real-world solutions to build up, rather than break down, our communities.
Summer is upon us, and parents, children and teachers are winding down from what has been an exhausting and fully operational school year—the first since the devastating pandemic. The long-lasting impact of COVID-19 has affected our students’ and families’ well-being and ignited the politics surrounding public schools. All signs point to the coming school year unfolding with the same sound and fury, and if extremist culture warriors have their way, being even more divisive and stressful.
In the final hours of the legislative session, the House chose not to take up SCR 2, the legislative instrument for the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), the funding mechanism for K-12 education. This action ended any hopes of a permanent pay raise for educators this legislative session. Instead, the legislature chose to pay educators one-time stipends.
In an effort to appease educators, the body also included language in the preamble of the budget that asks future members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to include this year’s education funding in next year’s MFP. This will require future legislators and the future governor to do what this legislature would not: fund a permanent raise. Next year, Louisiana will have a new governor and many new legislators, so it is unclear whether or not they will honor the request to secure this year’s funding into next year’s MFP. If they do not, there will likely be little recourse for Louisiana’s educators and students.
The amount funded in the budget will give teachers a one-time stipend of $2,000 and support staff $1,000. Additionally, the budget contains $25 million for differential pay stipends for some teachers in “high needs areas,” as determined by local school boards. This stipend is also not guaranteed next year.
Tomorrow is the last day of the legislative session! Today, the House returned SCR 2, the legislative instrument for the MFP, "to the calendar" instead of voting to approve it. If the House does not pass the MFP (SCR 2) tomorrow, then teachers and support staff are not guaranteed a permanent pay increase.
If the House and Senate approve a final budget tomorrow that does include funding for teacher and school employee raises, but the MFP fails to pass, then the pay increases will only be guaranteed for one year. That’s not a guaranteed pay increase – it’s a one-time stipend. If the funding is not locked into the MFP, then there is no assurance it will be available next year.