in the State House of Representatives
on February 16, 2021, by a vote of
Purpose: The purpose of this bill is to create a separate bargaining process for lower income school workers. This would allow them to highlight economic difficulties and increase the likelihood that they could negotiate for greater benefits.
In 2018, the Legislature passed Act 11, prioritizing adequately funding Vermont’s Education Fund while supporting a union bargaining process which negotiated health benefits for all public school workers as a group, called “uniform cost sharing.” H.81 would segment public school workers into different groups that local school systems must negotiate with.
Analysis: No formal fiscal note was given to legislators regarding how much the more complicated bargaining process could cost, plus the extra cost of negotiated premiums themselves. However, if lower income employees pay just 1% less on their premiums, estimates suggest that taxpayers would have to pay another $1.43 million dollars.
Those voting YES want to give paraeducators, cafeteria workers, school custodians and other lower-paid school staff a seat at the bargaining table. “Almost 40 percent” of paraeducators are the primary income earners for their household, making only about $22,000 a year. Many of these school workers see the health insurance as the primary reason they took a low-paying job. By changing the current bargaining process, the “lowest paid school support staff can include their economic situation” in the conversation, which will likely ensure they get greater benefits.
Those voting NO believe H.81 will have “significant (negative) financial implications for Vermont taxpayers.” If uniform cost sharing is removed from bargaining, Vermont cannot “comply with the provision in Act 11 to safeguard the financial ability of the education fund and our local school districts across the state.” Bargaining will take more time, and thus more money for publicly financed negotiations. If the arbitrator gives low-income public school workers inexpensive monthly premiums and smaller out-of-pocket contributions during bargaining, taxpayers will be expected to “make up the difference,” since “higher paid employees administrators do not offset the cost.” Taxpayers in some school districts may pay more than others, worsening “inequity issues for our students and our taxpayers.”
Opponents also note the lack of transparency and proper legislative oversight in getting this bill to the floor. Only the House General Committee reviewed and approved it, while the House Education and House Ways and Means Committees were not allowed to analyze the proposal.
As Recorded in the House Journal, Tuesday, February 16, 2021: “Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee of General, Housing, and Military Affairs? was decided in the affirmative. Yeas, 102. Nays, 46.” (Read the Journal, p. 178 - 184). Watch the floor debate on YouTube: Part 1 and Part 2
How They Voted
(Click on your Rep’s name to send an email)
Sally Achey (R - Middletown Springs) – NO
William Lippert (D – Hinesburg) – YES
Curtis McCormack (D – Burlington) – ABSENT
Kirk White (P/D - Bethel) –YES
Rebecca White (D – Hartford) – YES
Dane Whitman (D - Bennington) – YES
Terri Lynn Williams (R - Granby) – NO
Theresa Wood (D – Waterbury) – YES
David Yacovone (D – Morristown) – YES
Michael Yantachka (D – Charlotte) – YES