West Edition

Union, Inglewood school district at odds over health insurance costs

INGLEWOOD — The union representing 450 non-certified employees of the Inglewood Unified School District is crying foul on the district for trying to force mandated premium rates on the workers’ health insurance costs.

According to the California Professional Employees (CalPro), the school district wants to impose what they consider to be a “family unfriendly” increase in health coverage for their employees.

“We’re in negotiations with the district,” union representative Chris Graeber said. “We’ve been in, what we call a re-opener in negotiations, a three-year contract. It’s a provision in there that every year we talk about wages and health insurance, and whatever issues creep out to each sides’ choosing.

“We’ve had about a dozen meetings and in our last meeting two weeks ago they declared an impasse, which is a term that the labor board uses that says you can’t go any further. … Both sides have presented everything they were going to present.”

The health coverage matter is a major sticking point for the union and the school district as the two sides try to hash out a new contract. According to Graeber, if an employee decides to obtain health insurance for themselves, they are fine. It’s when it comes to adding on dependents, like children, where classified employees will take a real financial hit should the district get what it wants in a new contract.

With added dependents, classified employees could be looking to pay $500 to $1,000 each, Graeber said. The union rejects that proposal.

“They’re so questionable about their finances,” Graeber said. “Inglewood has been under state-control. We’ve had five administrators, and it’s just one mistake after another. And they freely admit that the previous financial person made an $8 million error in accounting how many students would be coming in.”

The union and the school district are set to meet before the labor board sometime in April to see if an agreement can be reached. Losing students is a big part of the district losing money. From the 2007-08 school year to 2016-17, the district lost 4,932 students, a 34 percent drop. If you were to include charter schools, those numbers hover at 20 percent (3,189 students).

For the 2017-18 school year, Inglewood has a budget of $90 million plus. Teachers account for nearly $51 million of that number, while classified employees occupy $21 million, benefits included. The $90 million the district relied on for this fiscal year will dip considerably to $85.5 million for 2019-20. The district’s overall payout for health insurance is just over $13 million for 2017-18.

“We’re hoping to reach an agreement,” Graeber said. “They’re imposing a very expensive plan for health insurance. They’re imposing that if you have children you would end paying for your kids from $500 to $1,000 a month when right now there is no cost at all. We’re saying we can’t afford that.”