DALLAS TWP. — A recent negotiation session between Dallas School District and the Dallas Education Association did little to resolve the ongoing stalemate over a new teachers contract.
DEA President Michael Cherinka hoped the Jan. 30 meeting would provide answers to health care questions he emailed the district 12 days before the session. But instead, he found the board did not have the information.
“They had no answers,” he said. “Vito (DeLuca, attorney for the Dallas School Board) told us ‘We don’t have anything for you. Do you have anything for us?’”
The questions Cherinka emailed to board members and the district’s business manager pertained to switching to a different PPO, also known as a Preferred Provider Organization, as well as prescription co-pays and other health insurance components.
A PPO is a health care plan where clients have access to a network of preferred providers. By choosing an in-network physician, health care expenses are typically less than using an out-of-network provider.
“The information he requested was not something stored in a file that could be printed out,” school district attorney Vito DeLuca said. “Our third-party health care administrator has to analyze the members. They are in the process of gathering it.”
On Jan. 30, the union did give the board another proposal similar to its Jan. 17 offer. The offer was based on the district’s salary scale included in its Oct. 30 proposal.
All the contract proposals are available for public review at www.dsdhs.com.
“They give us the same offer over and over,” DeLuca said. “We couldn’t afford it two, three months ago and we can’t afford it now.”
Cherinka, meanwhile, is waiting for the district’s response to his previous questions at a planned Feb. 13 meeting.
“I would like to see a counterproposal and hash it out, ” Cherinka said. “I would like to get answers.”
The board is working on a new offer, but it may not be ready by the Feb. 13 session, DeLuca explained.
“We asked our (health care) broker for plan design changes to fit our budget,” DeLuca said, noting health expenses are expected to increase by 7 percent and prescription drug coverage by 11 percent.
A new district proposal may contain a reduction in the teachers’ salary matrix because the district has been footing the bill for the union’s “very rich HMO plan,” DeLuca said.
“The money has to come from somewhere,” he explained.
The Dallas Education Association’s contract expired in August 2015, and the district continued to pay full benefits as required by state law, according to DeLuca.
Teachers did go on a 22-day strike in November 2016, which resulted in the 2016-17 school year ending June 30 and the teachers having their salaries docked for seven contractual days they did not work.
In the 2017-18 school year, teachers went on strike seven days in September and returned voluntarily.
The union now has a pending strike date of March 5.
According to state law, teacher unions can strike twice in a school year as long as the first strike ends in time to complete 180 school days by June 15. The second strike must end in time to complete 180 days by June 30.