Legislators Continue To Look For Longterm Solution For Teacher Insurance Problems

Aug 26, 2014

Senator Jim Hendren of Gravette
Credit arkleg.state.ar.us

State legislators continue to look for a solution to the long beleaguered retirement program for public school employees.

A task force led by Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren heard remarks Tuesday from an array of education and benefits officials in a preliminary discussion about merging the school employee plan with a state employee plan. Hendren says after the meeting, he doesn’t expect the legislature to pursue merging the two.

“We heard testimony that demonstrated they are programs designed for different populations. There would be no significant cost savings, so instead what you would have is a program that is doing a poor job of serving more people,” he said.

The legislature has called a special session twice this year to make changes to the public school employee health insurance program to curtail premium hikes. Hendren says he expects the task force to start looking into giving funds to each district to purchase their own health plans for employees.

“Should the state get out of the insurance business and let the school districts handle it? Send the dollars to the school districts and say, ‘Go get your insurance bought on the private market or coop with other school districts.’ So, we’re going to investigate basically farming it back out to the school district approach: We’ll still send them the dollars, but then they’re on their own to go get their insurance,” he said.

Hendren also says the cost difference between rural districts and larger urban districts will be an important detail to consider.

*Correction: this story previously stated Hendren said insurance plans should not be merged. He was referring to retirement plans.