Kenai education group says strike will happen next Tuesday

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Kenai Peninsula Education Association said in an emailed statement Friday evening that the group will strike on Tuesday, Sept. 17, citing ongoing disagreements over rising healthcare premium costs.

According to the release distributed by the group, the executive committees for the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association voted Friday to notify the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District of intent to strike starting at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

In May, 75 percent of teachers and education support staff voted to strike if the district could not come to the table with an offer the union deemed acceptable, per the release.

On Thursday, the association’s bargaining team reportedly presented the district with an offer that may have given up a previously agreed to raise of 2 percent for all employees in fiscal year 2021, should the district have agreed to the most recent healthcare proposal offered by the associations.

“We have said since May that we don’t want to strike, but we will,” said David Brighton, KPEA President, per the release. “We have been bargaining for 575 days... If they won’t listen to us at the table, we’ll take our message to the community. Until the District is willing to accept our reasonable proposal, we will exercise our legal right to strike.”

The district's most recent offer would mean that public school employees on the Kenai would pay double what other public school employee in comparable districts pay for healthcare premiums.

Channel 2 reached out to KPBSD Friday evening and did not immediately receive a response to a request for comment. KPBSD has argued in the past that the overall cost of healthcare in general is much higher for the KPBSD than other districts in the state, and thus the increased cost to employees is a result of that. The increased costs, officials have said, come from several factors, including increased coverage and utilization.

This is a developing story. Please check back for details.
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