Education

LAUSD board backs $1 billion employee health care agreement

The Los Angeles Unified school board approves $1 billion for one year's health care coverage for district employees.
The Los Angeles Unified school board approves $1 billion for one year's health care coverage for district employees.
Pete/ Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles Unified school board approved a $1 billion annual health care agreement for school employees Tuesday, but declined to call for details on the long-term budget impact.

As more employees retire and live longer, LAUSD's health care costs, which includes lifetime coverage for qualifying retirees, is expected to consume increasingly more of its $7.3 billion budget. 

“We – and the public – should have this information before the budget is approved,” said board member Monica Ratliff.

LAUSD has $11 billion in unfunded health care benefit liability, which is the amount in coverage that's been promised but not yet paid. 

Ratliff asked for a 10-year impact analysis of the district's future obligations, but her request was swiftly shot down by fellow board members, several of whom are up for re-election.

According to district employees and labor unions pushing for the package, competitive health care benefits are crucial to recruit and retain staff. Some said they turned down offers of better salaries because of the district's health care coverage.

Board President Richard Vladovic, a former teacher and administrator, said the health care benefits were among the reasons he first came to the district. He supported Obamacare, he said, because people across the United States deserve coverage.

“This is not going to wreck anybody, not going to hurt anybody,” Vladovic said of the district's benefits. 

Vladovic is facing a runoff next month along with board members Tamar Galatzan, and Bennett Kayser. Various school labor unions support each of the incumbents. 

George McKenna, who ran unopposed, was the only other board member to support Ratliff's motion.

“Popularity is not my interest. I am interested in the information here,” McKenna said. He went on to suggest members rejected the call for more information because they would learn something they “didn’t want to know.”

The three-year, $3.3 billion health care package is separate from the negotiations underway with the district's teacher union. The two sides remain apart on salary increases, which the teachers have not had for eight years.