- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Teachers and support staff in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District have voted to ratify a tentative agreement on their contracts.

The Kenai Peninsula Educational Association and the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association had reached the tentative deal with the school district in September. The agreement came after more than a year of collective bargaining and an arbitration process, The Peninsula Clarion reported (http://bit.ly/2eDsu27).

Leaders of the two associations told district officials Monday that they had agreed to ratify the contract, according to KPEA President David Brighton.

The Board of Education still needs to approve the contracts at a Nov. 7 meeting before they can be finalized.

Brighton said he and KPESA President Patti Sirois visited several schools within the district to discuss the tentative contract with association members and answer their questions.

Much of the debate during the collective bargaining process, which started in February 2015, centered on health care benefits. The district had initially offered a traditional plan and a high-deductible plan and a per-employee, per-month cap on health care expenditures.

“The number one question was about the new high deductible plan, and just trying to get more information about what that would look like for them,” Brighton said.

With help from Oregon-based arbitrator David Axon, the associations and the school district reached a compromise on the benefits plan. Under the tentative contract, teachers still have the per-employee, per-month cap option but will be allowed to opt out of the health care plan as soon as the tentative agreement is ratified rather than waiting until January. Members of both associations will also be provided with $750 stipends.

The contracts for the two associations, which have nearly 1,200 members combined, are effective for three years.

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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