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AAE State Chapter Leads Coalition to Solve Educator Health Care Crisis in Arkansas
posted by: Ruthie | October 22, 2013, 08:26 PM   

AAE’s Arkansas state chapter, the Arkansas State Teachers Association (ASTA), was honored to be part of a coalition that was successful in reducing health care premiums for education employees. After a 33-hour special session and a package of bills approved over the weekend, the state will use surplus money this year and redirect state funds in future years to lower teachers' insurance premiums. Governor Beebe signed the bills into law on Monday.

ASTA staff and member advocates were instrumental in bringing this issue center stage. Following social media campaigns, face-to-face meetings across the state, and meaningful conversations with all parties, ASTA represented a respectful voice for classroom teachers and school employees all across Arkansas.

For months, ASTA Executive Director Dr. Michele Linch, ASTA staff, and member leaders worked diligently to spread the word to stakeholders and media outlets. ASTA representatives also lead the coalition in several meetings and calls with legislators and the Governor. Their commitment to meeting with teachers and ASTA staff was paramount to finding a solution.

The ASTA staff was honored and humbled by the outcry of support and personal testimonials from member surveys. "This victory would not have been possible without our hardworking member educators," stated ASTA Executive Director Dr. Michele Linch. "Professionalism comes first. At ASTA, we were thrilled to see a productive conversation that never lost sight of the need of students to have an effective educator."

In Arkansas, The state board that governs health care rates had approved premium increases effective January 1. According to ASTA membership surveys, the increases were set to cause extreme financial hardships for education employees. Although the rates are still projected to increase by 10%, the state will use budget surplus funds to stop the increases in the years ahead.

ASTA was able to establish relationships with policy makers from across the state who commended the fresh approach a true professional association took to this crisis. "Thanks for truly representing the interests of Arkansas teachers and for caring enough to attend to see this thing to the end," said Representative Bell (R-20).

This legislative solution is a step in the right direction for educational professionalism in Arkansas and across the country. Absent strikes and sick outs, this victory is a shining example of what a non-union, professional association can do to steward the teaching profession in a positive direction. We can balance the needs of our education employees with the pressing needs of our students.

We are proud of ASTA for their leadership and hard work.  Congratulations!




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