by Susan Oâ€™Neill
KANELANDâ€”Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, the Kaneland School District will pay 50 percent of the cost of insurance premiums for dependents of full-time educational support staff (paraprofessionals). Currently, the district pays for 95 percent of the paraprofessionalsâ€™ premiums, but does not contribute to the premium for their spouses or children.
The School Board approved the change on Monday night, with a 4-1 vote. Ken Carter, whose wife works for the district, abstained, and Diane Piazza voted against the measure. Robert Myers was absent.
Piazza said she did not have a problem with the concept of contributing to the premiums for the dependents of paraprofessionals. The school district currently pays 50 percent of the premium for the teachersâ€™ dependents. However, she said no one knows how much this additional coverage will cost the district, and the budget already has a $1 million deficit despite the cuts the district has made.
â€œIâ€™m concerned with adding this expense at this time,â€ she said.
After the meeting, Piazza explained that her concerns are related to the salary increases the board approved earlier this year for the teachers. After the raises were enacted, the district then laid off a number of teachers to reduce the budget deficit. She said she did not want to see that happen with the paraprofessionals.
Several paraprofessionals attended the board meeting to hear the outcome of the vote. They had come forward as a group to ask for the additional benefit. They said they thought it was only fair that they receive the same benefits as the teachers. The teachersâ€™ union does not represent them.
Medical and dental coverage for district employees costs $435 for single coverage and $1,087 for family coverage through Blue Cross and Blue Shield. On a monthly basis, the district picks up $412 of the single coverage premium, and the employee pays $20. The district pays $900 for family coverage, with the employee paying $180.
Board President Lisa Wiet said the paraprofessionals are a class of employees that has not received this additional benefit in the past, something that is out of line with neighboring school districts.
â€œItâ€™s hard to predict how many will take advantage of the new benefit,â€ she said.