The Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association reached a tentative deal around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. All Kenai Peninsula schools will be open Tuesday.

The unions say the agreement is a three-year deal covering July 2018 through June 30, 2021. More details will be released later in the day.

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Educators on the Kenai Peninsula are planning to strike over rising healthcare premium costs.

The executive committees for the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association voted to notify the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District of their intent to strike next week, according to a Friday release from KPEA President David Brighton.

"The failure of the KPBSD to adequately address the Association’s primary concern of affordable healthcare premiums for public school employees continues to hinder an acceptable agreement," the release said.

According to the release, around 75% of teachers and education support staff voted earlier this year to strike if the district didn't offer lower healthcare premium costs.

On Thursday, the association's bargaining team offered to give up a previously agreed upon raise for all employees in fiscal year 2021 if the district would agree to their most recent healthcare proposal.

The district has yet to do so.

Brighton said the decision to strike ultimately came down to members being tired of waiting.

"We have said since May that we don’t want to strike, but we will,” he said. “We have been bargaining for 575 days, and the District still doesn’t seem to understand how incredibly important healthcare is to our members." 

KPEA and KPESA say members want healthcare premium costs lowered to a level that's comparable to similar districts across the state. KPESA President Anne McCabe said the association's employees want them to be competitive in Alaska.

“Our educators work hard for every single dollar and benefit they receive in compensation,” she said. “Our latest proposal asks our members to sacrifice well deserved raises in order to achieve our ultimate goal of affordable healthcare. We simply cannot afford to give any more and apparently that’s still not enough for District leadership.”

The release says the district's most recent offer would mean that public school employees on the peninsula would have to pay double what other public school employees in similar districts pay for their premiums.

The school district issued the following statement on behalf of a spokesperson after hearing of the associations' decision to strike:

"The district wants to avoid this. It is something that the district has continued to work towards, finding a fair agreement between the district and the staff. The district values its staff very much, we value our students, we value our families and we really intend to put forth another proposal to find an agreement."

KPEA and KPESA members will start their district-wide strike at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

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