Retirees, School Board discuss insurance benefits

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Thousands of Shelby County School retirees met with the school board to discuss benefits on Tuesday.

Ultimately, the board shot down Superintendent Dorsey Hopson's proposal that would have increased retirees contributions to their life insurance.

Many were upset because Hopson approached the board about the changes the night before they were set to expire.

"It's almost like holding a hammer to the heads of the board members saying you must do something, or no one has anything in the morning," said Keith Williams, Executive Director of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association.

On Wednesday, Williams said there's a lot of work and decisions ahead.

The insurance contract for Shelby County Schools was set to expire on Wednesday.

Tuesday night Hopson addressed the board, concerned teachers and retirees.

Many were upset and unsure of the future.

"What I guess we should've done was brought this to the forefront and kept talking about it," explained Hopson.

Hopson said life insurance rates have gone up by millions.

They didn't budget for that much.

He said only one company bid for the contract.

His proposal cuts how much of the district absorbs in costs.

"Keep the benefits the exact same and ask retirees to pay half the premium on their life insurance, and those employees that do not want to pay half their premium they will receive a $10,000 death benefit," he said.

The school board ultimately decided there wasn't enough dialogue about the new plan and chose to extend the current contract of $8.4 million.

Now they want retirees, the union, and the district to come to the table to hash things out, so the district isn't millions in the hole.

"We have to look at it, but we do owe it to you to make sure we turn over every stone and make sure we've exhausted every possibility within reason," said school board member Chris Caldwell to the crowd.

"Right now there's a lot of fear, there's still a lot of inequalities people see," said one woman who was at the meeting.

Looking forward, Williams said he expects teachers to be part of future conversations and decisions.

"We just need to be at the table to make sure that everything is done decently and in order," he said.

The board expects to hear from everyone at the end of September.

Superintendent Hopson argued he had talked about changes to the insurance plan before Tuesday's meeting.

On Wednesday, SCS released a statement saying, "We are finalizing a plan to better engage and inform our retirees and
active employees about the proposed insurance benefit changes. It's our desire to provide them with the best benefit options our current budget can provide."