MELBA, Idaho — Editor's note: The video posted in this story is from Feb. 3, when the Idaho Senate passed HB 443 to send it to Gov. Little's desk for signing.
Idaho Governor Brad Little signed House Bill 443 titled 'Leading Idaho' into law Tuesday morning at a teacher appreciation rally at Melba Elementary School.
The bill intends to extend better health insurance benefits to teachers across the Gem State, according to Gov. Little's press release.
"This investment means Idaho's teachers will be able to access better health benefits to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy," Gov. Little said. "It means teachers will be able to keep more of what they earn."
HB 443 creates a fund for Idaho school districts who choose to join the state's health plan. According to Little, 'Leading Idaho' also increases the state's contribution for teacher health insurance premiums by approximately $4,000 per teacher.
The bill hopes to ensure school districts have the resources needed to increase family insurance coverage and decrease out-of-pocket costs for Gem State teachers.
Idaho's teacher health insurance bill was led by Rep. Rod Furniss and Wendy Horman, as well as Senator Woodward. 'Leading Idaho' was co-sponsored by more than 40 additional Idaho legislators, according to Little.
According to KTVB's news partner the Idaho Press, Idaho budgets about $8,400 per year for health insurance costs for school employees including teachers; while it spends $12,500 per year for those same costs for state employees, including legislators.
HB 443 sets up a fund where the Legislature can appropriate one-time funds, estimated at $75.5 million, to pay for the one-time buy-in costs for any school district that chooses to join the pool for the state’s self-funded employee health insurance plan.
To partly offset the cost, HB 443 would eliminate current teacher “leadership premiums,” which provide small bonuses to teachers who take on extra work at a cost of just under $20 million a year, according to an article from the Idaho Press.
HB 443 passed the House 55-14 on Jan. 24. The Idaho Senate then voted 32-3 in favor of the bill on Feb. 3, sending it to Gov. Little's desk for signing.
"I want to thank my partners in the Legislature for passing this important bill," Gov. Little said. "They acknowledge the important role teachers play in partnering with parents and families in the education of our children – our future workforce."
Gov. Little said his 'Leading Idaho' plan additionally includes a pay increase for Idaho teachers ranging up to 10%, as well as $1,000 bonuses for teachers.
"We cannot meet our commitment to students without supporting the people who teach them in the classroom," Gov. Little said. "If you're running a business, you know you can only attract and retain dedicated, quality workers by paying them competitively, offering good benefits, and making them feel valued. Our educator workforce is no different."
On top of Tuesday's teacher appreciation rally at Melba Elementary School, Gov. Little said he will also attend similar rallies this week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls.
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