CASEVILLE, Mich. - Health insurance costs continue to divide the Caseville Board of Education and Caseville Education Association, according to the Huron Daily Tribune, with teachers requesting benefits that the district says are not affordable.

The teacher contract expired in 2006, according to the Tribune. Considering the sides to be at impasse as of September 2008, the board implemented a health plan that pays the full premium for each individual teacher and makes an additional $8,995 contribution toward family coverage, if the teacher chooses it, the Tribune reported. Teachers must pay the remaining amount for family coverage, typically $100 a month, for a policy that costs the district nearly $16,000 a year.

Teachers say that Caseville is the only district in the county that does not provide fully funded health care for teachers' families and also that their salaries are second lowest in the county and "considerably lower" than the Michigan average, according to the Tribune.

"If our teachers want to continue to drive a Buick and the board can only afford a Chevy, what's wrong with asking them to pay the difference?" board President Mike Siegfried said in a press release, according to The Tribune.

But the 18-member CEA said the district is ignoring a fact finder's opinion that the district has not demonstrated it cannot afford salary and benefits on par with comparable districts, the Tribune reported.

A bargaining session with a state mediator is scheduled for Feb. 19.

Huron Daily Tribune, "Caseville teachers picket," Jan. 20, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Health insurance: Reformed, but not resolved," Sept. 16, 2008

Michigan Education Report, Michigan Schools Collective Bargaining Agreements, "Caseville Public Schools," March 4, 2008