A representative of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) provided some details Friday about the new contract ratified Thursday by the Canton Area Education Association (CAEA) and the Canton Area School District.

It's been a long road for both sides, teachers and school directors alike.

Stu Karschner, a PSEA representative assisting the association, said their approval of a new contract Thursday night ended a bargaining process that began in January 2012.

"Each side listened to the other's needs and concerns for a long time and we were finally able to find some middle ground on the issues," he stated in a news release.

In addition, he noted that the new contract is in effect from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015, "meaning that the parties will have to legally begin bargaining a successor agreement in January of 2015."

Here are the teacher pay raises, according to Karschner: zero percent for the 2012-2013 year, 4.5 percent for the 2013-2014 year, and 3 percent for the 2014-2015 year.

When asked for comment, he explained that the percentages are related to the sum of all teacher salaries, and then the money is distributed based upon where the member is on the salary schedule.

The news release notes that Karschner believes one part of the agreement that "alleviated some of the challenges between the teachers and the district was the health care aspect."

"There are basically three parts," Karschner stated in the news release. "First, the contract agreement calls for the members to move from the current Traditional and PPO plans onto a High Deductible plan. This plan has out of pocket totals of either $2,000 (for single plans) or $4,000 (for non-single plans) that the members must pay before their health care plan even kicks in."

The news release continues:

Karschner said "that the cost to the district of purchasing the new plans will actually save the district over $200,000 per year. The second aspect of the agreement calls for the district to assist the teachers in paying the high deductibles and out of pocket expenses by creating a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) for each member. This makes everyone stake holders in the game, with the possibility that some of the HRA money may be rolled over into a secondary account in the members name for future and/or other health care cost."

"First it saves the district money. Second, it should make CAEA members more aware of how much they actually spend on health care issues and make them better consumers, and finally it allows an avenue for members to save some money for future health care cost," Karschner stated.

Karschner also pointed out that the same idea was included in a recent fact finding report that was accepted by the Athens Area Education Association but rejected by the Athens Area School District. "I don't know why their school board rejected the offer," said Karschner. "Athens Area School District stood to save hundreds of thousands of dollars just like Canton Area School District will save going forward."

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.