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Battle looms over control of teachers' health care

Washington schools superintendent Randy Dorn is expected Tuesday to endorse a state takeover of K-12 employee health care. But the union that represents Washington teachers is prepared to defend its decades-long role as a provider of health insurance.

The teachers’ union calls it a taxpayer “rip off” and government “boondoggle.” Fiery language to describe a plan to put the state of Washington in the driver’s seat when it comes to K-12 employee health benefits.

Ann Giles is an elementary school librarian in Vancouver. She sits on the union’s health care advisory board.

“I think this is a red herring that is leading us away from the real problems that we need to solve right now,” says Ann Giles.

But a new report commissioned by the state legislature finds the current system costs taxpayers a billion dollars a year. Right now each of Washington’s nearly 300 school districts contracts for health care on it own. The report proposes to consolidate them under one – state managed - system for all 200,000 Washington school employees.

That could save money. But there would also be a cost for the state to start up and run the insurance system and contract with private insurers.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.