Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe called a special session to address public school employee health insurance rate increases, and the leadership of the Arkansas Education Association has said they are hopeful the session will solve the short-term problems facing public school employees.

"We are relieved to hear that a special session has been called," said AEA President Brenda Robinson.

Robinson said the funding matrix is different for the public schools, which causes the difference in numbers.

"Because of this funding matrix, it’s a totally different way they disperse the money," she said.

Teachers’ health insurance has been on the rise for several years, Robinson said, and between last year and this year it has gone up 82 percent for the Gold Plan, which most public school employees are on.

Beebe called the special session to start Thursday at 3 p.m. It is expected to end Saturday.

"I would not be issuing this call if we hadn’t already seen extraordinary bipartisan efforts to help our teachers and other public-school employees in Arkansas," Beebe said in a press release. "After dozens of meetings with legislators, district officials, teachers and other involved parties, we have a solution that may not please every individual group, but will help alleviate the spike in insurance rates and shore up this insurance program."

According to the press release, the call to bring the general assembly into session includes bills that, if approved, would provide $43 million one-time surplus funds to reduce the 2014 rate increase from 50 percent to 10 percent, redirect future savings from the Educational Facilities Partnership Fund to provide long-term relief to the plan, modify the requirements for Teacher Professional Development to provide long-term relief to the plan, establish a task force to study and revise the Public School Employees Plan for future sustainability and clarify the distribution of state revenue generated by the Uniform Rate of Tax — as advised by the Arkansas Supreme Court — and direct some of that revenue to the Educational Facilities Partnership Fund.

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at angela.spencer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)