NEWPORT NEWS - Retired Newport News teachers are speaking out against a proposed cut in their health care benefits.

'For 30-plus years, the school system trusted us to teach students and do the best job we can do. Now we find we cannot trust the school system to follow through with promises they made us,' says Betty Dixon, who taught for 35 years.

A letter is going out to retirees Monday to explain the changes affecting some retired teachers over age 65 years old if they use dental insurance.

The idea comes as the School Board struggles to overcome a $12.4 million budget gap. Officials say the move would save $600,000 for the school system. The cut would affect 1,097 retirees who are 65 years old or above. That group could add anywhere from $300 to $900 a year to their health care costs. However school officials stress that retired teachers, younger than 65 years old, will not face any additional costs.

Dixon says many teachers gave up pay to get up to 160 sick days in order to receive full health care benefits.

'That means that those teachers will get nothing for the sick leave days that they cashed in,' she notes.

School Board member Shelly Simonds says retired teachers get more benefits than current teachers and the board wants to bring the scale more in line.

The next public hearing is planned for 7:00 p.m. March 12 at the administration building, 12465 Warwick Blvd.

The School Board will Vote on budget on Tuesday March 19th.

'It is very disappointing because when I retired I was told I would receive these benefits for life,' Dixon states.

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