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SEATTLE -- Hundreds of teachers from Seattle and surrounding districts rallied Monday night at Mercer Middle School, calling on state lawmakers to abandon a plan to create a statewide health care system for school district employees.

The plan is part of ongoing negotiations in Olympia, as legislators work in special session to reach a budget deal. Unionized teachers who bargain the terms of their health care with individual districts say the plan would cost more, and strip them of vital negotiating power.

It is not going to save money to do what they want to do, third grade teacher Nancy Kiser said, and it is taking away a substantial part of our collective bargaining rights.

The teachers signed posters and crafted messages to send to their lawmakers. Our voice is not being heard in the halls of Olympia, said Seattle Education Association President Olga Addae. It has been a long while since our voices have been heard.

Proponents of the plan say it will save money in the long run and offer better health care for employees of school districts not covered by collective bargaining agreements.

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