School Board To Weigh Teacher Raises
By Ed Pierce // April 30, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – The Brevard County School Board will convene as a legislative body at 9 a.m. May 7 to settle the impasse between the Brevard Public Schools District and the Brevard Federation of Teachers.
The teachers union had requested that the Brevard County School Board conduct the hearing in the late afternoon so that teachers might attend, but the district instead scheduled the meeting for 9 a.m.
The May 7 date happens to coincide with the start of “Teacher Appreciation Week” nationally.
“We believe the school board members will listen to our reasonable arguments and do the right thing for teachers,” said Dan Bennett of the Brevard Federation of Teachers. “We know this hearing will not be a distraction to teachers in the classroom and we are not encouraging any teacher to take a personal day to come to the hearing.”
The district and the teachers union have been negotiating since June 2011 to settle this year’s teaching contract.
While many of the issues in the contract have been settled, three remain in dispute, including compensation, planning days and credited years of experience.
In 2011, the district offered across-the-board bonuses to teachers in lieu of raises, but the union countered that and showed that money could be found within the district’s budget to award modest raises instead.
Most teachers in Brevard County have not been given a pay raise since the 2006-2007 school year.
Brevard Public Schools refused the union’s claim, citing that by issuing raises, it would create a recurring commitment to increased spending for next year.
In his “Guiding Principles and Issues from the 2011-12 Budget” statement posted on the Brevard Public Schools website, Brevard Public Schools superintendent Dr. Brian T. Binggeli said there was general agreement in bargaining with both unions on the amount of compensation increase for the current year.
“We came to impasse, however, as both unions would only consider pay increases that would become a part of the permanent salary schedule, thus recurring in subsequent budgets,” Binggeli wrote. “This would create a $7.9 million deficit at the start of the 2012-13 budget.”
He went on to write that $14 million in the Federal Education Jobs Bill would disappear from the district’s 2012-13 budget and the state of Florida is predicting an additional $1.5 billion shortfall beyond that.
“To guarantee recurring compensation increases next year before we know if the state can replace any of this funding would increase the possibility of required employee layoffs seven months from now,” Binggeli wrote. “(In) jeopardizing many employees’ livelihood, not to mention valuable programs that serve students, in order to make these raises recurring at this time was something the board was not willing to do.”
The district declared an impasse in negotiations Nov. 1 and in January called the union back to the table to offer the recurring commitment of raises to many teachers, but not for all.
Using only monies that the district has committed to, Bennett said the union has shown that the raise package can be extended to all teachers who worked for the district last year.
“The Brevard Federation of Teachers believes it is unfortunate that the district has gone to such great lengths to exclude about a third of teachers from the raise package, when the dollars are admittedly available,” he said.
The school board also will weigh in on the fact that until this school year, teachers had a provision in their contract that allowed for the equivalent of five non-student days per year to be planning days used at a teacher’s discretion.
That has allowed teachers to take their laptops or other materials off campus and log hours worked away from their worksites.
The contract provision recognized the countless hours that teachers work from home during the school year.
However, the district removed the discretionary clause from this year’s contract without teacher or school board ratification as required by law.
The union then took the infraction to a taxpayer-funded arbitration hearing to get the provision restored.
At the May 7 hearing, the district will ask the school board to remove the discretionary clause again, this time permanently.
Bennett said the union will argue that discretionary time should be allowed for at least another school year to make up for this year when it was denied.
“Allowing us a year’s reprieve would protect the district from defending an Unfair Labor Practice, again supported by taxpayer dollars,” he said. “It would also show that teachers can get their jobs done, including recent mandates for collaboration, without their pre-planning time being raided.”
On the issue of credited experience, teachers who have worked with the district since 2007 have not yet been credited with the last four years of experience.
But some teachers hired since 2007 have been credited their full years.
Both the district and the union agree that teachers hired in the future should be placed on the salary schedule as though they had been employed during the five-year pay freeze.
“Unfortunately, we disagree on how to state this in the contract,” Bennett said. “The union supports simply changing the numbers on the years of experience column to reflect reality. This will allow any teacher looking at our county to know exactly where he or she will be placed.”
He said the district took to impasse the idea that the outdated salary schedule should remain the same, but a paragraph disclaimer should be inserted into the contract about two pages after the salary schedule.
The union believes this insertion would be disingenuous.
“The district has recently changed their position and now supports simply eliminating the years of experience column from the contract,” Bennett said. “We find this problematic because without the years of experience column, no out-of-towner would be able to look at the salary schedule to figure out where they would be placed.
“Furthermore, teachers currently in the district will not know how new hires are being placed,” he said. “Both district solutions seem dishonest and shady in the opinion of the union.”