School Board Denies Pay Raises For Some Teachers
By Ed Pierce // May 7, 2012
No Wage Hikes For Some Since 2007
BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – The first day of “National Teacher Appreciation Week” got off to a rough start Monday for Brevard Public Schools teachers.
In a five-hour impasse hearing before the Brevard County School Board, the school district and the teachers union presented arguments to uphold or overturn the decision of a special magistrate in February regarding pay raises for teachers, discretionary teacher planning time and adjustments to the teacher salary schedule placement.
The board ruled unanimously 5-0 on all three impasse issues, siding with the district and agreeing with the special magistrate denying some teachers wage increases, requiring that all teacher planning days be spent on school campuses and keeping the salary schedule placement grid as is.
Many Brevard teachers have worked without a raise in pay since the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.
Last year 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.
If the magistrate’s ruling had been overturned, most teachers would have received an average raise of $1,319 annually under the union’s proposal.
Instead, Brevard teachers hired since a wage freeze was implemented in 2007 will receive a one-time bonus of $350, while some other teachers will get a one-time bonus of $700, but other teachers will receive a step increase and a small raises under terms of the new contract.
In refuting the union’s claim that money was available to give all teachers raises, Brevard Public Schools superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli cited data that issuing raises would create a recurring commitment to increased spending for next year and beyond.
“For the 2010-2011 school year we cut $75 million, eliminated 116 positions, reduced funding support and spent $6 million to meet the class size amendment,” Binggeli told the school board.
“Our local revenue barely comes up to our long-term debt.”
He said the union’s proposal would add as much as $12 in recurring debt for the district and he opposed adding further debt at a time of economic uncertainty.
Dan Bennett of the Brevard Federation of Teachers shared with the board how savings could be found in the budget to fund the raises, such as by drawing additional funds through the attrition of teachers retiring at the top of the salary scale and then replaced by new teachers just starting out at the bottom of the pay scale.
“The effect of all of this today will be devastating for Brevard teachers,” Bennett said.
“They passed a divisive compensation package on the first day of National Teacher Appreciation Week and it had nothing to do about the money.
“It’s incredible for teachers to learn how their district just treated them,” Bennett said.
“The district initiated a 2.2 percent bonus and has had it posted on their website, but now they tell them the bonus they thought they would be getting instead is $350. What would you make of that?”
Candidate for reelection
School board member Karen Henderson of Viera said she voted to uphold the magistrate’s decision because it was the right thing to do.
“I read the magistrate’s recommendations and he was supposed to be impartial and reviewed these issues objectively,” Henderson said. “After hearing comments on the amount of money to be spent, I agreed that we need to be conservative in our approach to this.”
Henderson, who is up for re-election to the school board, said she was aware teachers who have supported her previously or other constituents might not approve her vote to deny raises for teachers.
“I don’t know how it will affect my campaign or the election,” she said. “At the end of the day I have to do what is best for the district as a whole and I stand by my decision.”
The board also voted to deny teachers off-campus planning days.
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 spend hours working at locations other than their worksites.
The contract provision took into account 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. Monday’s decision by the school board made the removal of that clause official.
The board also voted to leave the salary schedule placement chart intact, but to add a clarification paragraph for prospective teachers interested in reviewing the district’s pay plan.
The union had proposed to make the chart more realistic by showing salary for years of experience, but Binggeli argued that the new chart would confuse existing teachers and he couldn’t support a measure to clarify the salary schedule for those looking at possible employment with the district at the expense of more than 5,000 teachers already working here.
Many teachers were upset that the impasse hearing was scheduled at 9 a.m. on a Monday, not allowing them an opportunity to attend the hearing because it was a school day.
The revised contract will now be reviewed by Brevard teachers and then voted upon.
If the teachers do not accept the terms of the contract, the district and the union will be forced to renegotiate the contact, including all tentative agreements previously agreed on with the exception of the issues resolved at the impasse hearing.