Salary talks between School District, union stalls

  • Osceola County School District
    Osceola County School District

Salary negotiations between the Osceola County School District and teachers union in remain stalled amid disagreement over a new state law.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in June signed a bill requiring teachers be paid a minimum annual salary of $47,500, or as close to that as fiscally possible. State officials said it would move Florida from 23rd to 5th in the nation for starting teacher pay. Last year, the average starting salary was about $37,600. In Florida, where new teachers are always needed to meet the constant population boom, there’s no dispute that the state mandate will go far in attracting new educators into the system.

But local union officials contend experienced teachers in the district are being overlooked because those with 10 to 15 years of experience would be earning roughly the same salary as those just entering the field.

Teachers already making around the new $47,500 minimum are not expected to see a significant pay increase, said Lare Allen, president of the Osceola County Education Association.

“It sets up a situation where you’re pitting teachers against each other,” Allen said.

Imagine that you’ve got years of experience and now the new guy is making the same salary as you. Not only that, but you’re expected to help train him, too.”

The Osceola County School District said earlier this month it can provide a minimum base salary of $46,100 – about a $6,000 increase from last year – and a $900 raise for eligible, full-time instructional personnel working within the parameters of the new mandate and the district’s annual funding from the state.

Allen said Osceola has the funds to increase veteran teachers’ pay, but that the union hasn’t been able to sway district officials or the School Board during negotiations.

The district’s 2020-21 fiscal budget is about $591 million, 85 percent of which is designated for instruction and support. The state is expected to fund about 45 percent of the budget, with local and federal tax dollars funding the other 42 and 13 percent, respectively.

The union doesn’t expect the School District to provide $6,000 raises across the board, but wants those making near the new minimum to get a bigger bump in pay.

“We’ve proposed a plan where there’s some sort of separation in pay for new vs. experienced teachers. That would make us happier. It would go a long way because it’s not just about money,” Allen said.

The local union’s stance on teacher pay falls in line with others throughout the state and with the Florida Education Association. The unions are also in a contentious debate with the local and state officials over coronavirus concerns.

The FEA is suing the governor and the Florida Department of Education over the emergency order issued in July mandating that all schools open their doors by the end of August.

The order requiring brickand-mortar schools to open five days a week violates the state Constitution’s guarantee of “safe” and “secure” public education. Schools risk losing funding if they don’t comply with the order.

Allen said other COVID-19-related problems in Osceola include requiring teachers with online positions to work from schools instead of from home and a lack of support for teachers instructing students both in-person and online.

“A lot of teachers make things look easy when it’s actually a lot more difficult than people think,” Allen said.

“It sets up a situation where you’re pitting teachers against each other.”

-LARE ALLEN, president of the Osceola County education association.