Most Florida teachers still await pay raises; Collier, Lee teachers have tentative agreements

Scott McIntyre/Staff
Cal Boggess, president of the Collier County Education Association, center, addresses a room full of Collier teachers and other members of the CCEA at the start of their meeting on Tuesday July 23, 2013. The group met to figure out how to respond after Collier teachers were denied raises by the Collier County School Board last week. After the decision last week, many of the teachers abruptly left in anger.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Cal Boggess, president of the Collier County Education Association, center, addresses a room full of Collier teachers and other members of the CCEA at the start of their meeting on Tuesday July 23, 2013. The group met to figure out how to respond after Collier teachers were denied raises by the Collier County School Board last week. After the decision last week, many of the teachers abruptly left in anger.

TALLAHASSEE — Fewer than one in five Florida school districts have reached agreements with local unions clearing the way for them to dole out Gov. Rick Scott’s much-touted teacher pay raises, according to a state survey.

Only 13 school districts had completed the collective bargaining necessary to award the raises as of last week, according to a presentation before a House subcommittee Wednesday. That represents about 19 percent of Florida districts.

As a result, more than three months into the budget year, only about $26.2 million of the $480 million set aside for the raises has been distributed.

Collier and Lee counties are ahead of much of the state, as both teachers unions have reached tentative agreements with their district, though the agreements still must be voted on by the respective school boards.

In Collier County, teachers are to get a 7.2 percent raise — expected to average about $3,550 per employee — of which about $1,750 comes from the “governor’s money,” officials said.

In Lee County, teachers who scored well on their annual evaluation will get a piece of a $9.1 million dollar pie — after the original $15.6 million from the governor was divvied to include charter school teachers and support personnel, said Donna Mutzenard, executive director for Lee County’s teachers union. Teachers who rated effective or highly effective will get about $1,700 from the governor’s fund, she said.

New teachers and teachers who transferred in from out of state are ineligible, but in-state transfers with an equivalent review will get the funds. All are retroactive to July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

Linda Champion, a deputy commissioner at the Florida Department of Education, said her agency believes that Florida teachers having returned to the classroom over the last several weeks could eventually prompt districts and unions to reach similar agreements.

“We would expect that you would see quite a few wrap up soon,” she said.

“Let’s hope,” replied Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who chairs the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

The teacher raises were Scott’s top budget priority during the 2013 legislative session. The governor had originally pushed for the raises to be across the board, while lawmakers instructed school districts to tie them to merit. But state officials also recognized that collective bargaining rights would have to be respected.

The governor’s office said Wednesday that he was disappointed in the survey results.

“While we were trying to respect the collective bargaining process, it is disappointing that not every teacher has gotten their pay raise,” spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said. “We expect districts to do everything they can to get pay raises done as soon as possible.”

Champion said one of the main reasons the raises have been delayed is that districts are still working to come up with the criteria for divvying up the money and reaching agreements with their unions on how to do so. One district has already declared its union negotiations at an impasse, according to the survey.

Teachers who have not yet received their raises will get paid retroactively when their districts and unions agree, Champion said.

One lawmaker voiced concerns with the agreements that are being made. Only two counties — Taylor and Wakulla — have gone with completely merit-based programs, according to the survey, though three — Citrus, Manatee and Okaloosa — had systems that blended in performance.

Meanwhile, at least four districts — Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes and Leon — have implemented plans that handed out across-the-board raises for teachers, against lawmakers’ wishes.

“I’m really disappointed that we did not have more school districts, at least in the first blush, to award these increases based on performance and performance alone,” said Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach. “It troubles me that we have school boards and superintendents who ignored that from the Legislature.”

© 2013 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features