Brevard teachers union halts raise negotiations, calling district’s offers ‘laughable’

Following months of negotiations, the Brevard County school district and the teachers union are at a standstill over teacher raises after the union called impasse this week.

District negotiators and union leaders have made little progress since starting bargaining talks nearly six months ago, and despite millions of dollars in budget savings are struggling to find money for salaries. Dozens of teachers wearing red shirts attended Monday’s meeting.

Negotiations will resume in front of a special magistrate, who will make a raise recommendation to the school board, which ultimately makes the final decision.

Last school year, negotiations also soured, over the district’s offer of $875 for highly effective teachers and $600 for effective teachers. Teachers picketed outside school board meetings and some refused to work beyond school hours. About a week before meeting with a special magistrate, the district offered an additional $200 bonus, and the union settled.

The union this year has been steadfast in its demands for higher pay.

More: Even after millions in budget savings, BPS struggling to find money for teacher raises

“We simply cannot wait several more months for the school board to come back with another offer that not only is not competitive to our comparable and contiguous counties, but also does not keep up with inflation,” said union president Anthony Colucci. “It is time that BPS takes care of the people who take care of the children of Brevard County.”

The district’s latest offer — which the union called “laughable” — would give teachers rated highly effective on their annual evaluations a $770 raise and teachers rated effective a $540 raise. District leaders also offered a one-time $1,000 bonus for all teachers, except those rated “unsatisfactory” and a $165 bonus for special education teachers.

The district’s offer would cost $9.9 million to give raises to all of the county’s teachers, said district chief financial officer Pennie Zuercher. To put it in perspective, a 1 percent raise for all employees costs about $5 million.

Teacher raises through the years:

  • 2008-2010: No raise
  • 2011: 2.7%
  • 2012: No raise; 1% one-time bonus
  • 2013: 4.5%
  • 2014: 2.1%
  • 2015: 5.1%
  • 2016: 1.3%
  • 2017: 1.5%

The union demanded nearly six times what the district is offering: $3,593 for highly effective teachers and $2,694 for effective. Union leaders originally also asked that all teachers get a one-time $500, but later retracted that request.

The union’s request would cost $20.4 million, Zuercher said, which the district can’t afford. But Colucci believes more money is available than the district is letting on.

The district argued that it has made teacher pay its top priority and has not funded any other major projects. However, ongoing projects to reopen South Lake Elementary in Titusville and relaunch a busing system to transport students to schools outside their attendance zones required about $2 million in additional funding this year.

Much of the money allocated from the states, officials said, was quickly swallowed up by new security and mental health mandates following the shooting in Parkland, including $1.4 million to pay newly hired, armed security guards to patrol the county’s elementary schools.

More: BPS now has ‘panic button’ app to alert police to shootings, emergencies

More: Brevard Schools phasing out Edline website for $1 million program

Officials said they dipped into reserves to cover the cost of the bonuses.

Other cuts were made to free up the nearly $10 million it would cost to cover the district’s latest offer — including cutting vacant positions and supply allocations, and funding the facilities department’s maintenance and salary expenses with capital dollars instead of operating dollars.

The district opted not to ask voters to approve a property tax increase to bring in additional money for raises.

Colucci said he believes the union will have a strong case in front of a special magistrate, who will consider what teachers make in comparable districts and availability of funds.

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