Governor Rick Scott made it a priority and he pledged Florida’s teachers would receive raises for the 2013-2014 school year of approximately $2,500 per teacher.
Despite the Governor’s pledge and the allocation of funds by the Florida legislature, the actual wording of the legislation may very well result in unexpected use of the funds allocated/intended for teacher raises. Specifically, school districts can distribute any amount of the allocation to any employee as long as the distribution is agreed to in the applicable collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and therein is the potential problem.
The school board and the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) are beginning negotiations on the CBA and the expected $63 million allocated for raises (of which $10 million must go to charter schools) for the school year 2013 – 2014.
Miami-Dade School Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, has indicated the district’s approximately 23,000 teachers will be the top priority in distribution of the funds; however, UTD President, Fredrick Ingram has indicated his union represents teachers, school administrators to include guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, librarians, assistant principals, principals, paraprofessionals and clerical staff. He believes all are eligible for a share of the money.
In addition, the district’s police union is seeking approximately $3 million for raises as they too fall under the broad category of “any school district employee”.
Enid Weisman, Chief Human Capital Officer for the school district has acknowledged the really stages of CBA negotiations has been difficult due to the pledge and expectations of Governor Scott. In a response to Fedrick Ingram, she has said, “I’m living with those comments and you’re living with those comments, because he [Gov. Scott] has no authority to supersede collective bargaining. He’s thrown us into this. I feel like the hamster on the treadmill.”
Alberto Carvalho intends to honor the pledge and the apparent intent for the distribution of the money. He has said, “Notwithstanding the last-minute changes to the appropriation language, I personally give exceptional weight to the legislative intent and original promise as proffered. With that said, I look forward to the discussion at the bargaining table to live up to the promise and expectation and ultimately dignify the work of those who do the most for students.”
School districts have yet to submit to the state their plans for distribution of the money. Erik Fresen, Chairman of the Florida House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, has indicated the legislature left flexibility for school districts, but it was Tallahassee’s expectation the raises would be merit-based and reserved for classroom personnel. He specifically said, “Once you’re flexible, you’re flexible, and it can trickle down as far down as the cafeteria worker; but I would hope that leaders at the local level would not take it to that level and would truly use these dollars on the in-class instructional workers doing the hard work every day.”
Other school districts in Florida will undoubtedly be facing a similar issue regarding distribution and the anticipated teacher raises may not be as guaranteed as previously pledged by Governor Scott.
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