Broward Schools offer teachers one percent raise; ask for millions in concessions to pay for it

By William Gjebre,

The Broward County Public School District made its first official salary offer of a 1 percent raise to its teachers at a bargaining session Thursday, but also sought concessions to help pay for the $21 million proposal.

The offer came days after the Broward School Board met in a closed door session to discuss labor negotiations. One union official speculated the newly formed board may have sparked movement by district administrators, who last week stated there was no money earmarked for pay increases for the current year or next year.

Broward chief negotiator Susan Dumala presented the district’s package to representatives of the county’s 22,500 instructional personnel at the 14th bargaining session at the Atlantic Technical Center in Coconut Creek. It included the single step salary increase for teachers retroactive to January 1, 2011.

The hike would cost the district approximately $7.3 million for the balance of the 2010-2011 school year. The full year recurring cost will be approximately $14.5 million when teachers return to work for the 2011-2012 school year. The total cost for 1 ½ years is approximately $21.8 million.

The offer by the nation’s sixth largest school district was made made even as Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature are pushing for billions in statewide cuts in education funding.

Teachers, who have sought a two percent hike with concessions, greeted the offer with caution.

“The package constitutes movement,” said Broward Teachers Union chief negotiator Dane Ramson, adding the BTU wants to review the proposals before responding. She said she is hopeful that the parties can work out an agreement, noting that BTU members haven’t had a salary increase for two years.

Ramson said “the attitude of the board” may have played a part in the district’s movement because board members were thought to have been informed earlier in the week that the district had not yet made a salary offer. She added that the district’s package includes provisions that need union support for the federal “Race to the Top” program and other school improvement grants at upcoming critical stages.

The district’s salary offer, however, came with conditions that must be implemented to help fund the increased costs for this year and next year. They include:

  • Delaying board paid benefits, such as health insurance, for new hires in 2011-2012 until the first day of the month following three full calendar months of employment. Employees currently receive these benefits on the first day after a full month of employment. Estimated savings: $830,000 (based on 745 new hires).
  • Suspending contract provisions regarding funds to pay for teacher improvement in workshops and other training sessions for two years, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Estimated savings: $1.5 million.
  • Suspending contract provisions regarding release time for department/grade level chairpersons and team leaders during 2011-2012; such meetings often require substitutes. Estimated savings: $800,000.
  • Suspending a $300 “cafeteria” insurance benefit for the 2011-2012 school year that employees use to defray the cost of health insurance. Estimated savings: $8 million.
  • Denying a salary increase to any employee earning more than $100,000 – the district estimated 85 BTU members would be in this category. (The union had asked that the employees on the top step of the pay scale receive $500. The district estimated that the increase would cost $4 million.)
  • Changing high school scheduling to require many teachers now instructing five periods to teach six periods, with teachers being paid their hourly stipend for the additional class. Giving each teacher an additional teaching period results in the district having to hire fewer full time teachers. It’s less expensive to pay the hourly rate, than to hire additional full time teachers and pay full salary and benefits. Estimated savings: $10 million.

Ramson said the union will be going over the proposals and checking out the estimates provided by the district in order to respond. The estimated savings or reductions above total $20.3 million, nearly matching the estimated $21.8 million cost of the district’s salary package. “This goes a long way” in balancing the costs, Dumala said of the proposal she presented.

The district’s proposal made its first reference to the” Race to The Top” initiative of President Obama. It stated that the BTU would agree to sign off at upcoming key deadlines in order to keep the district in the pursuit of those federal funds. Both parties, however, would negotiate details as related to contract provisions.

Another district proposal states that annual contract teachers hired during the2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years are subject to non-renewal in accordance with state law. They must be evaluated as “satisfactory/effective” in order to be offered an instructional position, if available.

Ramson said the union also wants to look at the difference between the district’s and the union’s proposal regarding a “Retirement Assistance Program” that would pay for health insurance for those agreeing to retire. Both call for those on the top step (20), with 10 years of service, to be eligible, but the union wants the retirement eligibility age to be 55. The district has offered age 58. Health insurance would be paid until age 65.

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  • What your article neglects to mention is that the provision for changing high school schedules is a terrible idea. It would push all teachers to teach more students and yes they would get more money. However the money would only be paid for next school year. Meaning that in 2012-13 the high school teachers would have the same increased class load, but they would see s pay reduction. This is a slick ploy to get the teachers to agree to allow the district to change their schedules. Don’t be fooled!!!

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