Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Hillsborough school district offers teachers $30 million for 2018-19

The two sides, after six months apart, were barely at the bargaining table long enough on Monday to exchange pleasantries.

The Hillsborough County School District offered its teachers a total of $30 million in pay raises for the 2018-19 school year.

Mark West, general manager of employee relations, said cost-cutting of the past year made the offer possible. "We have taken a number of measures to improve our financial situation," he said. "We are at the point where we are able to offer some money for you for the upcoming year of 18-19."

There were no details about how the $30 million would be divided. Nothing was said about the current school year, during which the teachers have been working at last year's salaries.

Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, asked West if the $30 million was intended to cover all of the approximately 20,000 employees in her union's bargaining unit, which also includes teachers' aides and some clerical workers. West said it was for the 15,000 teachers, and the assistants would be paid separately.

Baxter-Jenkins also asked for clarification about two issues that arose in recent impasse hearings: That the district believes it can lower the amount it pays for performance bonuses, and that the teachers should consider the Best and Brightest awards that some are getting from the state to be a pay raise. West said his understanding of the law is that "we could meet the letter of the law with a very small, finite amount of money."

At that point the two sides separated to discuss the proposal, and negotiations broke off for the day.

To put the $30 million offer in perspective: The district estimates that what the union requested for 2017-18 will cost a total of $53 million, including $17 million in raises for roughly one-third of the teachers, as the pay plan for most teachers calls for raises every three years. The union has said that both the $17 million and $53 million estimates are exaggerated.

To understand it another way: Hypothetically, if 15,000 teachers were to share equally in the $30 million, it would work out to $2,000 apiece. But that isn't going to happen, Baxter-Jenkins said in an online post Monday evening on Gradebook. The union "is looking to have our contract honored," she wrote. That means using much of the money to satisfy those teachers who were expecting raises in 2017-18.

Again, nothing was said specifically about 2017-18. West merely said that the $30 million would be available, "effective July 1." The two sides are also waiting for a recommendation from impasse magistrate Mark Lurie, who heard testimony from both sides in April. 

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