Beyond the freeze: Pinellas teachers set sights on a raise
The grim budget picture for Pinellas schools continues to evolve. That initial across-the-board wage cut that fueled so much outrage has morphed into a wage freeze, thanks to a plan that will require employees to pay higher medical premiums. Now union officials tell The Gradebook they are pushing for more.
They contend there's enough money in the budget to give teachers their "step increases" (the routine raises based on years of service) plus a regular raise of 1.5 percent for teachers and all other employees. That’s a long way from where things started in the effort to cut $40-million from the budget.
Jade Moore (left), executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, points to $9-million the district has set aside to comply with the class size amendment. He contends Pinellas can meet the mandate without that money, and that it should go to employees.
District budget officials say otherwise. It's all part of the annual dance known as "collaborative bargaining," but the stakes in this year's crisis atmosphere seem higher. The School Board expects to settle on a budget by June 10.
Meanwhile, we await teacher reaction to the board's tentative decision Thursday to change the middle school day to seven periods, up from the current six periods at most schools. It was a decision based on academics and money, opening more space in the day for electives and saving the district $2.2-million it would otherwise spend on teachers to meet the class size mandate.
But the bottom line is that it increases teacher workloads with no extra pay. It could have been worse. The decision is a compromise from an eight-period day that would have saved the district more money and required teachers to be in front of kids for seven periods.
One other budget note: Administrators and board members are wincing at a proposal to cut the number of middle and high school assistant principals by 27 and send them back to the classroom. Because APs handle discipline, the primary concern is safety.
"It is absolutely the toughest thing we’re bringing forward to you," deputy superintendent Harry Brown said. The board eased the pain a bit by putting three AP positions back into middle schools. They would be assigned to schools with the greatest need.