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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Would early retirement plan make Pasco less attractive to teachers?



One of the key components to a proposed early retirement buyout for Pasco teachers might have some unintended consequences that already are coming under scrutiny by union and district officials.

In order to realize the $4 million in savings that the School Board seeks, superintendent Heather Fiorentino has said all new hires would have to join the district at a salary no higher than a fifth-year employee -- regardless of their experience. It's not clear whether that would be a one-year pay rate, with the new hires then gaining credit for any additional years of work, or if that would be their permanent starting pay on which all future raises and bonuses are based.

Without a clear answer to that question, some wonder whether veteran teachers would agree to come to Pasco, particularly if other neighboring districts that also have jobs don't have a similar pay restriction.

"We don't want to put the union and the district in a position where we are not competing," said Lynne Webb, president of the United School Employees of Pasco.

It wasn't all that long ago when the state required school districts to place teachers on the salary scale based on their years of teaching, instead of giving credit for only seven years, as had been the practice. Florida districts were growing rapidly and in dire need of teahers. Yet many found that putting veterans on step seven was causing Florida to lose qualified candidates to other states that paid better.

Pasco's scenario appears similar in many ways.

If a 20-year teacher from New York were to learn that Pasco would pay her the salary of a fifth-year teacher, would that educator come to Pasco? Or would that teacher just look to neighboring districts, which also are hiring to meet class size mandates but don't have a similar restriction in place.

Board vice chairwoman Joanne Hurley stressed that the board is looking at this potential offer as a budget-cutting measure and not as a benefit for everyone. Some teachers might not want to come here, she acknowledged, adding that the district must consider long-term as well as short-term pros and cons of the concept.

Negotiations on the program are slated to begin on Thursday.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 11:27am]


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