Permanent pay raises key for future success, Pasco school officials argue
With the Florida Legislature's committee meetings less than a month away, Pasco County school district leaders set forth the priorities they'll be pushing during the 2018 session.
Improved pay for teachers and staff was high on the list.
"I think we ought to be increasing teachers' salaries, and I think we need to do that with the state's help," superintendent Kurt Browning told the School Board on Tuesday.
He noted that lawmakers focused in 2017 on providing bonuses for teachers with strong performance evaluations. But he and others suggested such one-time payments are not enough — even if lawmakers said they would provide the bonuses over several years.
"The key is recurring," School Board vice chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said. "Bonuses, you just can't count on them from year to year. ... It's not fair."
The board adopted a budget on Tuesday that Browning said included "an amount" for raises, but did not detail how much or what percentage those raises might be. We have requested the specifics and will update this post when they become available.
District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said late Wednesday that the administration had $3.3 million in "roll forward" money from the 2016-17 budget. The amount comes from workers compensation, which did not cost as much as expected; canceled instructional materials purchases; and unused salary from positions that went unfilled after retirements or resignations. Cobbe said collective bargaining would help determine how to allocate the funds.
Still, Browning said, the onus cannot be completely on district decisions to cut spending in other areas to pay for staffing.
"We feel pretty strongly about it," he said. "If we want to recruit and retain highly effective teachers, then we need to be able to position ourselves to pay."
Other legislative priorities for the board included:
• Restoration of the 2.0 mill capital outlay tax rate, from the current 1.5 mills. The board would support requiring a supermajority vote to implement the rate, as well as a continuation of the sharing with charter schools that lawmakers recently imposed.
• Permission to use the SAT and ACT tests in place of state Florida Standards Assessments in certain subjects.
• Refining the requirements of an extra hour of reading instruction for students attending the Lowest 300 elementary schools, to allow children who scored 3 or 4 on the state language arts test to opt out of the hour.
• Imposing the same governance standards on charter schools and district schools.
Jim Ciadella, representing the United School Employees of Pasco, told the board it had a "great agenda"
"We agree with almost everything down the line," Ciadella said. "We certainly will help support that."
NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect additional information about money available for employee raises.