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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

The Hillsborough teacher pay plan: What happened?



The Tampa Bay Times received several questions from teachers and others who want to know what happened to the pay plan that was rolled out during the Gates reform years.

Why the difficulty in signing a new contract?

The teachers' union is a far better source of answers, and they have been working through the weekend to sort out the ongoing transfers.

But, to provide some history, here is a question and answer sheet that the union posted when the new pay plan was first offered. 

Pay special attention to the second question on the third page: "How will the district pay for all of this?" It sheds some light on the dilemma.

In that answer you will learn that:

1. The district put money aside, anticipating a jump in payroll costs that, as it turned out, added up to about $77 million dollars the first year when performance bonuses were included. Much has been said about depletion of the reserves in the general fund -- that's why Wall Street sounded those alarm bells. But, union leaders will tell you, the reserves were too high, at more than $300 million; and the money was there to cover the early years of the increased teacher pay. [Both sides will state that the reserve, now hovering around $146 million is still well above legal limits. It's not so much the amount, but the rate of depletion that worried the bond rating firms.]

2. MaryEllen Elia, the former superintendent, and her administration liked grants. The document says so in plain English. Knowing teacher pay would grow, they "increased the grants they applied for to offset other budget spending." The problem, district leaders are now acknowledging, is that grants are temporary, but the programs that they fund often remain long-term, and general fund dollars are tapped pay the cost. That's why a big priority for Superintendent Jeff Eakins is making sure expenses are paid from the correct accounts.

3. The district hoped, optimistically, that the Legislature would boost education spending once the recession was over. There was also an expectation that as baby boomers retired, they'd be replaced by new teachers earning entry level salaries. Some of this happened. But was it enough to make the numbers work? That's a matter of debate.

4. The very next question -- "What happens if the new schedule is not financially viable?" -- is answered very clearly: Although the union believes the plan is viable, if it turns out not to be viable, the two sides will address that issue through collective bargaining.

The next bargaining session is Monday at 2 p.m. 

[Last modified: Sunday, November 6, 2016 7:30am]


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