BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County teachers have long received pay raises based on their experience.
It's been simple: Survive another year, jump a step on the salary schedule.
But that could soon change. The Hernando Classroom Teachers Association has proposed eliminating experience-based raises for ones based on teachers' annual performance evaluations, a move they say conforms with changing state statutes.
"It gives us — both sides — the options to maintain fiscal responsibility, projected cost," said John Imhof, a Springstead High School history teacher and member of the union's bargaining team.
Imhof said he feels the proposal is a "best fit" for the county.
But the proposal is somewhat surprising for a teachers union, a group that traditionally has been reluctant to tie pay to performance, citing flaws in the methods for evaluating teachers and a lack of funding.
Hernando's measure goes further than some other districts by placing all teachers on the same performance schedule and allowing them to maintain their tenure. In addition, no current teachers would have the option of remaining on a separate, more traditional schedule, known as a "grandfather schedule."
Whether all of that is allowable under the new state law is open to interpretation.
Union president Jo Ann Hartge said the proposal is an attempt to adhere to a new law that mandates the creation of a performance pay scale. Creating one scale will protect teachers with "professional service contracts," commonly known as teacher tenure, and also increase earning potential, she said.
"HCTA and the District would never propose any language that would put a teacher in danger of losing their (professional service contracts)," Hartge wrote in a message. "No one will be making less money than they are currently earning."
Under the proposal, beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, all teachers would be placed on a single schedule, and raises would be determined by state evaluation scores — "highly effective," "effective," "needs improvement," "developing" and "unsatisfactory." The better the score, the higher the raise.
While the exact amount would be subject to annual negotiations, the proposal given to the district last week would give "highly effective" teachers a $1,200 raise and "effective" teachers a $900 raise. Lesser scores would not merit a pay bump.
Both Imhof and Sandra Armstrong, executive director of the Florida Education Association's United Service Unit, said they feel the proposal would give teachers greater earning potential over the long haul.
Unlike the current salary schedule, Imhof said, this one would allow continued movement with no cap after a certain number of years.
"I think that's the big carrot for the bargaining members," he said.
Said Armstrong: "This doesn't prohibit them from continuing to earn increases."
The proposal received a positive review from district officials after a brief discussion.
Heather Martin, the school district's executive director of business services, called it a "very interesting proposal" and said the district will examine it further to ensure that it complies with the law. She also feels it is in line with the spirit of the district's past offers.
"It's a very good proposal," Martin said.
The proposal also is a major step in the related, ongoing negotiations over how to distribute roughly $3.8 million in raises from the state. Until last week, little progress had been made.
The union wanted to settle the issue of the state raise money before addressing any other issues with the salary schedule. The district said that permanently putting that much into the salary schedule was fiscally irresponsible.
The union's proposal for teachers includes raises ranging from $2,000 to $2,550 for the 2013-14 school year. Non-instructional employees and administrators would not be included.
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.