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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 8 months ago

Orange teachers to vote on new contract agreement

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The tentative agreement between the district and CTA includes permanent salary increases, more planning time and no increase in health insurance costs until October.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

After heading back to the drawing board for further bargaining, the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association and Orange County Public Schools have reached a new tentative agreement regarding teacher compensation and working conditions.

On Nov. 8, the CTA announced that it signed the tentative agreement. And on Nov. 12, the Orange County School Board approved the teacher salary increases pending CTA ratification.

“Together we showed that when our members speak with one voice, we have strength and power at the bargaining table,” Wendy Doromal, president of the CTA, told members. “You said you wanted salary increases and not bonuses, you said you wanted a one-year deal, you said you wanted more planning time, and together, we have achieved those things.”

The district and CTA have gone back and forth with bargaining teacher salaries and benefits for the 2019-20 school year since June. The two previous agreements proposed in June and September included cost-of-living increases to base salaries and one-time, lump-sum bonuses.

However, teachers voted to reject both offers, stating that they wanted salary increases rather than bonuses. They also asked for more planning time, and many stated concerns about the increase in insurance costs. 

The most recent agreement, should it be ratified, would include higher permanent salary increases, no temporary bonuses and no insurance increase in the 2019-20 school year. Staff across the board would receive a $700 cost-of-living increase. Personnel rated “effective” would receive a $2,100 total salary increase, while those rated “highly effective” would receive a $2,800 total increase. Staff would receive their retro pay before the end of the year.

Additionally, employees would not have to pay a health insurance increase until October 2020, giving them time to prepare for the increase and seek alternative arrangements if needed.

Highlights of the agreed-upon working conditions include a maximum of two early-release day meetings per month, limits on meetings during preplanning, guaranteed restroom breaks and free replacement ID badges.

The tentative agreement comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposes a $91.4 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, which includes the $600 million needed to raise teachers’ starting salaries to $47,500. DeSantis said this would boost the pay for more than 101,000 teachers. The Legislature will approve a budget during the annual session beginning Jan. 14.

“It is an extraordinary increase compared to what you’re seeing around the region,” School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs said of the district’s tentative agreement. “This board has been actively engaged in continuing to work with the Legislature. We’re excited to hear the governor talk about raising starting salaries and minimum salaries but think it’s important for everyone to know that as excited as we are about that, we also understand the concern about compression. 

“It’s extremely important to us — and to most of the members of the Legislature that we’ve talked to — that our teachers that have been in the classroom for years, our teachers that are encouraging and mentoring other teachers need to see that same appreciation and respect in terms of pay,” she said.

Ballots for the 2019-20 contract ratification were mailed to teachers on Nov. 18 and are due back to the CTA office Dec. 5. Ballots will be counted Dec. 6, and results will be announced after vote counting is complete. Results also will be posted on the CTA’s website at orangecta.com.

Doromal said CTA members stood up and spoke loudly and clearly about what they wanted, and the deal reached represents their victory in achieving one of the biggest salary increases in recent history, as well as a victory in regaining planning time and respect to their working conditions. 

“We must continue to make progress to increase Florida’s average teacher pay from the bottom 10 nationally to the top 10,” Doromal said. “We hope that we can get our message out to fund our future for students, teachers and public education.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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