Following months of bargaining, Orange County Public Schools teachers have voted to ratify a contract agreed upon by the district and Orange County Classroom Teachers Association.
With 76% of teachers voting in favor, according to OCPS, teachers ratified the 2019-20 agreement for salary and other working conditions Friday, Dec. 6.
“You, the members, stood up and spoke loudly and clearly,” OCCTA President Wendy Doromal told members upon reaching the final agreement. “This deal represents your victory on one of the biggest salary increases in recent history, your victory on your planning time being restored for you and your students, your victory on regaining dignity and respect to your working conditions. Our unity is our strength. … This is an important step in regaining our respect, dignity and academic freedom in Orange County.”
Reaching and ratifying the one-year agreement has been a work in progress. The district and OCCTA previously reached earlier agreements in June and September, but teachers rejected both proposals.
The original agreement proposed a $500 cost-of-living salary increase, as well as a $1,125 increase for teachers rated “effective” and a $1,525 increase for those rated “highly effective.” There also would have been a one-time, lump-sum $500 bonus.
In September, OCPS leaders offered an additional $11.5 million from the unassigned reserve fund to increase the one-time bonus from $500 to $1,250 for all teachers, with the originally proposed salary increase remaining the same.
With both of these previous proposals, though, teachers stated that they wanted salary increases rather than bonuses, as well as more planning time.
Another concern was the increase in health insurance costs. In the original June agreement, increases in health insurance would have started this school year. According to the OCCTA, there was no protection against future increases. Additionally, the change would have been immediate, with little to no time for teachers and their families to prepare and seek alternative arrangements for health insurance if needed.
The newly ratified agreement states that these insurance increases will begin in October 2020 and are locked in, ensuring they cannot go up further. This also gives teachers and their families more time to prepare for the increase.
The ratified agreement also includes a $700 cost-of-living salary increase, as well as a $2,100 increase for “highly effective” teachers and a $1,400 increase for “effective” teachers. There will not be any temporary bonuses.
“On Dec. 6, 2019, we were pleased to announce the teachers ratified agreements for salary and other articles in the CTA contract,” said Lorena Arias, assistant director of media relations for OCPS. “The contract was ratified by a majority vote, 76% ‘yes.’ Congratulations to the CTA and to the teachers of OCPS!”
These salary increases represent an overall 5.5% increase to payroll, as opposed to the original proposed 4% increase. Teachers will receive their retro pay by the end of the year.
“The additional 1.5% comes from the non-recurring 2019-20 fund balance,” wrote James Preusser, senior executive director of OCPS’ Human Resources Division, in the contract’s letter of understanding. “In the 2020-21 school year budget, the additional 1.5% average increase to wages by the District will be funded through recurring, unrestricted revenues from the state, or if necessary, reductions to the operational budget.”
The 5.5% salary increase is one of the highest in the state this year, Doromal said. However, this is just the beginning of a statewide movement from teachers to rally for the future of public education.
“On Dec. 6, 2019, we were pleased to announce the teachers ratified agreements for salary and other articles in the CTA contract.The contract was ratified by a majority vote, 76% ‘yes.’" — Lorena Arias, assistant director of media relations for OCPS
Teachers from across the state — including some from the OCCTA — are planning to attend a rally organized by the Florida Education Association in Tallahassee Jan. 13. The Legislature will approve a budget during the annual session beginning Jan. 14, and the rally serves as an opportunity for teachers to make their voices heard by lawmakers.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently proposed a $91.4 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. The proposed budget contains $600 million needed to raise teachers’ starting salaries to $47,500. However, this would not affect veteran teachers.
“This is not about partisan politics; it’s about building strong public schools and a better future for students,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said. “I think we can agree that Florida’s kids need qualified teachers and all the staff necessary to public schools. Our members know firsthand what it takes to retain and recruit educators.”