OCPS offers teachers 'historic' 10% raise, rejects special magistrate's insurance recommendation

Officials from the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association said insurance costs are the 'only issue that remains at impasse.'

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vasquez spoke at the Town Hall community meeting Thursday, Oct. 5, at Dr. Phillips High School.
Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vasquez spoke at the Town Hall community meeting Thursday, Oct. 5, at Dr. Phillips High School.
Photo courtesy of Frank Weber, OCPS
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Orange County Public Schools is moving forward with a 9 to 10% raise in salary offer for its teachers but will look to increase health insurance costs, OCPS Superintendent Maria Vazquez announced at a press conference Thursday, Feb. 22.

"This is the largest salary offer ever in the history of Orange County Public Schools," Vazquez said. "Representing a $103 million investment in our teachers. I'm inspired every single day by the work of our teachers who are dedicated to providing the tools necessary for our students to be successful. They deserve this raise." 

OCPS and the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association have been at an impasse since August 2023 regarding compensation and benefits for the current school year. 

The two sides presented their cases in front of a special magistrate Barry Goldman in November 2023; he recommended the insurance hike not be adopted. OCCTA officials said in a press release they asked the district to accept all of Goldman's recommendations to settle the outstanding collective bargaining agreement.  

But according to Vazquez's announcement  Feb. 22, the "surging cost" of insurance makes that impossible.

"We are committed to using every possible dollar for salary increase, but our historic 9% offer is only possible by addressing the surging cost of health insurance," she said.

Vazquez said the reason OCPS must increase insurance costs for its teachers is because it would cost the district $65 million to not change the current benefit plans and rates for the 2024-25 school year.

The reason, Vazquez said, is that it is unsustainable for OCPS to keep up with rising health care costs because of its self-insured status. 

She also said the alternative would be to shift coverage to the open market. That move "would unquestionably and significantly increase costs for all employees," she said.

In their press release OCCTA officials said, "Health insurance is the only issue that remains at impasse and will ultimately be decided by the School Board in a public hearing."

OCCTA officials said  the latest OCPS offer would see an annual premium increase of "thousands of dollars for some teachers," adding the district's plan would impose a hike of more than 60%.

OCPS officials have disputed this statement. 

"Insurance premiums would only increase between $0 and $646 annually, for employee coverage (or about $32 per paycheck), with payment not beginning until September 2024," OCPS officials said.

Beyond that, OCPS officials said its employees will have the opportunity to choose a no-cost insurance plan.

The issue of health insurance increases during this negotiation has been contentious on both sides.

"The district's characterization of these changes as insignificant is misleading and insulting to teachers, many of which are living paycheck to paycheck," OCCTA officials said.

"Regrettably, there appears to have been some misleading information regarding the individual impact of these health care changes," Vazquez said. "We've heard from our teachers that they are expecting a 64% increase. That is simply misleading."

The insurance conversation continued on social media, with not only comments from both sides — which present a bit of clarity on the discrepancy of increased costs — but also the OCCTA shared charts of the proposed increases.

In the same post on the OCCTA Facebook page, after a comment from OCPS that said the premium increase would be between $0 $646 annually, the verified author of the OCCTA account responded by saying: "The district and School Board members keep forgetting that teachers have families. Our teachers are smart enough to look at the whole picture — not just one part."

In a separate comment on that post,  OCCTA officials said: "You keep talking about that $646 and ignoring Employee + Family coverage …  a $2,709 increase for plan C and $3,459 increase for plan B. And let’s talk about your proposed changes to what new employees would pay for Employee + Children. That increase is $6,773 for Plan B."

The two sides are scheduled to present their arguments to the Orange County School Board March 5, before the board renders its decision.



Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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