After more than four months of negotiations, the Palm Beach County School District and its teachers finally reached a tentative agreement Thursday night to give teachers raises averaging about $2,200 this year.
“We’re good,” said District Chief Operating Officer Mike Burke to the teachers union officials shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday night after 12 hours of bargaining led to the salary agreement
The tentative agreement would give the 12,500 or so teachers at district-run schools two raises up the district’s experience-based “step” salary schedule retroactive to July 1 and increase all the salaries on that schedule.
About 1,400 teachers — such as those new to the profession — who are on the bottom step making $38,000 would only get another $1,000 under the district’s latest proposal.
The vast majority of teachers would get raises of at least $2,000. The 300 or so teachers who are currently making $58,618 on step 19 getting the largest raises of $2,914.
The 750 longest-tenured teachers, who have reached their “longevity” step at the top of the existing salary schedule for working more than 27 years, would only get $1,250 raises up to $73,750.
Burke said the tentative salary agreement would cost the district $31.6 million, which would use all the money given to the district by the state Legislature in June earmarked to give teachers and principals raises, plus a little extra money added by the district.
Both sides had proposed two step raises at their last bargaining session. But the union had also asked for a third step raise for teachers taking effect at the start of the next school year on July 1, 2014. Burke said the school board rejected the third step proposal at an executive session Wednesday.
Burke said that increasing the starting salary to at least $39,000 was a critical priority for the school board. Teacher union Executive Director Lynn Cavall said the union had a problem with giving that much money to teachers at the bottom of the scale with “zero experience” when more experienced Palm Beach County teachers who have gone years without step raises, which she said was causing compression in the middle of the salary scale.
“There should be a bigger gap between our brand new teachers and those that have been here eight years,” Cavall said. The union initially asked for only $500 raises at the bottom in order to pay for $2,890 raises for most of the more experienced teachers before the two sides reached the tentative agreement.
Most of the other major urban school districts in Florida have already reached tentative agreement on their teacher raises. The exception is Orange County, which declared impasse with its teachers union in September.
Teachers must still vote on the agreement and the school board must approve it before it becomes official and any raises can show up in teacher paychecks.
Burke said he would try to get the proposed contract on the agenda for Wednesday’s school board meeting. But Cavall said that because of the time it takes to send out paper ballots and count the results, there was no way the said the union could hold a ratification vote before January, so teachers would probably not see their raises before the Jan. 31 check.