Palm Beach County teachers to see 3 percent pay increase

Palm Beach County teachers and school district administrators agreed Tuesday on a new contract that would raise teachers’ pay by an average of 3 percent this year, with most teachers getting raises of either $1,365 or $1,715.

Negotiators for the county teachers union and the school district spent the afternoon exchanging proposals before arriving at one that school district officials called their last, best offer, which would affect the district’s roughly 12,000 teachers.

The raises are slightly lower than last year’s pay hikes, a fact that educators blamed on a lower budget increase this year from state lawmakers, who control the majority of school districts’ finances.

Kathi Gundlach, president of the Classroom Teachers Association, called the agreement a good deal considering the financial constraints.

“It’s probably one of the better ones in the state,” she said.

The new pay scale will apply to the current school year, with the raises retroactive to August. The school board and the county’s teachers will have to ratify the agreement before it is official.

Under the agreement struck Tuesday, the starting salary for teachers would increase slightly, from $40,775 to $41,000, while the top of the pay scale would increase by about $1,700 to $78,645.

Teachers who are rated “effective” – about 39 percent of teachers – would receive a $1,365 pay boost over last year. Teachers rated “highly effective” – roughly 36 percent of teachers – would get $1,715.

New teachers, or ones still rated as developing, would get the same raise as “effective” teachers: $1,365.

Teachers with the lowest rating of “needs improvement” would receive only a $365 cost-of-living increase. The district says that it expects to have less than two dozen teachers with that rating.

Teachers’ ratings are based on evaluations made by their principals and their students’ standardized test scores.

Despite receiving only a 1 percent increase in the money the state gives the school district per student, administrators said they were able to scrape together enough for larger raises thanks to a larger-than-expected increase in student enrollment, which boosted the amount of state funding.

Superintendent Robert Avossa said he was happy with the agreement but disappointed that the district couldn’t offer teachers more money. He said he will redouble his efforts this year to lobby the Legislature for more funding.

“Just trying to keep our salaries competitive, we can’t continue on that path and expect to be able to recruit and retain teachers,” he said.

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