The OCEA Instructional Bargaining Team met tonight, February 9, 2023, with SDOC management to continue talks about the proposed Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) and other incentives to help instructional employees.
OCEA was disappointed to find that SDOC offered no change to their previous $1,000 one-time payment proposal, despite huge outrage from instructors across the district. In board meetings, emails, and social media posts over the last month, educators repeatedly told SDOC how insulting their offer was and how it shows a lack of sympathy and empathy for the current living conditions of the “most valuable employees.” Families of educators are suffering from SDOC’s unwillingness to utilize their $1.8 billion budget effectively.
As such, OCEA offered the suggestion of using unspent funds available in the Instructional Materials and Supplies line item. As evidenced by documentation in SDOC’s Annual Financial Report submitted to the Florida Department of Education, for the past four years SDOC has repeatedly left over $30 million dollars unspent annually in this line item. This money is budgeted out the general fund and therefore is money that could be used for salaries.
The chart below details the budgeted and actual amounts for this item, as well as the “categorical dollars.” This categorical amount is the only amount that the state requires be spent on materials and supplies. Also, SDOC increased this year’s budget by an additional $30 million, even though all previous years’ budgets do not exceed $10 million. It is obvious that SDOC is using this line item to hold money with no intent of spending it in good faith.
Understanding that a large amount of recurring money is indeed available in the budget, but also recognizing the need to address employee’s short-term wellbeing, OCEA offered a counterproposal. Our proposal would allow SDOC instructional employees to receive a full 8.7% increase this year through a $2,000 one-time payment and a 6.5% recurring increase. The district now has the opportunity to accept or offer a counterproposal.
In a positive turn of events, a tentative agreement was signed to allow adjunct teachers across the district to receive their full hourly rate of pay for extra work duties performed outside of the contractual day. Previously, adjunct teachers had been excluded from their hourly salary due to language within the contract, even though this was protected for all other instructional employees. OCEA proposed the change and SDOC agreed, acknowledging that adjunct teachers’ time is valuable and equal compensation is fair.
OCEA also responded to SDOC’s counterproposal regarding substituting for absent teachers’ classes during planning time. Based on SDOC’s proposal, OCEA is concerned teachers would be wrongly required to cover a class during their own planning time and would be required to come in early or stay late the next day to make up their hour of planning in order to receive extra pay for substituting. Tonight, OCEA offered a counter proposal to allow teachers to be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate when covering a class. This could result in more teachers volunteering to cover, which would help management, while also putting valuable dollars into educators’ pockets. We view this proposal as a win-win. However, we realize this offer is still a long way from rewarding those teachers who are forced into auto-split situations, especially at the elementary level. We will continue to negotiate this issue.
Finally, OCEA responded to SDOC’s proposal of the Performance Career Ladder. This is a tiered system which would drastically alter the salary structure and tie many additional requirements to pay. We have engaged with members about this idea, and many have shared their opinions with us over the past two weeks. We believe there are several “hard no” items within the offer. Without removing these, there would be no reason to continue with negotiations. OCEA does not want to spend time on the Career Ladder proposal until the ongoing talks about COLA are settled. The intent of COLA is to raise the amount ALL instructional employees receive because we are ALL affected by the harsh economic conditions. A career ladder would not address all employees equally. We have significant concerns with the structure of the ladder and the requirements it places on teachers. Our members clearly expressed frustrations with a ladder which would limit master teachers to only certain positions and freeze salaries. Additionally, participation would require tenured teachers to give up their continuing contract status. Under the career ladder, all instructional employees’ salaries would be tied to evaluations. This is problematic as evaluations are completely controlled by the district. OCEA does believe that if management can remove these items of concern, negotiations could be beneficial.
Due to spring break occurring in March, we are not scheduled to return to the bargaining table with SDOC until April. At that time, more will be known about the legislative budget. This will make it easier to officially open salary and benefit negotiations for 2023-2024 with the intent to retain and reward the dedicated educators of our county.
The following documents show additional information. The first document is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which includes our rationale for the counter proposal and a budget breakdown. The second document is the School District of Osceola County’s proposed Performance Pay Career Ladder.