On October 19th, 2023, the Osceola County Education Association and the School District of Osceola County returned to the bargaining table to continue negotiations for the 2023-2024 school year. Both OCEA and SDOC reaffirmed our commitment to support education staff professionals in the workplace. The focus at this meeting was to address a Non-Discrimination Notice as contract language, a pay differential for ESPs in self-contained classrooms, employees in Tech I positions, and outsourcing positions.

OCEA proposed language for a Non-Discrimination Notice for ESPs to be added to the contract. While the district did not sign and agree at the table, the conversation was friendly, and OCEA believes this will be signed into agreement at the next meeting.

OCEA also proposed a pay differential for ESP serving in self-contained ESE classrooms in the amount of $2.00 per hour. Additionally, OCEA requested a $3.00 pay differential for individual ESPs who are serving as long term substitutes in ESE classrooms. By providing this differential the district would be ensuring that the most needed ESP positions will remain filled to meet the needs of the student population served in these classrooms. Prior to the state mandated wage increase to $15 an hour there was a pay differential. John Boyd on behalf of district management said prior to the 5% COLA bargained last year that the district had been working toward a plan to include this differential and perhaps that it could be included again for next year. President Janet Moody quickly responded, “This proposal was not brought to the table to wait until next year. The district has numerous ESP vacancies and is bleeding employees. This proposal is meant for immediate action.” The management bargaining team will return to the table in November with an answer from the school board members.

A heated topic of discussion was the ongoing delay in filling the approved Tech I positions. These positions were approved by the school board last May. The intent was to provide a ladder to improve pay for school techs who earn certifications and have remained committed to our district.The Tech I positions have high turnover due to the increasing demands when the district went to one-to-one devices.Since approving the position of a Tech Il, the district has failed to fill even one of these positions. There have been no advertisements and therefore no interviews for the promotion. President Janet Moody remained strong in the argument of the bargaining team when she said, “Just stop, It has been six months since these positions were approved; the time for excuses is over and the time for action is now. There is no reason the district should be continuing to “look for funds” to promote and give these individuals what they deserve.”

The final topic of conversation was centered around the outsourcing of ESP positions. OCEA has been hearing rumors the district was already looking into the possibility of outsourcing many ESP and Teamster positions should the unions fail to reach the 60% density required by HB 256. While at a school visit this week, OCEA spoke with a nurse who has been brought in by an agency. This means the district is already outsourcing positions. The district says that currently only two positions in nursing are outsourced. OCEA will be bringing language to the table to stop outsourcing. Ultimately, no language will stop the outsourcing if the density for ESPs is not brought to the full 60%. It is easiest for the district to outsource clerical positions, data entry, nursing, and bookkeeping. The district will save money doing this because it eliminates the cost of benefits such as health insurance, sick leave, vacation, and retirement.

The current density is 27%. OCEA encourages all ESP to realize what is at risk because the contract has been the only reason the district has not moved to outsourcing sooner. Unions save jobs.