Ask HCSB to Support Relief Payments for ALL Instructional Staff

Now that the FLDOE is beginning to issue guidance regarding the $1000 relief payments from the state for classroom teachers and principals, we need to make sure that none of our instructional colleagues are left out!  Our non-classroom instructional staff were vital to the safe and successful return to learning for students in Hernando Schools. The failure of state-level leaders to recognize that is discouraging, but it doesn't have to be divisive!

What We Know About Bonuses

As you know, the state budget that was recently passed includes an allocation of around $215 million, to provide full-time classroom teachers and principals with a $1,000 bonus, using funds from the American Relief Plan.

In April and May, Governor DeSantis highlighted this bonus quite a bit, but his sense of urgency seems to have faded, and many are left wondering when they can expect to receive a bonus. Almost a month after signing the budget into law, the details of when and how bonuses are to be paid to educators remain unclear.

For too many of our colleagues, a ‘thanks for a job well-done’ bonus after the stress and uncertainty of working through the pandemic may not materialize at all. As was true with Best and Brightest bonuses, the non-classroom teachers (school counselors, psychologists, media specialists, etc.) will not qualify for these bonuses from the state.

HCTA brought a proposal for bonuses to the bargaining table in early June hoping to secure acommit ment from the District to provide matching bonuses for instructional staff left out of the state plan. We know that every educator working in Hernando schools through the past year helped to ensure our students were safe and that learning continued. It is our position that as federal COVID relief funds make their way into the District, nonrecurring dollars will be available to cover the cost of one-time bonuses. We await a response from the District.

Beyond knowing who will be receiving bonuses and when, we know that you have questions about these bonuses. It remains unclear whether bonuses will be paid to individuals who retired or separated from employment during or after the 2020-21 school year. It is also not yet known whether bonus checks will be issued directly from the state, or if the District will be tasked with distribution of funds. What we know is true of bonuses (generally speaking):

  • Bonuses are taxable at a higher rate than regular income.
  • The recipient will be responsible for taxes on the bonus.
  • Bonuses do NOT count toward retirement under FRS. 

We encourage you to follow the progress of negotiations online and look for additional updates from HCTA in the weeks ahead. Be sure to reach out to our friends on the school board to ask if ALL instructional staff will see bonuses this year.

RESOURCES:

FEA has added a list of FAQs on their website. The page will be updated as more information is made available.

Advocacy Issue Update: Testing & Accountability

BROOKSVILLE, FL -- April 12, 2021    In a letter issued by the US Department of Education in February, states were advised that they would have flexibility in determining how to apply the results of this year's standardized tests. Since then, districts have been awaiting clarification from Tallahassee regarding what--if any--accountability components might be waived. That clarification arrived late last week when the Commissioner of Education for the state of Florida issued an Emergency Order waiving accountability standards tied to standardized tests.  Read the order here:

Should Hernando's Superintendent of Schools Be Elected?

BROOKSVILLE, FL -- March 29, 2020    As the top administrator for the school district, the Superintendent is in the position to oversee day-to-day operations of our schools, direct the implementation of programs, make recommendations for staffing changes, and enforce Board policies.

HCTA Bargaining Update - 11/9/2020

This week, HCTA and District bargaining teams reached tentative agreement on Instructional salaries for 2020-21. The agreement combines the state’s Teacher Salary Increase Allocation (TSIA) with additional Board dollars to offer:

  • $46,120 minimum salary (impacting 48% of all instructional salaries)
  • Additional funds provided by the Board to ensure ALL instructional remain on the same salary schedule
  • At LEAST a 2% improvement to every teacher’s base salary
  • Salary improvements will be retroactive to July 1, 2020
  • Adjusted instructional placement schedule to ensure new hires with experience are not placed at higher salary levels than current employees with equal or greater experience

The settlement concludes a months long bargaining conversation complicated by scarcity of district funds and the statutory requirements of the TSIA. Challenges associated with the TSIA funds include:

  • Creation of salary compression in raising the minimum base salary
  • Requirements and funding for minimum base salary applying only to full-time classroom teachers, leaving out other instructional staff like School Counselors and Instructional Coaches

As other districts’ distribution plans were rejected by the FLDOE for failure to comply with statute, it became apparent that HCTA’s efforts to minimize salary compression with a ‘banded’ approach to distribution may have resulted in the state withholding funds. In absence of significant additional District funds, resolving the issue of compression became unlikely.

As a result, the bargaining team presented a proposal that sought to address our other two primary goals: maintain a single salary schedule for all instructional employees and ensure that salary improvements help offset insurance increases. The additional Board dollars included in the final agreement addressed these priorities. Ultimately, HCTA was able to improve upon the District’s initial salary improvement offer of a flat $668 minimum increase to a full 2% while also ensuring that non-classroom teachers would not be left behind on a lower salary schedule. The adjusted instructional placement schedule will ensure that new hires will not come into the District at a higher pay level than current employees with the same years of experience.

 

It is worth noting that the HCTA proposal also sought a significant increase ($45/month/member) in the Board’s health insurance contribution. As the benefits offered to instructional staff cannot differ from the benefits offered to other employees, the increased contribution would have required an additional $1.5 million from the Board. Citing the uncertainty of current year funding due to lower than expected student enrollment, the District was unable to commit to the additional dollars needed.

The teams also discussed the impact of the recently approved millage increase. The increase will take effect in the 2021 property tax rolls, with these new local dollars available for bargaining in the 2021-22 school year. The District acknowledged at the table the Superintendent and Board’s intent for the majority of funds raised for staff salaries to be applied to instructional salaries. The parties will continue meeting in the months ahead to plan for the distribution of referendum dollars.

 

HCTA Bargaining Update – 10/12/2020

On Monday, October 12th, the board and union teams met to continue discussions over the teacher salary allocation. HCTA offered a counter proposal to the district’s initial offer, in the hopes of reducing compression. 

While the district’s proposal would push the vast majority of TSA funds to the very bottom of the pay schedule, HCTA‘s proposal seeks to create tiers within the bottom half of the pay schedule ensuring that TSA dollars are spread more equitably, establishing $45,500 as the new minimum salary,  and achieving the aspirational goal of $47,500 for many. HCTA’s proposal also seeks to improve non-classroom teachers to the same levels as classroom teachers. Finally, HCTA’s proposal requests that in addition to the TSA dollars, the school board provide a little less than a half million dollars to ensure all instructional staff receive at minimum a 2% increase this year 

The district team expressed concern that the HCTA proposal may be rejected by the DOE or could be flagged during audit for applying a tiered/banded approach to the distribution of funds. Nevertheless, the district team agreed to take the proposal back for consideration with the understanding that HCTA clearly does not want non-classroom and classroom teachers on different pay schedules and is pushing to ensure salary improvements are not entirely negated by health insurance premium increases. It is anticipated that insurance increases will be again be necessary.

In addition, HCTA proposed an agreement which would reserve a proportionate amount of referendum dollars for instructional salaries and positions. Should the referendum pass, the actual distribution of salary dollars would be negotiated. Funds raised through a local referendum could provide flexible dollars needed to create more equitable salary improvements in future years. To learn more about the local referendum, please visit the Hernando Schools webpage.

No agreements were reached on Monday, but the teams anticipate returning to the bargaining table within days. 

It is worth noting that the challenges associated with achieving equitable salary improvements can be attributed to the statutory requirements which limit flexibility of funds. You can learn more about the TSA on the HCTA website:  http://www.myhcta.org/resources/teacher-salary-allocation-what-you-should-know