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HCTA Bargaining Update - 8/25/21

Wednesday evening, HCTA and HUSW bargaining teams met with the District to begin active discussion around the millage funds. While we had certainly hoped that the bargain around a win like the successful passage of the local referendum would be an opportunity for a truly collaborative conversation, the parties failed to reach agreement on the first step of the bargain—determining the distribution of the funds into each employee constituency (HCTA, HUSW, Confidential, Professional Technical, and Admin).

HCTA cited district-created promotional material, including direct quotes from the Superintendent and School Board members, to advocate that the ‘bulk of funds’ available for salaries should go to teachers. HCTA suggested, for a second time, that referendum dollars be divided among the units in the same percentage as the general payroll. Essentially, this would honor the repeated messaging of the district’s intent to use the referendum to ‘Keep Quality Teachers’ while improving each unit by the same overall percentage.

The district’s final proposal of the evening suggested that the funds initially be split 90/10 between the represented units and non-represented units. This would reserve 90% of the referendum salary improvement dollars to be bargained by HCTA and HUSW, while allowing the district to determine how the remaining 10% would be distributed to confidential, professional technical, and administrative employees. The parties suspended negotiations for the evening with an agreement to resume the joint bargaining of millage funds after HCTA and the district have addressed this year’s Teacher Salary Increase Allocation.

It is anticipated that the negotiation of TSIA for instructional raises will be the primary focus of bargaining sessions through the month of September. Districts are required to report TSIA distribution plans by Oct 1st.  Please stay alert for updates and possible calls for action from HCTA.

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

 

 

HCTA Bargaining Update – 9/28/2020

Late last week, HCTA and District bargaining teams met to discuss the Teacher Salary Increase Allocation. This pool of funds provided as a categorical in the state budget has prescribed application outlined in FL statute. To better understand the challenges we face in bargaining salary improvements, you are encouraged to visit the HTCA website to familiarize yourself with the Teacher Salary Increase Allocation (TSA).

As of Friday evening, both teams had shared initial proposals. A walk-through of the District’s proposal presented on Friday is provided here for your review:

HCSD Opening Proposal

Impact

HCTA Questions & Concerns

Takes 80% of the TSA dollars and raises the minimum base salary for full time classroom teachers to $46,120

  • 676 full-time classroom teachers will be improved to the new minimum
  • COMPRESSION: Creates compression in the salary range, placing first-year teachers and mid-career teachers at the same pay level
  • Is $46,120 a sustainable entry-level salary?
  • When creating the placement schedule for new hires, will incoming teachers with years of experience be awarded credit that will put them at a higher pay level than our experienced current employees?

Distributes 20% of the TSA dollars to provide a $668 minimum adjustment for all instructional staff

  • Applies to full time classroom teachers who received less than $600 from the 80% adjustment, full time classroom teachers making more than $47,500, and non-classroom teachers
  • INEQUITY: Adjusting everyone below the new minimum to $46,120 means some will receive an increase of $4,663, while others receive only the $668 minimum
  • Is the minimum adjustment enough to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums?

Does not provide additional Board contribution

  • Board policy requires that a 5% General Fund reserve be maintained
  • General Fund Balance reserve is reported at about 4.5% at this time
  • Because the TSA does not mandate minimum salary improvements to non-classroom teachers, absence of additional dollars may result in separate salary schedules with non-classroom positions starting below classroom positions
  • The TSA funds are both limited and restricted in use; without additional dollars to bargain instructional salary adjustments for those on the top half of the salary range will be nominal

 

Since the Teacher Salary Increase Allocation is tied to full time classroom teachers as defined in statute, non-classroom teachers do not qualify for 80% of the TSA funds. For the purpose of categorizing full-time classroom teachers, the District identified instructional staff who carry a roster of students and provide instruction for more than half of the workday.

Though HCTA’s team had previously shared what was believed to be a reasonable proposal which would have distributed the larger portion of TSA funds in a banded approach and produced a more equitable distribution of dollars across the salary roster, the District expressed concern that a banded approach could be rejected during audit and may result in TSA dollars being reclaimed by the state some time down the road.

HCTA does not believe that the law prohibits bargaining of a banded approach. Distributing 80% of the TSA funds in bands could not only raise the minimum base salary to a competitive level ($45,000), it could ensure that a significant number of teachers actually reach the statutory goal of $47,500 this year.

 

HCTA Hosts Virtual PEP Talk

Your VOTE is Your VOICE

HCTA Backs Local Referendum

August 27, 2020

Hernando Classroom Teachers’ Association Endorses Local Referendum

BROOKSVILLE, FL – In keeping with the professional association’s commitment to advocate for fully funded neighborhood public schools, the representative leadership of HCTA voted to endorse the millage referendum which will appear on the November 3, 2020, ballot. As explained by Superintendent Stratton in a special meeting of worksite leaders, the referendum seeks to increase local operating revenues in order to retain teachers, increase mental health services and enhance school safety measures, provide needed technology for students and staff, and expand access to career and technical programs for students.

Acknowledging that Tallahassee has signaled the need for significant and drastic cuts to the state’s budget in coming years, HCTA supports the referendum as a necessary step in ensuring that the district has the operational funds needed to continue providing high quality educational opportunities for Hernando’s students.

Like so many other counties across the state, it is our hope that an informed majority will embrace this initiative, demonstrating a local commitment to strong public schools. The time to invest in Hernando’s future is now.

Voters are encouraged to read more about the local referendum on the Hernando Schools website. To find out how you can help our efforts to support Hernando Schools, please email vlaborante@aol.com.