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Tentative teacher raise deal will get OK

Published:   |   Updated: March 2, 2014 at 01:28 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - A tentative teacher raise agreement between Hernando Classroom Teachers Association members and the school district will be signed in coming days, district officials say.

The signing will make official recent negotiations outlined by both bargaining teams for teacher pay increases allocated by the state Legislature and promoted heavily by Gov. Rick Scott.

Hernando County is among the last of 67 school districts in Florida to reach agreement on teacher raises, according to Florida Department of Education.

Terms of the proposed contract include an average increase of $1,750 for HCTA members on top of current step increases to be paid retroactively to the first contract day of the 2013-2014 school year, according to HCTA President Jo Ann Hartge.

Hartge said ratification of the agreement is scheduled for the week of March 24, and if that happens the retroactive money will be in the April 21 paychecks.

"No one will receive less money, and no one receives a pay cut," said Hartge, adding that qualifying teachers will retain tenure status. "Teachers currently receiving longevity pay will continue to receive it," she said.

The tentative agreement terms were drafted in consideration of mandated performance pay schedules mandated by the Legislature beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

Historically, teachers' unions have criticized performance pay schedules because they are based on state requirements perceived as unfair and unreasonable to educators, and teacher evaluation data released by state education officials last week appeared to be one more instance of that.

The rankings, based on a complicated "value added measurement" or VAM scores for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, purport to measure a student's progress in a given year and enable the state to compare teachers based on that formula.

The rankings were released as a result of state courts ruling in favor of Jacksonville-based newspaper the Florida Times Union in a lawsuit filed against the Department of Education.

School districts across the state, as well as Florida's largest association of professional employees, maintain the data is flawed and places too much emphasis on FCAT scores.

A joint news release issued by Hartge and Hernando schools Superintendent Lori Romano stated the county school district's procedure for evaluating teachers includes VAM as one of several data points used in each teacher's calculation and by itself does not determine the effectiveness of each teacher.

On average, the raises in the recent tentative agreement fall between $250 and $800 short of pay increases proposed earlier this month by HCTA during a second round of negotiations.

That proposal asked for an average pay increase of $2,000 to $2,550, and followed an initial proposal rejected by the district just prior to winter break.

The district's counteroffer to HCTA during that first round of negotiations was rejected by the teacher's union, notably for proposed contract removal of step increases in exchange for teacher raises of between $1,000 and $2,100, depending on position and experience.

Hartge said in December the HCTA would not consider removing automatic step pay increases from teachers' contracts.

Teachers union presidents in Pasco and Pinellas counties said their union members do not receive automatic step increases, which cost the Hernando district a little less than $1.81 million this year.

The state Legislature dedicated $480 million for teacher pay raises, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported Florida had the second-largest increase in education spending this year compared to other states.

"A special thank you to John Imhof and the bargaining team for all of their hard work and long hours during this difficult process," Hartge wrote in a letter to HCTA members.

Imhof recently received the 2013-2014 district Teacher of the Year award.

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