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Florida teachers unions stall pay raise efforts

Several Florida school districts are at a standstill with the state’s teachers unions over pay increases. The state allocated $800 million to increase teacher salaries across the state, but school districts say unions are holding things up.

In Hillsborough County, Superintendent Addison Davis noted that the union, as the bargaining agent, is the group that “we have to go through to negotiate salary packages.” Six other school district superintendents said that their pay raise offers “did not pass union muster,” despite the fact that the state required school districts to submit a salary distribution plan by the October 1, 2022 deadline. Another school official suggested that the district could give pay raises to non-union members while waiting for the union to approve the district’s salary distribution plan.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) said that they do not appreciate the criticism and perception that they are holding up pay raises for teachers. FEA President Andrew Spar blamed school districts for “maligning teachers” instead of “working with us to solve” problems, such as teacher retention and filling vacant positions.

FEA claimed that the state’s plan to raise teacher pay favors entry level pay and does not fairly compensate veteran teachers. Other school districts were able to negotiate pay raises, the unions said, which showed that teachers were not at fault for the ongoing impasse in negotiations.

Rob Kriete, the president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association (HCTA), said the impasse is “to get what teachers have already accrued and get paid accordingly.”

FEA and HTCA could be pointing to examples such as St. Johns County, where the school superintendent, Tim Forson, noted that the district will not be able to raise teacher pay by a significant amount due to a decrease in the district’s operating budget. Forson said, “In the end, it is going to be a business decision in making sure that we can pay the bills and the costs that come forward.”

41 school districts missed the state’s deadline to submit district salary distribution plans while 19 school districts submitted plans. The state’s plan to raise teacher pay, which was a part of the state’s budget, would increase Florida teacher salaries to a minimum annual salary of $47,500, a 7.85% increase from 2021’s annual salary of $44,040.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.