Teachers’ union hopes $1.68 million for district means cooperation

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Earlier this week, the Indian River County School District learned that it will receive approximately $1.68 million in federal funding after Florida won its bid for $700 million.

Exactly what the Indian River County School District plans to do with the money is what has Indian River County Education Association President Beth Weatherstone concerned.

“We’re hoping at this point the district will work collaboratively with us,” Weatherstone said.

She explained that the funding, which comes from the federal government’s Race to the Top Program, could be used on teachers’ salaries, change teachers’ working conditions, implement new curricula in classrooms and institute more student testing.

Indian River County’s share of the $700 million is just shy of $1.68 million. Okeechobee to the west will receive an estimated $846,300, while Brevard could get as much as $7.4 million.

Many of the possible uses for the funds could affect the teacher’s union contracts with district, which would need to be negotiated.

Weatherstone said the union had asked the School Board to sign an agreement that the district would not impose the changes but would instead negotiate.

The board did not sign that agreement. Calls seeking comment from the School District about what changes could be in store once the $1.68 million comes were not immediately returned.

Weatherstone said her hope is that the monies will be divvied up amongst students for remediation, tutoring and other such programs to boost student performance.

Though the funds could be used on teacher salaries, Weatherstone said the union does not want the money given to teachers as bonuses.

“It’s for learning,” she said of the Race to the Top monies.

The federal government created Race to the Top as a way to make education competitive and encourage school districts to improve both student and teacher performance. Such goals include strengthening foundation skills, improving quality of teaching in the education system, improving college and career readiness, expanding opportunities for postsecondary degrees and certificates, improving K-12 educational choice options, and aligning resources to strategic goals.

Florida, which was one of 10 states awarded the second round of funding through Race to the Top, told the federal government that the state would use the money to double the percentage of incoming high school freshmen who go on to graduate and move on to college.

The state also wants to cut the achievement gap and increase the number of students scoring at or above “proficient” on the National Assessment of Education Progress.

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Race to the Top funding at a glance

Florida Total: $700 million

Participating School Districts: 65

Non-Participating School Districts: 2

Indian River County’s Anticipated Share: $1.679 million

Other Counties’ Anticipated Shares:

Okeechobee: $846,300

Brevard: $7.390 million

St. Lucie: $4.949 million

Most Awarded: $72.964 million – Dade

Least Awarded: $67,045 – P.K. Yonge School

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