Mediator hears Brevard teacher pay dispute

The Brevard teachers union and district officials sat down with a mediator last week to try to hammer out an agreement on teacher pay.

For the past four months the parties have been at a declared impasse on contract negotiations, and the dispute is wearing on both teachers and administrators as the school year comes to a close for Brevard County’s 73,400 students.

The mediator is expected to make a recommendation within the next three weeks. That recommendation will include how much teachers should be paid and, potentially, what funds the district should use to pay for teacher raises.

The School Board makes the final decision on teacher pay, and is under no obligation to follow the mediator’s recommendations.

Last year, the union and the district came to an agreement before mediation. But this year’s negotiation process has been especially contentious.

The union is asking for an annual raise of $3,593 for teachers rated “highly effective,” which is the category most of the district’s approximately 5,000 teachers fall under. Brevard Federation of Teachers wants $2,694 more for those rated “effective.”

The union has said its numbers are based on what teachers are paid in other counties nearby. District spokesman Matt Reed has previously said the only likely way to come up with that much money would be to lay off school support staff.

Average annual pay for Brevard County teachers is $47,065, according to the Florida Department of Education. The average teacher salary in Florida was $48,168 for the 2017-2018 school year, ranging from a high of $58,326 in Monroe County to a low of $37,144 in Gadsden County. Nationwide, teachers are paid an average of $58,353.

Teachers in Florida are prohibited by law from striking, but earlier this month they held a statewide school “walk-in,” wearing the red shirts that have become a nationwide symbol for education funding.

Teachers at several Brevard schools participated, including Ocean Breeze Elementary, Delaura and Hoover middle schools, Westshore Junior/Senior High School and Melbourne High, gathering before school started and walking in to their buildings as a group.

Teachers have also rallied at the past seven School Board meetings, not only inside the meeting hall, but by lining the road leading to school district headquarters, waving signs. Brevard Federation of Teachers president Anthony Colucci said such events would continue at least until a final agreement on pay is made.

“In the meantime, our teachers are not letting up,” Colucci said.

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