The Brevard County School Board voted 4-1 Monday to approve a teacher raise of up to $1,100 retroactive to the 2018-2019 school year, a move that flew in the face of the teachers’ union, which had asked for more than twice that much.
Board member Matt Susin cast the sole no vote on the motion as an estimated crowd of 800 restless teachers and supporters watched – stuffed inside the meeting room and in overflow rooms.
“I wonder how many teachers are out there on the edge of deciding to leave or deciding to stay based on our decision,” Susin said, as the debate ran nearly three hours.
The district and the Brevard Federation of Teachers have been locked in a nasty stalemate over teacher pay since December. A special magistrate suggested in May that the district meet the teachers’ demands of a raise of $2,300 per year for highly effective teachers, the category that most educators in Brevard fall under.
The district had originally offered $770, but school Superintendent Mark Mullins upped that offer last week to $1,100.
The move by Mullins to reject the magistrate’s recommendation was only met with more anger by teachers and their supporters.
As the board prepared to vote, Chairperson Tina Descovich threatened to “clear the room” over continued jeering from the pro-teacher crowd.
After saying she believed the $770 raise was the best move fiscally for the district, but that she would vote for Mullins’ proposal, Descovich chided the teachers’ union for launching an aggressive defense against Mullins. “You guys are better than that and we as a community are better than that,” she said.
One woman in the crowd yelled, “I can’t pay my bills.”
Angela Dawson, a bargaining specialist for the Florida Education Association who is working with the union, told the board that teacher pay should be their priority.
“The public interest is better served by putting money into paying public employees so they may better serve your students,” Dawson said.
For the school district’s part, Mullins said officials were ready to start negotiations immediately for more pay in 2019-2020.
“We are already working on those as a senior cabinet and finance team,” Mullins said. “We are committed to additional budget reductions.”