Schools impose pact rejected by teachers union

The fight over teacher pay for the 2018-2019 school year is officially over.

The Brevard School Board has imposed the contract it approved in June, against the wishes of teachers and the recommendation of an outside mediator.

Teachers, for their part, voted almost unanimously against the contract. Brevard Federation of Teachers, the union that represents the 5,000 teachers in the district, had polling locations at 92 sites on Aug. 9.

BFT president Anthony Colucci announced the results of the vote at last week’s School Board meeting, just before the board imposed the contract.

Colucci said 96 percent of the 4,048 votes cast were against the contract. Eighty-four percent of eligible voters cast ballots, the highest turnout ever in the history of the union, he said.

“To be clear, our teachers voted ‘no’ on this contract because it was a vote of ‘yes’ for their dignity,” Colucci said at the meeting.

The vote was largely symbolic. The process allows teachers to vote on the contract after the board approves it and before it goes into effect, but all union votes and mediation are non-binding and the board has the final say on teacher pay.

Teachers do have a say, however, in benefits and other issues in the contract. By rejecting the contract, teachers gave up several points the union had fought for, including reducing the number of meetings teachers must attend each year and allowing them to donate unused sick time.

The new contract, which is retroactive and only applies to last school year, increases teacher pay by 2.3 percent. Those rated “highly effective” will receive a $1,100 annual raise and a $650 bonus, and those rated “effective” will receive an $825 raise and $650 bonus. First-time teachers will get a $500 bonus, and certified exceptional education teachers will receive a recurring $835 supplement.

The union had asked for $2,300 for highly effective teachers, the category that most Brevard teachers fall under, and $1,725 for effective teachers.

Contract negotiations started nearly a year ago, and an impasse was declared in December. An outside mediator recommended in May that the board honor the union’s salary request.

The impasse got uglier as the school year went on. Angry teachers protested at nearly every School Board meeting this year, showing up by the hundreds. Several marched again at last week’s meeting.

Despite the acrimony, the union and the school district issued a joint statement earlier this month saying they would work together on teacher pay for this year and to try and find a long-term solution. Negotiations start again in September.

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