The Alachua County Education Association requested $3.8 million Thursday from Alachua County Public Schools to add to teachers’ salaries.
The ACEA and the ACPS bargaining teams reviewed the proposed salary increases for teachers and education professionals, like librarians, media specialists and school psychologists.
The proposal would provide education support to professionals and teachers with an additional $0.55 per hour.
This additional $0.55 per hour will increase teachers’ salaries by $808.50, Carmen Ward, ACEA president said.
ACEA’s request is a large ask, ACPS chief of finance Alex Rella said.
“We’re certainly going to have to go back to the board for input,” Rella said.
No tentative agreement was made; the team must bring the proposal to school board members for discussion and can then offer a counterproposal.
Some instructors think the price tag is worth it.
In a Tuesday night school board meeting, ACPS employees wore red shirts to show their collective effort to ask the board to consider ACEA’s salary proposal.
Ward began the public input section of the meeting. She encouraged the board to listen to the union’s counter proposal Thursday, so the county can stop “bleeding employees.”
Following her words, employees echoed salary concerns at the lectern. Each employee at the lectern sported a red sticker that read in all caps “I support ACEA’s best deal for all!”
Amy Beres, the band director at Howard Bishop Middle School and one of last year’s Teacher of the Year finalists, explained the financial struggle as a single woman.
“My rent starting in April is $2,083 a month. My last paycheck was $2,041.75,” Beres said. “Over half of my monthly income is going to cover rent.”
Janne Reichard, a school bus driver, resonated with Beres.
“We have the same problem as that woman who just spoke,” Reichard said. “Only my check is about half of what hers is. Try living off of that.”
Any solution to the district-wide transportation problems will cost money, Reichard said. The county needs to find the money to attract drivers.
“Your human resources are what’s most valuable,” Kim Hampton, a fourth grade teacher at Glen Springs Elementary School, said. “Your human resources are what you need to take care of because without the human resources for our district, what are we? We are nothing.”
Hampton, who has taught for 24 years in ACPS, works two jobs. She was a newspaper deliverer for the “Gainesville Sun” and an Uber driver at one point’ now she is an after-school program tutor at Glen Springs.
Teachers work two jobs to be able to afford to teach, a concern second grade W.A. Metcalfe Elementary School teacher Doreen DiMauro expressed.
“I’m very concerned about the future of education and whether teachers will really want to continue to do this work,” DiMauro said. “We need good teachers, and we need them to want to teach, and we need them to be able to afford to teach.”
The $4 million price tag includes bonuses for COVID-19 relief, mental health and cyber security training, funds for nurse uniforms and 20 days paid parental leave. It also gives bonuses to teachers who rank well against the state’s teaching standards.
The proposal would also give instructors and teaching assistants $1,250 and $500 in Turnaround School Supplemental Services Allocation schools, Ward said. These bonuses are not included in the $3.8 million request because the bargaining teams previously agreed on the TSSSA funds.
Schools are eligible if they are implementing a district-managed turnaround plan, have earned at least three consecutive grades below a “C,” or have improved to a “C” or higher and are no longer in turnaround status within the last two years, according to the Florida Department of Education.
In Alachua, Lake Forest, Idlywild and Williams Elementary Schools are considered TSSSA.
This proposal would require the district to spend money from the general fund. ACPS had enough money left over at the end of the 2020-21 school year to fund it, Ward said.
“We believe if salary raises are not adequately budgeted for, we find those excess funds here in the district’s fund balance,” Ward said.
ACPS had about $21.7 million left over at the end of last year, about 8.5% of its budget, Ward said.
Florida requires school districts to leave at least 3% of its funds unspent. The School Board of Alachua County self-imposed a 5% requirement.
The union estimated an $8.9 million surplus that could be used for the 2021-22 salaries.
Contact Emma Behrmann at @email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @emmabehrmann.
Emma is a second-year journalism major with a minor in Spanish. She is the education reporter this semester. She's from Palm Harbor, Florida, but her second home is the gym. When she’s not writing she’s either deadlifting, squatting or benching.