Clay, St. Johns districts unable to reach teacher pay raise agreements before deadline

Lack of an agreement, inability to get to target salary of $47,500 is not uncommon around state

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The deadline for school districts to submit teacher pay raise plans to the Florida Department of Education came and went on Oct. 1.

As the deadline passed Thursday, at least two school districts in our area — those in St. Johns and Clay counties — couldn’t come to terms on how to distribute the money received from the state after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that set aside $500 million for teacher raises in June.

The goal of the bill was to raise the minimum teacher salary in Florida to $47,500 and give raises to veteran teachers. The raise, which was an attempt to attract more quality teachers, is about $10,000 more than base pay in the 2017-18 school year when Florida teachers were starting at just over $37,600.

Individual school districts were then left to hash out the details.

The teachers union in St. Johns County, the St. Johns Education Association (SJEA), met with district negotiators on Tuesday but the sides were not able to make a deal.

SJEA told News4Jax the district submitted a proposal that would increase the base salary of all classroom teachers to $45,535, an increase of more than $6,000 from the current starting pay and the maximum achievable with the $7.9 million the district received from the state. All teachers previously making more than $45,535 would receive an $888 raise, under the district’s proposal.

The union said it wants more money for veteran teachers, part of why an agreement wasn’t reached.

Veteran teachers have previously expressed concerns about the inequities of the raise. There are nearly 3,000 teachers in St. Johns County.

The St. Johns County School District notified the FDOE on Thursday that “we are not at impasse with the union and are continuing to work together to develop [a plan],” a district spokeswoman said.

It was a similar story in Clay County.

“The District is bargaining in good faith with the Clay County Education Association in accordance with Chapter 447, Florida Statutes and has submitted a statement to the Florida Department of Education stating that we are unable to submit a plan at this time,” a spokeswoman with Clay County District Schools wrote in a statement to News4Jax on Friday.

The lack of an agreement, and the inability to get to the target salary of $47,500, is not uncommon around the state.

“Most districts throughout the state cannot achieve the $47,500,” Jim Preusser, the chief negotiator for Orange County Public Schools, told the Orlando Sentinel this week.

Negotiations were set for earlier this year but were put on the back burner due to all the planning and negotiations that went into back-to-school plans amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The negotiations will continue in the coming weeks, but a timetable for when an agreement could be reached in both school districts is unclear.

Questions about the teacher pay raise plan for Duval County Public Schools were not immediately answered by a district spokesperson.

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