St. Johns County teachers, district restart pay negotiations after last deal rejected in historic first

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County teachers union and the school district are back at the negotiating table trying to work out terms for a pay raise.

There was no deal agreed upon by Thursday evening, where at the district’s training center, scores of teachers donned red shirts in support of a bigger pay bump.

Essentially, the teachers union brought a new plan to the table, which includes a more aggressive pay raise schedule for veteran teachers. Negotiators looked it over and plan to meet again sometime this month.

Union members voted overwhelmingly against a proposed pay raise last month. It was the first time since the union formed in 1975 that members voted against a pay raise proposal.

Many teachers have said that deal that would have increased the starting salary to just over $48,000 and increased pay more than $1,200 for most teachers wasn’t enough money.

Lissa O’Rourke, a teacher of 16 years, was one of the “no” votes

“The pay increase that they’re proposing is not commensurate with the cost of living increase that we’re having right now, which is outrageous,” she said. “And the workload, the ever and never-ending workload that’s put on us is just not worth that salary.”

He’s a detailed breakdown of the rejected proposal:

  • All incoming teachers with 0-10 years of experience earn the same salary
  • Beginning teacher salary = $48,209
  • Grandfathered highly effective and effective raise = $945
  • Pay for performance effective raise = $945
  • Pay for performance highly effective raise = $1,260

The St. Johns County School District consistently ranks among the top school systems in the state, but state data shows the typical teacher pay is well below the state average.

For comparison, the current average salary for St. Johns County teachers is $46,589 — more than $5,000 behind Duval County’s average of $52,257. The state average is $51,598.

“What they typically do, the approach is, let’s spend on what we want to spend and see what’s left for the teachers. That’s what has to change,” explained St. Johns Education Association’s chief negotiator Justin Vogel.

Cathy Weber, the district’s budget director, questioned why the union’s team agreed to the initial deal if it was so unacceptable. Vogel said that it was to avoid entering an impasse.

Weber also argued that the district’s funds are limited.

“The expectation of a $3,000 raise every single year is a very difficult expectation to meet,” Weber said. “And with the needs of the children in this district —”

“They are the needs of the children in this district,” responded Vogel.

The negotiations come as the district is still dealing with teacher shortages. As of two weeks ago, there were 68 classroom teacher vacancies in the district. That’s an average of a little more than one vacancy per school.

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Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.