VIERA, Fla. – With the highest turnout for a vote in Brevard County's teachers union history, teachers voted against the deal offered by the school district for teacher raises. But, the salary package was still implemented by the school board.
The results of a union vote over a deal to raise Brevard County teacher salaries were announced Tuesday at a school board meeting after months of negotiations between the teachers union and the school district.
A neutral magistrate told the school board in June that the district had the funds to increase teacher pay up to $2,300 per year as requested by the Brevard Federation of Teachers. But on June 24, four of the five school board members voted against the union-backed raise increase recommended by the magistrate, opting instead to support Superintendent Mark Mullins' plan for retoactive raises up to $1,100.
Last week, members of the Brevard Federation of Teachers negotiation team voted on the 2019-20 contract. On Tuesday, the results revealed that 3,886 teachers voted against the plan and 160 voted for it.
"As of now, this relationship is tenuous," said teachers union president Anthony Colucci.
He told school board members on Tuesday night that teachers will continue to vote down any proposal that doesn't pay them fairly.
"We will put in an enormous amount of pressure on anyone who promotes anything but honor and respect for public education and the noble educators of Brevard County," he said.
“It is well within the school board’s power to change priorities and fund this proposal without bringing its fund balance to a fiscally irresponsible position," Magistrate Tom Young said, adding, “It seems axiomatic that Brevard County School District would seek to put itself in a more favorable competitive position to attract and retain quality teachers, and this would (be) in the best interests of the children and the public it serves.”
Since the school board vote, the district hired an outside accounting firm and learned it miscalculated savings and identified an extra $1.5 million in recurring funds, which could be used for raises starting next year.
Mullins maintains that the district cannot afford to pay for the raises the union is asking for, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
"I think the board felt the heat," said high school teacher Fred Kilgallin. "I don’t think they want a repeat of next year. I think things are going to move forward."
“It’s time for the district and the school board to take us seriously,” Vanessa Skipper, vice president of the Brevard Federation of Teachers, said in a news release. “We will move forward and work collaboratively with the school district if we feel that our voices are being heard and that we have a true seat at the table.”
Union officials said Brevard teachers are paid $2,170 below the state average.
Assistant Superintendent Matt Reed told News 6 that Brevard County teachers need to be paid what they're worth, and he said the school board is examining all options.
"Do we ask the public to vote for a property tax? That’s an option at school districts have," he said. "Other districts have passed that, but Brevard has not. We’re a more conservative district."
Brevard County currently has 26 openings for elementary school teaching positions and 25 openings for middle and high school teacher, according to school district officials.