Orange County teacher pay, district funding are priorities, School Board Chair says

District plans public input on high school start times

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs spoke Friday about the district's accomplishments and challenges during her first State of the Schools address.

Superintendent Barbara Jenkins was alongside Jacobs who first delivered remarks about seeing a record graduation rate for the district in 2019.

"In 20 years, to go from a graduation rate that was actually 49 percent to a graduation rate of about 90 percent is a pretty amazing change," Jacobs said.

This year, Orange County also saw a return to an "A" rating by the state.

"That means that every school, every classroom, contributed and was considered in that A grade," Jenkins said.

While much of the address recognized the district's accolades, a large portion was also dedicated to a lack of education funding.

"I am ecstatic about the status of things in Orange County Public Schools right now," Jacobs said. "I am very concerned about where we are in a few short years if we can't better compensate our teachers."

Prior to the school year, teachers in Orange County rejected a pay proposal by the district. The offer represented a pay raise of 4% but also reflected a 10% increase in insurance costs.

Jacobs said the district would be able to offer teachers higher salaries if the state would put an end to rollbacks of millage rates.

"We're not asking for an increase. We're just asking: Let us hold the line on the tax rate and that would give us the increased growth and property value we need to pay our teachers better," Jacobs said.

A lack of funding has also affected a recent push to change school start times.

The district said it is seeking the public's input about possibly making start times later for high school students. 

Unless there is an increase in funding, transportation costs mean a change for high schools would also affect start times for elementary and middle schools.

"If we had full funding for busing, we would not have this problem," Jacobs said.  "We want to ask the community to make sure we get this right."

As for teacher pay, the district will present another offer to teachers when negotiations resume on Sept. 19.

About the Author: