ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - More than 3,000 have gathered together to fight for higher salaries and to reject a deal made between the teachers union and Orange County Public Schools.
The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association bargaining team and Orange County Public Schools struck the new contract for the 2019/2020 school year Friday.
The teachers union, posting an update for teachers on its website, said the deal was the best they could do.
"After 10 hours of negotiations with the District, the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association and Orange County Public Schools reached a tentative agreement on compensation, benefits and contract language for the school year 2019-2020," the website read. "The District made it clear that they would not budge on reducing the insurance increases they put across the table. CTA was prepared to go to Impasse and fight it in the end, but that would not have been in the best interest of all members."
The increase in insurance premiums coupled with a pay raise teachers aren't happy with is why so many are gathering.
According to Mark Nolan, OCPS teacher for the past 28 years, he's part of a group of 3,000 teachers who in three days in a private Facebook group have gathered together for what's called the "Vote No" campaign.
"I have never seen such a rapid response or such an intense response in a short time," Nolan said Monday.
Those teachers have also created a Change.org petition titled "OCPS Teachers Deserve Fair Compensation."
"This is pushback letting the bargaining team and the district know we are 'no' in approve of this agreement and it does not affect the best interest in our teachers in regards to their salary, their insurance and their working conditions," Nolan added.
The deal does come with what the district calls a COLA or Cost of Living raise, which is about $500 for teachers across the board and more for teachers who are highly effective, which district officials say is about 84% of their 7,000 teachers.
"This salary increase, it's an average percent of payroll of 4% and I think overall," said Scott Howat, Orange Public County Schools communications officer. "A teacher making $48,000 that's highly affected is going to have a 4.22% increase in pay that far exceed the surrounding districts."
However, teachers taking to the district's Facebook says it's not enough, especially with skyrocketing insurance premiums that are part of this deal.
"My insurance premiums are increasing $2,600 next year and I’ll incur extra costs for office visits and prescriptions. I’m supposed to be happy with a $500 cost of living increase?? I’m voting no!! We deserve better!" one teacher wrote.
"I'm taking a pay cut this year because of insurance costs," another wrote.
The district said it will be up to teachers and their families to chose between the option plans on what would work best for their family financially.
"It's a personal decision and those plans are provided in order to give a free-low cost plan and also other options for families to chose," Howat said.
OCPS believing this was the best offer they could give considering their funding.
"We appreciate everything that our teachers do and certainly if there was more available to put on the table we would do that," Howat added. "We have given them what we believe is the best offer."
Teachers are already planning to attend Tuesday's school board meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m.
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