BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County educators voted overwhelmingly last week to approve the proposed 2019-20 teacher contract, sealing their largest pay increase in years, the Brevard Federation of Teachers revealed at Tuesday's school board meeting.
Of the 3,338 teachers that participated, 98% voted in favor of the contract, a feat union President Anthony Colucci said "all parties should be proud of."
"We've not seen such a positive response to a contract in a decade," Colucci said during the public comment portion of the meeting.
It's a sharp turn from the fate of the previous contract proposal, which teachers rejected in August by a 96% margin following months of impasse and teacher demonstrations.
Colucci attributed the result of last week's vote in part to the frequent displays of unity through a year of difficult and often contentious negotiations.
By contrast, this round of talks took just over two weeks.
"I'm thankful for all the BFT members, education support professionals, administrators, parents and community members who stood in solidarity with us for more than a year," Colucci said. "They are the ones who made this contract happen tonight."
"We very much appreciate the results of that vote, Mr. Colucci," School Board Chair Tina Descovich said.
The School Board unanimously adopted the contract, which guarantees a $2,000 raise for 4,159 of the district's highest rated teachers, plus an extra $1,200 a year for 2,416 veteran educators in their 12th year and above.
The hike amounts to a 4.1% raise for teachers making the average salary of $48,634, according to school district data, their largest since 2015. For highly effective veteran educators making the average, that goes up to 6.5%.
"It's a raise I'm proud of and can stand behind," Descovich said. "It doesn't solve all our problems. But it's a step in the right direction."
The contract also grants a list of improvements to teacher work conditions, among others:
Teachers can now leave campus during the school day to run errands without losing sick, personal or compensatory time.
Teachers will not have to conduct a home visit to a potentially dangerous home, are allowed to meet at a neutral location and do not have to go alone.
Teachers may now take personal leave to conduct union business.
The first Friday of the school year is now an early release day.
Support specialists and facilitators for special needs programs now qualify for the $835 recurring supplement for Exceptional Student Education.
Teachers can now take three full days of bereavement leave, regardless of travel distance or which family member has passed away.
Included are a number of provisions that were lost when teachers voted against last year's contract, like the ability to donate unused sick time, reducing the number of meetings teachers have to attend and allowing them to keep disruptive students out of the classroom for up to 45 minutes.
The district also agreed not to raise employee health insurance premiums, something that has mitigated gains in other counties and in past years in Brevard.
The current contract is retroactive to the beginning of this school year; board members said they hope to get backpay to teachers by Thanksgiving.
"We're going to work extremely hard to get that to teachers' pockets by the holiday," Descovich said.
Negotiations continue between the school district and Local 1010 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, which represents about 3,100 support-staff employees including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and instructional assistants.
Teacher raises through the years:
2012: No raise; 1% one-time bonus
2008-2010: No raise