School Board Votes to Accept Special Magistrate’s Recommendations on Impasse Issues

School Board Votes to Accept Special Magistrate’s Recommendations on Impasse Issues

Polk County Public schools news release graphic.

The Polk County School Board conducted a public hearing Tuesday evening to resolve disputed issues in collective bargaining negotiations with the Polk Education Association (PEA).

Click here to watch the impasse hearing.

In January, an independent special magistrate made recommendations, which can be found below (see italics). Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd recommended that school board members accept the special magistrate’s recommendations.

On Tuesday, the school board voted 4-3 to accept these recommendations to settle key disagreements about 2020-2021 wages for teachers, paraeducators and support clerical personnel.

School board members Sarah Fortney, Lisa Miller and Lynn Wilson were the dissenting votes.

The school board’s approved contract language will next go to the employees for ratification. Following the ratification process, the language will go back to the school board for approval and implementation in the contracts for teachers, paraeducators and clerical support personnel.

The special magistrate’s recommendations:

– Adopt the district’s wage proposal for instructional personnel. PCPS received approximately $15.2 million in state funding specifically earmarked to increase teacher salaries. The district’s interpretation of the law is that 80 percent must be used to increase new teacher salaries to a set minimum, and 20 percent must be used to increase wages for experienced teachers. Under this proposal, roughly $12 million would boost the starting PCPS teacher salary from $40,972 to $45,172. The remaining roughly $3 million would be distributed to experienced teacher.

– Adopt the district’s proposed wage freeze for paraeducators and educational support personnel. The district and union will return to the bargaining table after Florida legislators pass clarifying language on a recent voter-passed constitutional amendment, which will gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all Florida employees no later than 2026.

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, the district and PEA reached a verbal agreement on paying a stipend to teachers who are providing face-to-face and online instruction simultaneously to students — also known as blended learning classes.

The Florida Department of Education approved the use of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to pay for a quarterly teacher blended learning stipend. The total estimated cost of paying a stipend to teachers assigned to blending learning classes is approximately $1.74 million. Details of the blended learning stipend are currently being negotiated with the PEA.