Editors note: This is the sixth part of ongoing coverage regarding Brevard County school teachers and their fight for better pay and classroom conditions.
BREVARD COUNTY – Teachers will have to wait until June 24 to find out if they will receive increased wages for the 2018-19 year.
Although some progress has been made in contractual language and classroom conditions, the issue of wage increases has created a strained tug-of-war between the district and teachers' union.
An entire school year has come and gone while teachers worked without a negotiated contract. Disagreements with teacher wages between Brevard County Public Schools (BPS) and the Brevard Federation of Teachers (BFT) held contract settlements at an impasse since December 2018.
On Monday, June 17, Superintendent of Brevard Public Schools, Dr. Mark Mullins, announced a new proposal ahead of the June 24 district meeting at a press conference.
"I have continued to listen to the teachers, the special magistrate and the third-party school finance professionals who do our books," Dr. Mullins said. "I have come up with what I believe is a healthy solution to the impasse."
Dr. Mullins proposes a 2.3% recurring raise of $1,100 for "Highly Effective" rated teachers and $825 for teachers rated "Effective".
"The budget forecast that the state provided in the last couple weeks helped us gain confidence in knowing what our standing would be moving forward," Dr. Mullins said. "That allows us to look at our state balance reserves, leverage those as well as make recurring commitments in the future."
This is an increase from the last offer the district proposed in December calling for a permanent raise of $1,000 for "Highly Effective" rated teachers, and $770 for "Effective".
"I just wanted the community and teachers know from me, personally, exactly what I was presenting to the board as a recommendation and how we worked to get there," Dr. Mullins said.
BFT, however, proposed "Highly Effective" teachers would receive $2,300 per year and "Effective" receiving $1,725.
On May 17, special magistrate Tom Young agreed that the proposal presented by BFT was within the district's capabilities and recommended the amount be awarded to Brevard teachers, primarily to benefit the students overall.
Dr. Mullins stated in an public release that: "...to do so without a viable and sustaining funding plan significantly compromises the District's financial standing; thus, compromising operational stability and salary considerations in future years."
However, Dr. Mullins insists he's been in-tune with teacher's concerns and needs.
"I've continued to listen to [teachers]," Dr. Mullins said. "The interest to want to do everything we can has not waned, even through a very difficult process. The union can suggest what today is about, but it's not about anything other than doing everything we can for our teachers."
BFT and supporters has been actively continuing their fight for awareness by holding numerous rallies throughout the past year. Teachers have continued to be vocal about their feelings toward the stalled negotiations.
Catie Walters is a pre-K special needs teacher for various school, including Head Start and other childcare facilities. She is in her fifth year of teaching.
“My whole goal is to not be needed, which is a funny thing for a job," Mrs. Walters said. "I want to make sure they can go to kindergarten and be on the same level as everyone else,”
Mrs. Walters attended most of the previous rallies that BFT organized.
“It’s really sad that it’s taken over a year to get to this point. We worked an entire year without a contract and typically we work a school year under the previous years contract," Mrs. Walters said.
Like many teachers, locally and across the country, Mrs. Walters has had reservations about her future as an educator.
“I love what I do and have wanted to do this my entire life,” Mrs. Walters said. “When you’re a teacher you don’t think about the bills, you just think teaching is a good job and that you can live like this, but with the current state you can’t really survive as a teacher.”
Kyle Savage, a fifth-grade teacher at Cape View Elementary School in Cape Canaveral, reiterates teachers commitment to their profession above all else.
"Teachers have still taught all year. Not one teacher hasn't come into the classroom. It really seems like they're trying to shift the message," Mr. Savage said.
Mr. Savage was uncertain about the intentions of presenting a proposal at this point in the process.
"It's not truthful to say they've been doing everything they could have done," Mr. Savage said. "The only new proposal they've put out was after the magistrate rule in favor of the teachers."
But it's not just teachers who are letting their frustrations be known to the district.
On Friday, June 14, students from various Brevard schools organized and held their own rally. Without provocation, they helped spread awareness for their teachers; a galvanizing move symbolizing that the fight for fair compensation trickles down to the element that matter most: Brevard’s students.
"I was in awe of the organizational skills of these students and their ability to articulate why they were rallying. They're incredibly brave to stand up for what is right when so many adults won't," said Anthony Colucci, president of BFT. "These students understand why teacher pay must be increased. On the 24th, we'll see if the board gets it as well.
Dr. Mullins was equally impressed with the demonstration.
"I'm so proud. I commend our kids for respectfully using their voice to demonstrate their interest and support of our teachers. Our kids never cease to impress me," Dr. Mullins said.
The district meeting will take place at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 24 at the district offices located at 2700 Judge Fan Jamieson Way in Viera. BFT intends to hold a rally at 8 a.m.
Mr. Colucci issued a statement with unified, allying sentiments to teachers a part of BFT.
“The 24th is the culmination of a battle, but the war for funding for public education will continue,” said Mr. Colucci. “It is vital that we stay unified at this time.”