Teachers Closer to Deal on Contract; More Students in Schools This Year Should Mean Additional State Funds to Work With

Article excerpt

Byline: CYNTHIA L. GARZA, The Times-Union

Three months into the school year, Duval County teachers remain without a contract, although an agreement between the school system and the teachers union could come soon.

The sides have met to negotiate four times since June, with the last session Sept. 17. Union and school officials expect to schedule the next meeting this week or next.

Duval Teachers United, the union that represents the school system's 7,000 teachers, had been waiting on any extra money the school system may get from the state because of increased student enrollment over earlier projections.

The school system is still calculating how many additional dollars it will receive because of extra students. There are 2,000 more students this year than last in Duval County schools -- 1,600 more than projected, according to Karen Jones, a Duval County senior budget analyst.

School officials will refigure parts of the budget based on the money received. Florida school systems give the state enrollment estimates long before the new school year begins and the state allocates money based on the estimates. When those estimates are too low, the state adjusts the allocations by mid-December.

"We're trying to get a good estimate so that we can be prepared," Jones said. Duval County received $5,269 a student this year, on average.

Duval County is not the only large school system in Florida that has had to negotiate into the school year because of the tight fiscal year. Palm Beach and Broward counties are still negotiating, according to their teacher unions, and Miami-Dade County schools and teachers reached a tentative agreement this week. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties reached settlements several weeks ago.

Unlike in Chicago, where an impasse over contracts appears headed for a teacher strike, Florida teachers cannot take such action.

Duval Teachers United bargains for three groups: teachers, paraprofessionals and non-instructional office personnel.

The last negotiation round included a proposed salary increase based on years of service for teachers and trained assistants known as paraprofessionals. …