Duval Teachers Ratify Pact Many Say 5% Still Too Low

Article excerpt

Jacksonville public school teachers ratified a contract

yesterday that will provide most with a modest salary increase

this year, but one that many say will do little to make the pay

more competitive.

A series of three contracts between Duval Teachers United and

the school system will provide an average raise of 5 percent to

teachers and teacher assistants, and an average 3 percent raise

to education specialists and office workers.

The increases are averages because the employees will receive

varying raises depending on their years of experience.

For instance, a quarter of the Jacksonville teachers are at the

top level of the pay scale and will receive a 3.2 percent raise.

The increases, retroactive to July 1, should begin reaching

employees this month if the School Board approves the contracts

Tuesday.

Ninety-three percent of the teachers ratified the contract. But

some teachers did so begrudgingly. Prior to the count, several

teachers who voted said the average raise does little to improve

a salary scale that continues to lag behind many other

professions.

"I think they're very hurt," said Pat Latimer, a third-grade

teacher at West Riverside Elementary School. "I hate to say

insulting . . . it's disappointing. Particularly when other

states are paying more money."

Under the proposed bachelor's degree scale, starting teachers

would earn $24,782. Raises of less than 5 percent would be

provided to teachers with less than 10 years of experience.

Teachers who have worked for 15 years will earn $30,200.

"Five percent is really hardly keeping up with inflation," said

Gloria Oehlman, an English as a Second Language teacher.

"Teachers should get more respect. One of the ways to show that

is to support them, literally."

Nationally, the average teacher's salary was $33,000 in 1996,

according to the most recent survey by the American Federation

of Teachers. The state average in 1997 was $33,885.

The proposed salary scale for Jacksonville would require a

teacher to work for 18 years before reaching that level.

Ninety-four percent of the teacher assistants ratified their

contract. And 80 percent of office staff endorsed the package.

Union officials would not say how many ballots were cast by each

bargaining unit.

Many didn't vote. Of 11,000 union members among the three

units, only 2,281 returned ballots.

Andy Ford, president of the union, said the negotiators secured

as much for the teachers, and other professionals, as the school

system could provide. …