Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School District Declares Impasse on Teacher Pay

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School District Declares Impasse on Teacher Pay

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

Clay County teachers want - and insist they have earned - more money.

The Clay County school district wants to stave off financial crisis and keep as many of its employees on the payroll as possible, which officials said means no salary hikes, earned or not.

After months of negotiating, the two sides have been unable to come to terms on a 2009-10 contract.

The Clay County Education Association, which represents the county's 2,400 or so teachers, recently declared an impasse. The next step will be association and district negotiators sitting down with a federal mediator and, failing an agreement, a special master.

Neither side is happy with the outcome so far.

The association agreed earlier to no cost of living increases for 2009-10, but sought improvements in the step schedule, which boosts teachers' pay as they gain experience. The district's response has failed to "recognize the hard work and dedication Clay County teachers bring to the classroom every day or the experience of returning and new teachers," association President Elizabeth Crane said in a news release.

District officials are sorry, but fiscally unable to budge, said Deputy Superintendent Denise Adams.

"Our focus has been on employing as many people as we can," she said. "I regret that it has come to this. In view of the tough economic time that we're in [the district] does not see any way to incur more costs than we currently have."

Crane said in the association release that the stalemate occurred Nov. 30 after the district "presented a contract proposal that reduces lifetime earnings for the majority of teachers in Clay County." Adams said that statement implies that the district wants to cut salaries, which is untrue. The district wants to "maintain the status quo" of the 2008-09 contract, she said.

Also, Crane said the district proposal "reduces the pay of teachers new to the district and does not reward veteran teachers for their current experience," and passes on a 10 percent to 40 percent increase in health insurance costs to teachers.

Adams said the district proposal would have first- and second-year teachers at the same pay scale, and agreed it does not boost salary at higher levels, following the district's "status quo" plan. …

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