DTU and DCPS reach a tentative contract agreement

Most people don’t know but Jacksonville’s public-school teachers
have been working without a contract since the last one expired in July of last
year. A huge sticking point had been the amount of raises for teachers and this
is going to get a little wonky for a moment.
Seven years ago, after the passage of Senate Bill 736,
districts were forced to change how they evaluate and pay teachers. Now student
test scores would factor heavily how school districts would do both. During the
last contract Duval teachers United and the district negotiated in 2014, two
pay scales were created. One for teachers who were hired after 2010 when
another bill stripped teachers of work protections, which were commonly and
inaccurately referred to as tenure, which put new teachers on one-year
contracts where they could be let go for any or no reason at the end of the
school year and the other pay scale was for veteran teachers who still had
their work protections. They were put on what was called the grandfather pay
scale. 
Teachers without work protections could expect a thousand
dollar raise for an effective evaluation and two thousand dollars for a highly
effective one, while teachers on the grandfather pay scale received more modest
wage increases, though they could give up their job protections and join the
new pay scale should they choose. I and most veteran teachers I know chose to
remain on the grandfather scale.
That brings us to the current negotiation where the sticking
point was the 1000 and 2000 dollar raises. The district feeling the pinch from
the previous superintendent’s financial mismanagement, started this year 12
million dollars in the hole. Couple this with the state continuously in my
opinion criminally underfund education and the district was caught between a
rock and a hard place.
So, teachers started the year without a contract and without
the raises, either 1000, 2000, or the more modest raises that were negotiated.
Likewise, stipends for hard to fill positions or for teachers that worked at
special schools were held back and as you can imagine as the year dragged on
this has caused a lot of frustration with a lot of teachers.
That frustration however may be coming to an end as the
district and union have reached a tentative agreement the week of January 8th
where the 1000, and 2000-dollar raises were kept intact. So that should be the
end of the story, after all the pitch was about how teachers were working
without contracts and soon they will have them ending an ongoing problem.
Except it’s not, not even close because as long as we have a
government in Tallahassee and education leaders here at home that continue to underfund
and kneecap public education then we will continue to have problems.
Florida is chronically near the bottom when it comes to
education funding and when you factor in inflation our schools get less than
they did in 2007 the year before the great recession. Furthermore, now thanks
to last year’s House Bill 7069 the district is required to share what meager
funds it has with charter schools many of which are for profit.  
Locally board member Scott Shine supported the measure
because he said he expected Tallahassee to dramatically increase education
funding, which it did not, he also supported the bill because he said he believed
union teachers would lose their job but that would be a whole different post.  
Last fall at a board meeting when discussing suing the state
over House Bill 7069, Mister Shine went onto say that the republican members of
the Duval delegation voted for the bill because they didn’t know what was in it
and because the bill was speaker of the house Richard Corcoran’s priority, and those
members were afraid to cross the speaker.
Then there is local businessman Gary Chartrand whose name
you have probably heard a lot. He is responsible for bringing Teach for
America, which takes non-education members puts then through a six-week access course
and then into our neediest schools where they are supposed to serve a two-year
commitment ensuring our most vulnerable students have a revolving door of
teachers, or the exact opposite of what they need.
He also brought the KIPP charter school to town and if you
didn’t know it, the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, after Chartrand made large
donations to Mayor Lenny Curry, changed their rules so that they now fund part
of the KIPP school day, before this they had only funded after school programs.
 Now the mayor, Chartrand and the
Jacksonville Children’s Commission, might argue that correlation is not
causation, but the relationship is clear.
Chartrand also banded together with a group of philanthropists
and pledged nearly fifty million dollars over three years to Duval County public
schools, with the only caveats being that the district must spend the money on
what they told the district to and the district had to continue funding the
programs when the money ran out. Last summer when the district balked,
Chartrand threatened to withhold the money that the QEA promised the district
but had not yet delivered.
Perhaps worst of all however is Chartrand is currently
finishing his second term on the state board of education despite the fact he
has no education experience, he was never a teacher and he sent his children to
expensive private schools. While on the board he advocated for teachers to lose
work protections, but he has never advocated for Tallahassee to adequately fund
education.
Duval County is at the epicenter for what ails education in
Florida. A school board member who roots for schools to fail so union teachers
can be fired and for-profit charter schools can make even more money. A mayor
who has rules changed to fund his donors pet project.  A delegation that is ignorant about what they
are voting on and only did so to satiate a powerful legislator, and an influential
businessman out of his depth who wields money like a club and gives campaign donations
to get what he wants and threatens when he doesn’t.
Despite my spending much of the last decade criticizing DCPS
I believe we have such promise, but it is promise we will never meet as long as
the city reflexively votes for and supports people like Shine, Chartrand and
the republican members of the Duval delegation who seek to harm our schools.
So, Duval Teachers United and Duval Public Schools have finally
negotiated a new contract and I sincerely believe they have both done the best
they can. Unfortunately, it is a contract where most teachers don’t have work
protections, and which pays teachers far below the national average and what
professionals with the same level of education receive, because sadly, that is
all the state of Florida allows.  

One Reply to “DTU and DCPS reach a tentative contract agreement”

  1. When I was hired in 1988 there were 200 new teachers hired. We met at JU for orientation. That was the largest number of new teachers hired to date in the District. Now there are 200 not filled positions yearly. Many people quit in a week. Wonder why.

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