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Pasco teachers' raise pending

If approved, the increase would be the highest in years. One goal is to keep teachers from slipping away to higher-paying neighboring districts.

By KENT FISCHER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2000


LAND O'LAKES -- Pasco County teachers could get an 8.22-percent pay raise next school year under an agreement negotiated Thursday night between the school district and the teacher's union.

The increase includes a one-time $1,000 bonus to be paid to teachers on the first Friday after they return to work Aug. 7.

The average Pasco County teacher makes about $32,500, according to the state Department of Education. That means the average teacher could expect to see a raise of about $2,700 next year under the proposal. The proposal also maintains the teachers' fully-paid benefits package.

Including the $1,000 bonus, the proposal would raise salaries for beginning teachers to $29,400, up from $26,700 this past school year. That moves Pasco close to the same pay scale for starting teachers as Pinellas County's $29,800, and Hillsborough County's $30,000.

Both district and union officials say the higher starting salaries should help Pasco compete with its bigger neighbors to the south for young teachers. The district must hire about 180 new teachers for the coming school year.

"This is a very good, sound package," said Jim Davis, the district administrator in charge of employee relations. "Both the union and the School Board realize that we need to recruit teachers, but we also need to keep our teachers from jumping ship to neighboring districts."

Pinellas' recently-signed teacher contract granted educators there an average increase of 7.7 percent. In Hillsborough, the average pay raise will equal about 8 percent.

School finance officials said recently that they doubted they could match those increases. A $4-million shortfall in the district's special education budget, and an estimated enrollment growth of about 1,400 students next year were expected to limit the amount of money available for pay raises.

The proposed raise isn't a freebee for teachers, however. As part of the agreement, they'll have to work two additional days next year. Schools will use those two extra days for teacher training workshops, said union President Lynne Webb.

The district and union are still negotiating non-money issues, so the proposed pay raises won't go to the rank and file for a vote of approval until early August. A contract for non-teachers is still in the works.

District officials received about $2.2-million from the state this year for teacher training and recruiting teachers for hard-to-staff jobs, such as science, math and special education posts. The district rolled that money together, along with some other state funds, to provide a $1,000 bonus to all teachers.

In all, the proposal would add about $9-million to the district's payroll next year, Webb said.

Teachers will receive their $1,000 bonus if they pledge to teach the entire school year in Pasco. If they leave the district before year's end, they'll have to repay the money.

If approved, the proposal would be the largest increase Pasco teachers have seen in several years. Teachers received a 5.25 percent raise last school year, and a 7.6 percent raise in 1998.

"We have had very successful negotiations these past several years because the district understands that it has to attract teachers here and, just as importantly, retain them," Webb said.

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