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Leon and its teacher's union reach a deal on 2021 pay hikes. Talks resume in June for more

An empty classroom with desks arranged in a square.
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The Leon County teachers union has reached a deal with the district on salary increases for the current school year. It comes days after Superintendent Rocky Hanna was asked by the State Board of Education why the money hasn’t been paid out yet—with just days remaining in the 2021-22 school year.

"As far as morale goes...that’s a morale breaker,” Hanna told the board, describing the reaction of veteran teachers to what was a $31 salary increase offer to veteran teachers with more than a decade of classroom experience.

Normally, salary negotiations are finalized in October, at the start of a school year, but this time around, the local union refused the district’s offers. At issue was the bottom-line figure: the district was offering what amounted to a $31 pay increase for veteran educators. It was a figure the union, which is made up by veteran teachers, found to be insulting.

The $31 salary increase for veteran educators is a function of a state law that says 80% of the state appropriated funding for teacher salaries has to go to raise the starting pay of new teachers, leaving 20% for others. For the 2021 fiscal year, the state legislature allocated $550 million to go toward Gov. Ron DeSantis’ effort to raise the starting pay of teachers to $47,500.

The Leon School district’s share of that money is around $500,000 which is being divvied up between 2,022 teachers in the district. Leon is still below the governor’s $47,500 threshold, and beginning teachers will see a $378 bump in their salaries.

In addition, the district will provide bonuses between $1,500 to $3,000 depending on which salary range and years of experience a teacher falls in.

The deal avoids two worst-case scenarios: having a judge make a final decision or worse—having the money revert back to the state in September. But the decisions reached Thursday are only a band-aid, said Leon Classroom Teachers Association President, Scott Mazur.

The deal does NOT address an ongoing and worsening problem: compression. Currently, new teachers are making the same and in some cases, more than those with more years of experience.

The district and the teachers union will be back to the negotiation table on June 1.

“We want to make sure money is in the pockets of our teachers as they go into the summer. It was more than what was originally offered, recognizes the experience of our educators, and is just the beginning of working on what our teachers deserve,” Mazur said.

Leon was one of seven districts that had yet to finalize a deal with its teacher's union for 2021 pay hikes.