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School districts, unions still negotiating teacher pay raises

What's the latest on the pay raises that were promised to teachers?

So far, only 13 districts have negotiated the increases with their unions, the state Department of Education said Wednesday.

In those districts, the average teacher raise ranges from $1,500 to $2,900.

The Orange County school system was unable to reach an agreement with its unions, and declared an impasse last month. Talks in the other 53 districts are ongoing.

The Florida Legislature has set aside $480 million for teacher raises. Guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers, media specialists, principals and assistant principals are also eligible for increases.

Already, educators in some districts stand to fall short of the $2,500 raise Gov. Rick Scott wanted all Florida teachers to receive.

That's partly because school systems had the flexibility to develop their own merit-pay plans, and had to bargain with their unions. But it is also because the $480 million allocation was initially intended to cover only teachers. The amount was never expanded when lawmakers extended the raises to other school personnel. 

School districts have taken different approaches to the increases, state education officials said.

Citrus, Manatee, Okaloosa, Taylor and Wakulla counties doled out their increases based either partly or entirely on performance.

But four counties (Calhoun, Gulf, Leon and Holmes) awarded across-the-board raises. Baker, Hendry, Jackson and Union counties used their share of the money to give teachers "step increases," which differ based on years of service.

State Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, said she was disappointed.

"I’m disappointed that we did not have more school districts, at least at first blush, award these increases based on performance and performance alone," she said. "To me that was a very important element of what we did. It troubles me that we have school boards and superintendents who ignored that from the Legislature." 

House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, R, Miami, said he expected the larger school districts to act differently.

"I would imagine that the pressure to utilize some element of performance will probably increase in the larger districts," he said.