DeLand, FL - After a quiet summer on the negotiation front, contract talks between Volusia County Schools and its teachers' union are heating up again.
The school district and Volusia United Educators have agreed to meet on Friday in a bargaining session with the hopes of reaching a deal for the school year which started today. It would be the seventh such meeting since April.
In its latest proposal, VCS has offered a 2% raise to VUE, backing away from a previous offer of a 1% raise and $800 bonus after the union rejected it. Also being offered by the school district: an extension of a dental insurance subsidy which sunsetted two years ago and a 2% bump up in stipends and supplements.
VCS Chief Financial Officer Deb Muller feels the 2% raise is "a stretch", especially with the district getting only 47 cents of additional funding per student from the Florida Legislature for the 2018-19 school year.
"Funding for Florida school districts is way behind when you compare [to states] across the nation," Muller added. "We feel at this point that we want to settle the contract, so we are making the good-faith effort."
The district is looking to add an additional 30 minutes to the workday for elementary school teachers, including 20 more minutes of class time.
Rachel Hazel - the district's executive director of K-12 curriculum - says the extra time would make Volusia's elementary school teachers equal in terms of work time with their counterparts in middle and high schools and that lack of class time is one of the factors behind Volusia elementary schools having overall lower school grades when compared to neighboring counties.
"It is not reasonable to judge the performance of our elementary teachers and students under a state grading system when they have less instructional time than neighboring districts," Hazel added.
Speaking on the Marc Bernier Show after the VCS proposal was released publicly, VUE President Andrew Spar called that statement inaccurate.
"The school day may be shorter, but in some of those districts, teachers' planning [time] is longer," Spar noted. "It's hard to compare every district to every district, but I don't believe it's accurate to say they get 20 minutes more of instruction because it just depends on how the day is structured."
Spar does feel hopeful that a deal could be struck as soon as Friday, but he's not at all sure that will happen.
"We've been back twice before and they said they were ready to negotiate and they didn't," Spar stated.
Click below for the first part of Spar's full interview with Bernier.
Click below for the second part of Spar's full interview with Bernier.