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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014
Education

Broward teachers owed $20 million in back pay


Published:

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Broward County school district and the teachers union are at odds over how to implement a payback plan for teachers who are owed some $20 million back pay.

The issues issue stems from an overhaul last year of high school schedules, switching from a block format to a county-wide seven-period school day. The change was designed to bring Broward schools in line with the state’s class-size limits. It meant that many teachers were given additional classes to teach each day.

The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/19waWtg) reports the school district doesn’t dispute the teachers are owed money. The issue is over how they’ll be paid.

Broward Teachers Union President Sharon Glickman says school officials, in closed-door negotiations, have requested a 20-year payment plan. That’s unacceptable to the union, which would approve a plan to pay back the money over five years.

Glickman called the school district’s offer “insulting.”

“I said, ‘You’re going to pay teachers when they’re in the cemetery, when they’re no longer alive?” Glickman told The Herald. She said she’s received hundreds of emails from teachers who want their money now.

According to Glickman, the school board had a second offer: Pay the teachers between $2,000 and $3,000 each, over a couple of years.

But she says that offer is also unacceptable.

Glickman says teachers are owned between $6,000 and $12,000, and they’d be willing to accept a five-year repayment plan for the full amount.

The issue came has led to increased tension between the district and union. The district filed two grievances and arbitrators ruled that the school district improperly altered high school schedules and that the teachers are owed back hourly wages.

The Herald reported that an arbitrator ruled over the summer that Broward had “completely ignored” contract provisions that allowed teachers to keep their current schedules if they preferred. The contract states that two-thirds of the faculty must approve any schedule change. But that wasn’t followed.

Glickman said an arbitrator ruled last week that the teachers are entitled to the back pay for taking on the additional classes. The district could be on the hook for another $20 million this year if the six-class teaching requirement continues.

When Glickman voiced her concerns on Tuesday, board members didn’t respond. Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said the teachers demands have to be balanced with other needs and priorities.

“I can’t do that at the expense of destroying the whole district,” he said.

It was Runcie’s call to adopt a uniform, seven-period schedule last year. Only a few of Broward County’s 29 high school’s used such a schedule at the time. For many teachers, the change meant adding more classes.

Runcie pitched the idea as a way to reduce class sizes to conform to Florida’s class-size limits.

He said that while he’d like to pay the teachers immediately, the district can’t afford it.

“Am I concerned that we got teachers out there that are overworked and undercompensated? Absolutely,” Runcie said. “I think about that literally every day.”

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