HCTA Summer Update

Bargaining and Budget Update

As you know, this year we bargain economic issues for both the Teacher and ESP units.  Additionally, we are bargaining the “full book” for our ESPs and we will inevitably deal with a variety of other issues, such as evaluation, for the Teacher Unit.  The HCTA and SDHC bargaining teams have met three times.  Bargaining got off to a late start this year because our Legislature did not pass a budget until a special session in June.  Additionally, a variety of changes in district leadership combined with updates to SDHC strategic priorities have slowed our progress.
At this time, we can report the following:

1. Health Care:  We will retain a no premium plan (Coverage First Local).  However, other plans will experience a small increase in premiums.  In this regard, if you participate in the HMO, we encourage you to contact employee benefits to discuss whether Coverage First could meet your needs at a lower cost.  Remember that the open period will begin in September (date TBD).  To offset costs, some plan changes were made to increase out of pocket maximums and co-pays for certain high expense drugs.  The District is absorbing a 10 million dollar cost increase as a result of several consecutive high claim years. 
With regard to health care, please note that based on a motion by the HCTA Rep Council this Spring, I shared the concerns of the membership with the School Board at their July meeting.  Per the motion, I stated our desires that:  1) the plans be competitively bid out in the coming year and 2) that as part of the bidding process, we look for ways to make dependent coverage more affordable. 
On a positive note, beginning in 2016, the opt-out credit for those who have other insurance will increase to $900.00.  Additionally, while the proposed merger of Humana and Aetna presents a variety of unknowns, Aetna actually has staff that specialize in working with unions, which could be a positive development.

2. While a small increase in per pupil expenditures was approved in Tallahassee, our District is struggling with a budget deficit.  For instance, our district, like many, is struggling with the amount of money flowing to charter schools.  This money flows through the district, but if children are in a charter school, per pupil dollars go to the charter.  Many of you may have heard from your principals that Superintendent Eakins spoke at their recent meeting about the need to significantly reduce the budget.  I have requested a variety of information from the district regarding expenses and I am in the process of analyzing the data.  Based on discussions with the Superintendent, we will look for ways to save money that do not impact the classroom or result in lay-offs. 

Our economic proposals, which include raises for all teachers, as well as continuing our efforts to refine and improve the ESP scale, will ultimately, depend on budget decisions at the district level.  We will keep you posted as we learn more. 

3. We are working with the district to refine a number of evaluation rubrics and procedures based on your survey feedback.  We will post additional information on these topics as they are agreed upon. 

Save Your Receipts!
The beginning of school is around the corner and we know all of you will be out buying classroom supplies!  Please save your receipts for all purchases related to your classroom and students!  Saving your documentation is important for two reasons:

1. Florida Teacher Supply Funds:  In the past, funds under this program (generally about $250) were distributed to teachers without any documentation as to receipted expenses.  Our district was recently informed that an IRS audit in another school district produced guidance requiring school sites to have documentation that funds were spent for education purposes.  SDHC is currently working with various vendors to create a program where teachers can order supplies online and have all receipts retained electronically.  However, they will also have a procedure to submit your receipts to the school site for retention in the event you’ve already purchased items or wish to purchase things at various places. 
2. 2015 Taxes: Save additional receipts for relevant personal deductions.

Student Handbook and Discipline Changes

I’m sure many of you have been following the discussion on discipline that has been happening at the district level for quite some time.  Without getting into the considerable history on this topic, various community groups have raised concerns about the suspensions rates as a whole, and more specifically the high rates of suspension for African American and Hispanic male students.  Various suggestions have been submitted to the School Board.  In short, the Board approved changes to the Student Handbook as follows:

1. The Board limited zero tolerance offenses.  Hillsborough had a far larger list than required by state law, so consistent with statute, the Board limited zero tolerance offenses to those involving firearms and threats to schools or school personnel.
2. Tardy policies were brought in line with state law.
3. The term “inappropriate conduct” was removed because it is vague and is an easy default that doesn’t adequately describe the improper conduct.  Otherwise, the full range of options are still available for disciplinary purposes, but school staff will have to choose the more descriptive term (ie: profanity, disruptive, skipping class, etc.).
4. 10 day suspensions will have to be reviewed and approved by an Area Superintendent.
The items above are not the only changes to the handbook, but are the relevant ones on the topic of discipline.
I spoke on this topic at the July meeting.  I shared our support for educational equity and keeping kids in school.  But I noted that behavior doesn’t change just because we want it to and “school culture,” on which the Board and Superintendent are focused, will not change overnight.  While the changes may be a positive step to keeping children in school, I voiced my concern that I had not seen a concrete plan for alternate interventions, including increased funding for services such as social work, psychology or guidance.  I also noted that as a district, we needed to make ISS and ATOSS more productive and accessible. 
It is important to note that the Superintendent and most Board members continually stressed that there is no intent to impact the learning environment for teachers or students.  They are not indicating that disruptive students will not be subject to discipline. 
The issue of make-up work will likely be raised by the district in our next bargaining session.  This topic will no doubt evolve, and I expect we will survey members about what is happening at their sites after school begins. 

Enjoy the last couple weeks of break and we will have additional updates during pre-planning! 

In Unity,
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, Executive Director

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