Orange County teachers frustrated by district’s salary proposal

Spectrum News 13 | By Rachael Krause | December 8, 2021

ORLANDO, Fla. — The question of how much your child’s teacher should be paid is once again taking center stage in Orange County.

What You Need To Know

  • Orange County Public Schools has proposed raising all teachers’ salaries by $25 a year
  • The district would also give an extra $100/year to teachers rated effective, and an extra $150/year to teachers rated highly effective
  • But some teachers say the proposed salary increase is not enough

Negotiations between Orange County Public Schools and its teachers are getting heated over what many say is a paltry raise. 

The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association is calling OCPS’s proposal embarrassing, saying the district’s plans to increase teacher pay an extra $25 a year won’t even cover a trip to the grocery store. Now, they’re calling for change. 

“And I think everyone should be upset,” said Matt Panzano, an Orange County Public Schools teacher. 

Panzano said teaching during the pandemic has been tough this past year and a half, and has stretched teachers incredibly thin. 

“I’ve never had to teach two classes at the same time — both virtually and in person — and this was true of many other colleagues, but it was essentially doing the same job twice,” he said. “And that meant two different types of lesson plans, two different types of accommodations for people virtually and in the classroom.”

Twice the work, he said, without any extra pay. 

Now, as OCPS and the teachers union negotiate plans for teacher salaries, the district’s plan would give all teachers an extra $25 a year.  For teachers rated effective, OCPS would pay an extra $100 to that teacher’s salary annually, and for teachers rated highly effective, that number increases to an extra $150 a year. 

“It’s a slap in the face to teachers,” said Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. “It’s disrespectful.”

When it comes to pay increases, the teacher’s union is calling for a flat $800 salary increase for teachers, with an increase of $1,600 for teachers rated effective and $2,200 for those teachers rated highly effective. 

The district’s plan would also increase the cost of what teachers pay for their health care hosts but would include a one-time $2,500 bonus. That proposed one-time bonus would be funded in part from federal funding that the district received from the CARES Act, according to OCPS officials. 

Doromal said teachers don’t want a one-time promise — they want steady pay increases, especially for veteran teachers who have spent years teaching Orange County students.

Doromal said she believes the district has plenty of money in reserves to help keep quality teachers in the classrooms. 

“Teachers are leaving, they’re quitting, they’ve had it with the disrespect, the low pay, the extra work without pay and the loss of autonomy,” she said. “So, this is the rainy day OCPS, so get out your umbrella and let’s pay teachers what they’re worth.”

According to OCPS officials, the district has 7% in unassigned reserve funding, far exceeding the 3% that the state requires of school districts. While the CTA is calling on OCPS to utilize that funding to pay teachers more, a spokesperson for the district said that due to an increase in costs of doing business and decline in revenue, the amount of money they have in reserves is declining. 

But Doromal said the district needs to do better, including planning and budgeting, to give teachers in one of the nation’s largest school districts the raises they deserve. 

“We need to reflect how we treat our teachers to the rest of the United States and we need to be seen as — what I hope we can be is a flagship county,” Panzano said. “But this needs to be a community effort and if everyone in the community is not upset about this then we won’t actually see any real change.”

News 13 reached out to OCPS, but officials declined to comment, citing the impasse in salary negotiations. 

M​oving forward, the Orange County School Board will need to set public hearing dates for both the district and the teachers union to allow both sides to weigh in.

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