With the turbulence the State of Florida's budget has experienced over the last few years, and with the precarious (so-called) economic recovery stalling over Florida, it seems highly unlikely that employee raises will be a reality this coming year for ECSD teachers and support staff. I'm not giving up entirely on the idea of finding a way to give our employees a raise, however our budget realities do not bode well for any salary increases.
With this gloomy scenario as a backdrop, Escambia County has now officially left $4.2 million dollars on the table that could have been used to pay bonuses to some of our employees who meet the program guidelines outlined in Escambia County's approved Merit Award Plan (MAP). Our county is one of the few in Florida who were able to negotiate a plan with our union and achieve state approval. Our EEA Union approved plan is here.
School reformers, Conservatives, and even some moderate Democrats are on board with the idea of merit pay for teachers based in part on student test scores. President Barack Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan have both openly advocated for merit pay based in part on student test scores. Our union and the district worked collaboratively on our plan, and while not perfect--the plan is good. (If we keep looking for that elusive unicorn in the forest [AKA "perfection"] before we act, we will never get anything done.) For those who are absolutely, 100%, completely ideologically opposed--we have a voluntary opt-out mechanism wherby these individuals can choose not to participate. But for everyone else--how about a $2,000.00 check for being a great teacher and leader in your school during the 2010-2011 school year? It's not a raise but at least it is something. For the 08-09 School Year, more than $32 Million was allocated statewide, (including some to Escambia County's charter schools Byrneville and Pensacola Beach Elementary) But traditional Schools in Escambia County and their teachers got $Zero.
According to Kathy Hebda, of the State Department of Education, Our district has already missed the deadline for this year 2009-2010, and we only have until January 31st to notify the state if we intend to participate in MAP for 2010-2011. We need to act quickly for our employees.
If we do not decide to participate in MAP for 2010-2011, Or if we decide by proxy to not participate by blowing off the deadline, the $4.2 Million we have already left on the table by not rewarding employees for the 08-09 and 09-10 school years will become $6.3 million.
Over the next three months, I intend to lobby heavily for Escambia County's participation in this program--because it is the right thing to do for our best employees.
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.