Teachers Union “Forced” to Settle for Lower Salary to Save State Pay Raise Money

Posted on March 14, 2024 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County District Schools successfully ran out the clock on teacher salary negotiations, requesting the appointment of a special magistrate to help settle salary negotiations instead of agreeing to send the matter directly to the school board. That move pushed the teachers’ union to settle at a salary increase below what other employee groups were given by the district.

“We were forced to settle,” stated David Godwin, president of Santa Rosa Professional Educators, who said he had asked Supt. Karen Barber to bypass a special magistrate and go straight to the school board, which has decision-making authority. 

But that didn’t happen, delaying the process even longer on top of around a dozen negotiation sessions. District teachers have worked the entire school year to date without having a contract in place.

Godwin said that during a March 1 conference call the School District’s attorney said he would need until summer to prepare for a hearing with a special magistrate and on March 11 that attorney sent a letter to the Public Employee Relations Commission, requesting the appointment of a special magistrate to intervene.

“Had it been delayed until summer, the money given to the District for teacher salary increases would’ve had to be returned to the state,” Godwin said, noting there was a deadline to pay the teachers.

Godwin said that as a result of  being forced to settle in order to not lose the state teacher raise money, teachers ended up getting a 2.07% increase from the District, which gave non-instructional staff a 3.8% increase. 

“We’re having take on extra jobs to pay bills, buy groceries and gas,” said one District teacher who asked to remain anonymous, explaining how she and a fellow teacher clean houses on the weekends. “The Governor intended for that money to boost our salaries, not lower what the District was gonna pay us for an increase. This District had the chance to help us and didn’t.”

Including the state’s money toward teacher pay, the total instructional salary increase will be 3.87%, according to David Gunter, lead negotiator for the District, who said the teacher salary increases will be retroactive to July 1, 2023 after ratification: 

  • Instructional staff with 0 years of service will receive a 1.90% salary increase.
  • Instructional staff with 1-4 years of service will receive a 3.80% salary increase.
  • Instructional staff with 5-7 years of service will receive a 4.05% salary increase.
  • Instructional staff with 8-10 years of service will receive a 4.30% salary increase.
  • Instructional staff with 11-13 years of service will receive a 4.55% salary increase.
  • All other instructional staff will receive a 3.8% salary increase.

“With a timely ratification by SPRE, instructional employees could be scheduled to received their retro checks by the end of April with their first check including the salary increase in the May 15th pay cycle,” Gunter stated.

Per Godwin, administrators are being given a 4.1% salary – all from local District funds. “There is no performance pay requirement for District admins,” Godwin added.