May 20, 2021
Takeaways: Progressive proposals for incentives; class size reductions introduced
UTD's Bargaining Team met with M-DCPS management in an initial session Thursday, May 20th, to negotiate 2021-2022 salary and benefits. Per pupil state funding has been effectively cut by the legislature and we have fewer students, but federal funding to address the impact of COVID-19 is creating temporary opportunities to mitigate the impact. In addition, agreeing on a structure for the next voter referendum will also be critical for continuing to increase compensation for education professionals and that will be included in subsequent meetings.
UTD presented an initial set of proposals to expand stipends using federal funds, including providing incentives for reading certifications or reading endorsement, and lowering class sizes for safety and to address student social and emotional wellbeing.
Relying in part on federal funding to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats proposed expanding the mandated thousand-dollar bonus Florida had to award teachers to three thousand dollars and for all full-time workers to receive the payment. “We want to put money in the pockets of all the people doing the incredibly hard work to safely reopen schools and recognize the value of everyone’s contribution by increasing the dollar amount and including Paraprofessionals, Security Monitors and Clerical Workers,” said Hernandez-Mats.
Prioritizing safety to get schools to herd immunity, UTD is proposing incentives for those who have received or will elect to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. While vaccinations will remain voluntary, CDC guidance is clear that our work locations will be safer and face less disruption due to COVID-19 as we increase the percentage of people vaccinated. This is consistent with good public health policies and similar measures are being implemented by responsible public and private employers throughout the country.
To help address student learning loss and support instructional personnel receiving in-demand certification, UTD is proposing the district incentivize earning certification in Reading or a Reading Endorsement with a stipend. Further, the union is proposing the district provide additional free professional development to qualify for the certification or expand existing contractual tuition reimbursement provisions.
Finally, UTD proposed leveraging federal funding to modify the K-12 staffing allocations. Class size average would be decreased by one student per class and the number of students assigned to Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers would be limited and reduced. “We want to use available money to keep everyone engaged and address social and emotional issues closely related to learning loss since many students have been traumatized,” said Hernandez-Mats. “We know part of the solution is more interaction with students, so we can better reach the child. In addition to Teachers, Counselors, Psychologists, and Social Workers are also exhausted so we have to look at this globally and reduce caseloads.”
Hernandez-Mats urged the district to move quickly to respond to proposals and set additional bargaining dates. “Our members should be able to go into the summer knowing what to expect and having the stability to make future plans, based on a contract,” she said.