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Florida teachers rebelling against union that traded layoffs for a raise

Jun 5, 2013 by

VIERA, Fla. – A faction of teachers in Florida’s Brevard Public Schools are working to ditch their local teachers union due to a controversial compromise with the school board that secured a raise for more senior teachers but resulted in the loss of 200 jobs.

The Brevard Teachers for Change represent a small group of teachers that want to change their affiliation from the Brevard Federation of Teachers (a subsidiary of the American Federation of Teachers) to the Coastal Florida Public Employees Association, which currently represents staff in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and local governments in 11 counties, Florida Today reports.

The news site reports four teachers left the BFT this spring for Coastal Florida, but neither union will discuss membership numbers or how many teachers have crossed over.

Most of the fuss is over a BFT concession to the district to forfeit a second planning period and increase class sizes next year for middle and high school teachers.

The move means 200 teachers will lose their jobs and the district will save $11 million. The union, in exchange, won a 1 percent bonus for the remaining teachers for the last school year, as well as a 1.5 percent raise next year, Florida Today reports.

“We were greatly disappointed by the negotiation procedures, we felt that it was not a thoughtful decision that had been made,” Kim Hunt, a math teacher at Space Coast High who left the BFT for Coastal Florida, told the news site. “It was all about raises … there were more dangerous ramifications.”

Teachers critical of the deal contend students will suffer because teachers have less time to prepare lesson plans, and because there will be fewer adults on campus to supervise students.

BFT union officials contend the only option besides eliminating the second planning period was the loss of elementary art and music programs. They didn’t address the possibility of foregoing the bonus and raise.

We assume it’s because the raise was the main focus for the union in negotiations. That would not be unusual. Labor unions are notorious for seeking financial gains for more senior members while allowing layoffs for younger members.

Many school superintendents refer to that practice as the unions “eating their young.”

Brevard Teachers for Change have been trying to change the BFT from within, with no success.

Hunt said the group wanted to run a candidate in the last union election but the member had not attended enough board meetings to qualify. There is no way to remove current union leadership, she told Florida Today.

The disgruntled former BFT members are now focusing on recruiting other teachers to the Coastal Florida union and are circulating petitions to force a representation vote. If they can collect signatures from 30 percent of eligible members they can call for a vote with three options: no union, stay with the BFT, or change to Coastal Florida, the news site reports.

Florida teachers rebelling against union that traded layoffs for a raise – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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