The Alachua County Education Association is still negotiating fall hazard pay for teachers with the school board. After three much higher refused proposals, they submitted their current proposal on Sept. 10: a flat rate of $450 per quarter.
This bonus is designed to reimburse teachers for the extra work and stress from new COVID-19 safety measures and from the required in-class and online options.
Carmen Ward, the president of the ACEA, said the $450 figure is only the current proposal, and that the ACEA and the School Board had already established a time-and-a-half payment plan. For example, if an employee made $10 an hour base pay, the hazard pay for that employee would be an additional five dollars, totaling to $15 an hour.
This plan was kept in place for the rest of the spring semester and over the summer, but no hazard pay plan was decided on for the fall, leading to further negotiations.
When the school board decided that the time-and-a-half payment plan would be unrealistic for the fall semester, the ACEA proposed a $1,500 flat rate per semester on Aug. 12, which was also turned down by the school board.
The ACEA followed that proposal up two weeks later with $1,000 flat rate per semester. After the school board refused, the ACEA submitted the current $450 per quarter flat rate proposal.
Kevin Purvis, an assistant superintendent and head of human resources for the Alachua County School Board, said while the school board would love to pay teachers more, their current budget situation is “very bleak,” and that the reasons for rejection were purely budgetary.
Christopher Pearl, a teacher at Loften High School and the school’s ACEA representative, said Alachua County schools are lucky compared to other districts. Alachua County schools have received significant funding for PPE and sanitization products, and Pearl hasn’t had to pay out-of-pocket for any of these measures.
Unfortunately, the real stress comes from the new requirement: that all classes offer online options in addition to in-class options. This was set in place to accommodate students who wished to stay in self-quarantine. Pearl said that “teachers now [have] double-duty,” essentially having to teach twice as many classes as before.
However, Pearl believes that rather than receiving a hazard pay bonus, teachers should simply have higher salaries — a sentiment he said he has personally fought for since beginning his teaching career 14 years ago.
“I would consider us essential workers, but I’m not sure if we fit the Department of Labor’s definition of what hazard pay would entail,” Pearl explained.
With the school board’s budget so tight, the future of these hazard pay proposals is unclear, but Ward and the ACEA don’t show signs of stopping their fight any time soon.