Marion County educators file complaint over use of substitutes - FOX 35 News Orlando

Marion County educators file complaint over use of substitute teachers

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

The Marion Education Association has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state. It's still pending, but the district said they can't afford any other option.

"The cuts that they've made are primarily teachers and teachers' assistants," said Chris Altobello, President of the Marion Education Association. "Those two people are in the front lines, or are on the front lines educating our children."

The problem stems from the budget. Marion County School District has a shortfall of $29 million. Last month, the district laid off 261 people, including 160 first year teachers.

District spokesperson Kevin Christian said it's going to take tough choices to balance the budget.

"Eighty-five  percent of expenses are for salaries," said Christian. "So when you have to cut $29 million, it's going to be a big chunk somewhere, and the pain is going to be felt."

Superintendent George Tomyn recommended hiring certified substitutes: someone who holds a valid state teaching license, but won't receive full benefits.

Altobello said that'll only hurt children.

"Our children deserve more than just a certified substitute," said Altobello. " There is a difference between a substitute teacher and a regular professional educator. That's why they're called substitutes. Again, this is not a knock on the person. This is a knock on the practice."

MEA filed an unfair labor complaint this spring. A decision is expected in mid-July.  Altobello said MEA offered the district a settlement: drop the certified substitutes and they'd drop the suit. The district is waiting for the court to decide.

"If that particular person rules against the district and rules in favor of the union, then that's an additional two or three million dollars or more that the district will have to go back and cut further," said Christian.

Christian and Altobello both want locals to get involved. They said they hope parents do their homework, and all involved end up helping children score high.

"It's not a decision that we came to overnight," said Christian. "And unfortunately, it's not a solution we'll get to overnight."

The district has been able to re-hire some teachers, and hopes to re-hire a few more this summer.

There will be several public hearings on the issue in July. The School Board will have work sessions in August, and a final vote on the budget is expected in September.

 

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