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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


The $11 million appropriation for teachers' salary increases was nailed down Wednesday at the negotiating table, according to Vernelle de Lagarde, interim president of the American Federation of Teachers, as talks between the union and the administration continue.
In the second week of the strike by 1,200 teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff, de Lagarde sounded a bit optimistic. "We have been able to secure the $11 million—that is now clarified. Now we need to talk wages. We don't want to stay out very much longer." The $11 million de Legarde referred to included $8.6 million, part of a pact teachers rejected earlier.
De Lagarde said the AFT's major concern now is getting the appropriations Sens. David Jones and Alicia "Chucky" Hansen have proposed for teachers. Jones and Hansen last week tacked on amendments to the $11 million appropriation that would add another $22 million.
Jones' amendment directed Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to negotiate with HOVENSA for a $2 million advance on its Fiscal Year 2001 property taxes to pay union employees negotiated salary increases.
Hansen, who has long been after funds from the Public Finance Authority, proposed an amendment that would direct the PFA to pay the government $20 million from bond interest, to be deposited in the Union Arbitration Fund.
Hansen has insisted for weeks that millions in accumulated "retained earnings" and interest earned on government bonds issued last year should be used for government operating expenses. She said the funds were identified after analyzing Legislative Post Auditor Campbell Malone's report on the PFA's audited financial statement.
But PFA Director of Finance and Administration Amadeo Francis said last month the monies were restricted or in the form of equity and were not available for government operating expenses, which includes teacher salaries.
The negotiations begin again at 2 p.m. Thursday. "We are pushing and encouraging members to call Government House and urge the governor to pass the legislation," de Lagarde said. Neither of the amendments was recommended by the governor, and he could veto the legislation.
A rally and march to Government House from Emancipation Garden and on to the Legislature is planned for Friday. Members of island-wide PTAs will march with teachers to show support and try to bring additional pressure on the government and the legislature to end the strike, which will be in its eighth day Friday.

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