The School District of Manatee County could have a leg up on the competition when it comes to recruiting first-year teachers.
Superintendent Cynthia Saunders said the district’s new starting salary of $51,630 could be the highest in the state.
“It will help to attract and keep personnel here, especially if we’re the highest in the region, because we all know you can live in many counties here and commute to one another,” Saunders said. “It will put us at an advantage in attracting [teachers] to make sure we have all of our positions filled next year.”
The School Board of Manatee County on Jan. 12 approved the contract with the Manatee Education Association that included salary increases to bump a starting teacher’s salary from $45,706 to $51,630.
The new starting salary includes funding from the state as well as $5,201 from the millage referendum supplement.
The salary increases follow Florida lawmakers allocating $500 million to raise a starting teacher’s pay to $47,500. School districts across the state were required to use the funding to get as close to $47,500 as they could.
The school district received about $8.4 million from the state to put toward salaries.
Using funds from the state, the district bumped the new base salary to $46,429.
The district and the Manatee Education Association chose not to include funding from the millage referendum in the salary negotiations because the passage of the referendum is not guaranteed.
With the $5,201 from the referendum, the salary is increased to $51,630.
For Peggy Turner, a kindergarten teacher at Robert E. Willis Elementary School, the salary increases aren’t what she had hoped for teachers already in the district.
“It’s sad they’re not paying attention to teachers they have currently,” said Turner, who has been teaching for 23 years and has spent 20 years with the School District of Manatee County. “I feel like they’re taking us for granted. I feel like it’s another slap in the face.”
A requirement of the state funding was for districts to use 80% of the $8.4 million in funding to get new teacher salaries as close to $47,500 as possible. The other 20% of the funding could be used for veteran teachers or paraprofessionals.
Pat Barber, the president of the Manatee Education Association, said the requirements of the funding were a “huge overreach” to the association’s ability to negotiate salaries, and as a result, the district couldn’t provide the same type of increases to veteran teachers as those with less experience.
Moving forward, Barber said the Manatee Education Association needs to work with the school district to have state leadership understand that districts need state funding to provide salary increases that recognize the retention of veteran teachers.