Manatee County teachers to receive salary increase as other districts continue negotiations

Starting pay for Manatee County teachers is about to increase from less than $53,000 a year to more than $55,000 after the district's school board on Tuesday unanimously approved a new contract with the Manatee Education Association.

The new base pay is set at just below $48,600 with a supplement of nearly $6,600 from a property tax approved by voters last year. Also part of the new contract is a $15 per hour minimum wage for all staff. The district said the pay increases are all retroactive going back to July 1.

School officials called the pay increase a win-win for the community, with Manatee School Board chairman James Golden saying the move will make the district more competitive in attracting and retaining quality educators in classrooms.

District leaders hope the increase will help ease the teacher shortage. When school started in August, the district said Manatee County had 84 teaching vacancies. District 4 representative Charlie Kennedy on Tuesday praised how quickly the bargaining process came together.

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"Here we are in mid-September approving this contract, and it's the earliest I can remember for a while," he said. "So, I really thank everybody involved for getting this done so quickly and efficiently."

Meanwhile in Pinellas County. negotiations have stalled over teacher pay, with several teachers going before the school board on Tuesday night to ask for a substantial pay increase.

"I'm really struggling as a teacher. How is it that I teach for 29 years, and I still am struggling after this last year? The rates I got didn't even cover the gas. Think about that," said one educator. "My house can sell for an ungodly amount of money. And I can pay off my mortgage and go to Pasco County, where they got a 5.4% rate and they're going to get a referendum."

Earlier this month, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association rejected offers from Pinellas County Public Schools, asking for additional data before scheduling any future bargaining sessions. And in Hillsborough, district officials have toyed with the idea of addressing the teacher shortage by going to a four-day school week.

With the Manatee Education Association's new contract, the school district's starting salary for teachers now becomes one of the highest in Florida.