MANATEE -- For the first time in four years, the Manatee County School District and the Manatee Education Association agreed on a tentative contract after negotiating teacher raises funded by the state.
Teachers, whose salaries were previously frozen, will receive salary increases of $1,750 this year.
"The $1,750 is not a magic number," said Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber. "That is how far the amount of money we had would go in bringing people's salaries up on the salary schedule. No one got less than that."
While it falls short of the $2,500 Gov. Rick Scott said teachers could expect, Bill Vogel, chief negotiator for Manatee County School District and the former superintendent of Seminole County, said the increases expended the full $6.3 million in state money allotted to Manatee County.
Teachers aides will receive a salary increase of $381.
The salary increases are pending approval by teachers. Barber will present the tentative settlement information to teachers for a vote.
After the teachers vote, the Manatee County School Board will consider the contract proposal.
Vogel said the school board will ultimately decide whether to approve the raises.
In 2011, after the Manatee Education Association rejected contracts, the school board imposed contracts.
Vogel, who has been negotiating contracts for 15 years, said he believes teachers will be pleased.
"I would say teachers will
be pleased to start the new year with some of the lost wages restored and pleased that the negotiators were able to reach an agreement," Vogel said.
The negotiation was settled Monday night just before midnight, Vogel said.
Barber said in a press release the district and the Manatee Education Association worked late to ensure salary increases happened quickly.
"This year's bargaining efforts were done in the spirit of collaboration with both MEA and management working to get money in the pockets of teachers and paraprofessionals as quickly as possible," Barber said. "I appreciate the hard work and commitment of the members of both teams and reaching tentative agreements."
The raises won't come all at once for all teachers. Vogel said about 75 teachers in the district will get less than a $1,750 raise to start, although they will still see the pay increase.
Vogel said the $1,750 raise will make up for when teachers were not paid for more experience during the salary freeze and restores money teachers should have made had there been no freeze.
In the past, some teachers in the district were still frozen on the salary schedule while newly hired teachers with the same experience were placed higher on the salary schedule because the freeze was not accounted for, something Barber said should have never happened.
"Incoming teachers should have not been placed on higher steps when there was a freeze," Barber said.
Vogel said the new settlement, designed to bring eligible teachers up as many as three salary schedule steps, should correct the problems.
These teachers will get salary increases before the teachers brought in at higher levels during the freeze.
New teachers start at zero, and move up the salary schedule with every year of experience, Vogel said.
"There are pay differences between steps," Vogel said.
Barber said she is satisfied with the tentative settlement, but also believes Florida teachers deserve more raises in the future.
"Considering the funds available, I believe it is a very fair settlement," Barber said. "But for teachers who teach in Florida, we are still $10,000 below the national average."
The tentative settlement agreement is set for three years through June 30, 2016, but will be reopened each year for salary negotiations
Vogel said this year's negotiation has been a multi-step process.
The district met Aug. 5 with the Manatee Education Association to talk and determine how much state money was available. They met again Monday and settled just before midnight.
"It probably didn't take as long as it normally would because the amount of money available was pre-determined by the Legislature," Barber said. "We knew going in that the money was for teachers and what amount was available."
No settlement was reached last year, or the two school years prior, when the Manatee District imposed contracts that had been rejected by a majority of Manatee Education Association members.
"When teachers didn't approve, the school board had to impose a contract and said 'This is what it is,'" Vogel said.
Barber will present the tentative settlement to Manatee County teachers to vote on by Aug. 26. The Manatee County School Board is planning to vote to approve the settlements the same day.
Vogel said a clause in the three-year contract allows the district and the Manatee Education Association to reconsider the pact if state funding changes. This year, once teachers and the school board approve the settlement, raises are set and will not be changed.
The district also reached an agreement with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which includes custodians, bus drivers, food service workers and maintenance staff. The union approved a 2.12 percent salary raise Saturday in a three-year contract.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.