Teachers with at least nine Manatee County schools staged a “walk-in” Wednesday morning as a sign of solidarity leading up to an impasse hearing between the teachers union and the school district.
At G.D. Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School and others, the teachers, most wearing red shirts, met outside the school before classes began and walked in together.
“Teachers are walking in this morning to raise awareness that we are at impasse,” Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber said. “One of the things many teachers do is give a lot of extra time to their schools... For one day in this impasse, they are making a statement that they are not willing to continue to give all that extra time.”
Barber said the walk-ins will continue leading up to the impasse hearing on Jan. 25, when she hopes teachers at every school in the district will walk in together.
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One of the things many teachers do is give a lot of extra time to their schools...For one day in this impasse they are making a statement that they are not willing to coninue to give all that extra time.
- Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber
The union and district declared they were at impasse over contract negotiations in November, and a special magistrate will rule on the dispute next week. Both sides will have the opportunity to ratify the magistrate’s decision, and any points both sides do not ratify will go to the school board for a final ruling.
The main sticking point between the district and the teachers is the escalating cost of health insurance. For teachers with spouses or families on the plan, premium increases would be greater than their salary increases in the tentative agreement.
Barber said the union is prepared to make its case before the special magistrate and will focus on comparing Manatee to adjacent and similar-sized school districts.
I just want a fair contract...That includes health insurance that is affordable.
- Third grade teacher Kate Travis
“I just want a fair contract. ... That includes health insurance that is affordable,” Rogers Garden-Bullock third-grade teacher Kate Travis said. “We have one of the highest health insurances in the state of Florida for our teachers, and that’s just really not acceptable.”
Melanie Motlow-Newhall, who also teaches at Rogers Garden-Bullock and is on the MEA Board, is anxious about next week’s hearing, fearing the outcome could impact Manatee’s ability to retain and recruit teachers.
“If we don’t have a favorable outcome, we could lose a lot of teachers to Sarasota,” Motlow-Newhall said. “There could be no incentive to stay in our district. Other districts have higher wages.”