If the problem is that Manatee County’s top teachers are driving south to Sarasota County to get higher pay, why not simply adopt Sarasota’s exact pay scale?
That’s exactly what school board member Charlie Kennedy said he plans to propose to his fellow board members at an upcoming school board meeting.
Kennedy said he will float the idea of literally adopting Sarasota’s pay schedule and school calendar if an upcoming special tax referendum passes, giving Manatee County more money to do it.
The minimum starting salary for a starting Sarasota County teacher with no experience and a bachelor’s degree is $42,000, according to School Board of Sarasota County documents.
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The minimum starting salary for a Manatee County teacher with no experience and a bachelor’s degree is $38,289, said school spokesman Michael Barber.
Manatee should be commended if it matches Sarasota salaries, said Jane Goodwin, a Sarasota County School Board member.
“We have a real problem in Florida with shortage of teachers,” Goodwin said Thursday. “I think Manatee County is attempting to be more competitive and I give them credit for that. I commend them and think it’s a great idea.”
Goodwin also noted that Sarasota will try to keep one step ahead.
“We have excellent benefit packages,” Goodwin said. “We are self-insured now and our next step is to have two or three clinics around the county so a teacher can go to a clinic for free for common things.”
“But we want Manatee to be successful,” Goodwin added.
Manatee board votes for election
The Manatee school board voted 3-2 Tuesday to authorize a special election in March to let Manatee voters decide a proposed one-mill real estate property tax hike that, among other things, would allow the district to raise teacher salaries.
But Kennedy points out that nowhere in the resolution the voters will see will it state anything about Sarasota County’s teacher pay scale compared to Manatee County’s teacher pay scale and the drain of promising teachers.
The resolution will state that the district would use the money, estimated to be about $30 million, to maintain and expand academic programs, to hire additional instructional personnel, including teachers, school support staff and certified school counselors, and to “make its compensation competitive with surrounding counties and to fund costs associated with a longer school day.”
Although he acknowledged the resolution gives an accurate overview, Kennedy said it doesn’t get detailed enough to satisfy Manatee voters.
“They want answers,” Kennedy said.
Community activist Glen Gibellina on Thursday said he liked Kennedy’s idea but would prefer it go further and specify everything the district will do with the tax money.
“If there is enough money, yes, I like matching Sarasota’s pay, but what about the rest of it?” Gibellina said of the resolution. “What does additional instructional personnel mean? Let’s get it all in black and white.”
“The referendum needs to be clearly defined,” Gibellina added.
Kennedy said matching Sarasota is something tangible that voters can hold the board accountable for.
“If you don’t keep your promise it’s easy to get busted,” Kennedy said. “If we adopt Sarasota’s exact pay schedule and calendar you can’t get more specific.”
Kennedy was one of three, including Dave Miner and Gina Messenger, to vote for the special election. He was clear Thursday that none of his fellow board members know about his idea yet.
“This is just an idea that I will present,” he said.