The School District of Manatee badly wants its students to have 30 minutes more instructional time every school day.
It’s one reason, along with creating more competitive pay so teachers don’t leave, that the School Board of Manatee County is going forward with a special election on March 20, which would generate an estimated $33 million in new property tax revenue if approved by voters.
“Research has shown the longer instructional time improves learning and performance and high school graduate rates,” Ron Ciranna, deputy superintendent of business services and operations, said Thursday.
It’s a very fair agreement. It answered a lot of questions our people had and I think it will help people know what they are voting on March 20.
Pat Barber, president of The Manatee Educational Association, talking about the recently signed memorandum of understanding
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Manatee Superintendent Diana Greene has called the 30-minute increase “our No. 1 priority.”
But with all the discussion about how the special election could solve some of the district’s concerns, the 2,888 teachers in The Manatee Education Association, along with paraprofessionals and other staff, wanted something in writing as to what would happen if the tax hike passed, said Pat Barber, president of the MEA.
“I was getting a lot of questions,” Barber said Thursday.
All that has changed with a “memorandum of understanding” signed by Greene and Barber, putting in writing exactly what happens if roughly $33 million in new school revenue is OK’d on March 20.
“The agreement was important because we want to make sure the teachers understand we want more instructional time for higher achievement, but we also want to reward the teachers,” Ciranna said.
“I think it was very important,” Barber said of the signing. “It’s a very fair agreement. It answered a lot of questions our people had, and I think it will help people know what they are voting on March 20.”
What the agreement states
The agreement states that if the referendum passes, the Manatee County school day will indeed increase by 30 minutes with teachers working an extra 15 minutes per day, which will be added to 15 minutes they already work outside of instructional time, Ciranna said.
“The teacher work day was already an hour longer than the student day,” Barber said. “There was a little bit of time we could work with. Teachers will not lose any planning time in their contracts. We made sure that was clear in the agreement.”
The memorandum clarifies that teachers will receive 51 percent of the estimated $33 million, which works out to an average pay increase of $5,700 for each teacher, money that covers the extra 15 minutes and helps make Manatee County more competitive with its neighbors, Barber said.
“It would make us equal to Pinellas County (in teacher salaries) if not above them,” Ciranna said. “We would still be a little bit away from Sarasota County, but much more competitive than we are now.”
The agreement also makes clear that paraprofessionals, which include teachers’ aides and assistants, will receive 5 percent of the tax hike money, which works out to an average pay increase of $2,400 a year.
But all the money will be received by staff as supplements, not salary. The increase could not be added into annual salaries, Barber said, becausee the referendum must be held again in four years and it could fail, which would complicate salary structures.
“But it will all count toward their retirement,” Barber said.
In the aftermath of the signing, the MEA will now endorse a “yes” vote at the special election.
“I think it’s very important that people understand that the health of a community is connected to the health of its public schools,” Barber said. “We have fallen behind in our ability to compete with other school systems because they have had tax payer support by generating referendum dollars.
“I would hope that people support the referendum so our teacher salaries can be more competitive,” Barber added.