Education

Manatee teachers union reaches tentative salary agreement, but ‘quite a ways to go’

The Manatee County School District announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with the teachers’ union to increase salaries while leaving health insurance premiums untouched.
The Manatee County School District announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with the teachers’ union to increase salaries while leaving health insurance premiums untouched. Herald file photo

Salaries could soon be on the rise in Manatee County — for teachers, at least.

After several months of debating back and forth, the Manatee County School District announced Tuesday that it has reached a tentative agreement with the Manatee Education Association to increase salaries while leaving health insurance premiums untouched.

According to a release, the deal was agreed upon during a Monday evening meeting. But the decision still must be approved by the Manatee County School Board.

If approved, the agreement would give existing teachers an annual raise between $1,100 and $1,400, and the base salary for beginner teachers would be bumped up from $38,285 to $39,094.

I don’t believe this agreement will bring us closer to the state average because other districts are also negotiating with their unions.”

Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association

“If the agreement is ratified, it’ll mean the majority of teachers will have a raise this year equivalent to what they received last year, but without an increase in health premiums,” said Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association.

The Bradenton Herald recently reported that the average teacher salary in Manatee is $45,778.45, which falls just short of the $47,858.26 statewide average. In Sarasota schools, teachers earn the third-highest county average — $54,524,52.

Despite the tentative agreement, Barber said she doesn’t expect the deal to bring Manatee closer to the state average.

“I don’t believe this agreement will bring us closer to the state average because other districts are also negotiating with their unions,” she said.

There’s a reason why Manatee sits below the state average.

“We’re the only district that cut salaries in 2008, so we’ve got quite a ways to go before we meet the state average,” Barber said.

But this year’s pay increase is more significant than last year. Barber explained that during the negotiations, they were able to “enhance the salary schedules, as well as move (teachers and paraprofessionals) up the salary schedule.”

Earlier this month, Manatee County commissioners gave the green light for a special election that will ask voters to decide whether they’d like a four-year property tax increase that would benefit schools and teachers. Commissioners have said that at least some of that funding would go toward teacher pay.

Paraprofessionals in Manatees schools will also see pay a pay increase of 15 cents per hour and an average salary increase of 4.2 percent.

According to a Manatee County School District spokesman, the agreement will likely be voted on by the school board during their tentatively scheduled Dec. 12 meeting. However, teachers must take time to ratify the agreement, which means a date has not been officially set.

The highlights of the agreement for teachers are as follows:

▪  The average salary increase is approximately 3 percent.

▪  Teachers on the Grandfather Schedule will move up four levels.

▪  Teachers on the Pay-for-Performance Schedule will move up four levels for highly effective, and three levels for effective.

▪  Steps 1A and 1A will be removed from the salary schedule in order to increase the starting salary of beginning teachers.

▪  All level steps will increase $200.

▪  Longevity pay will be awarded to those who qualify.

▪  The agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2017.

▪  Health care benefits and rates will stay at the current level with the exception of emergency room co-pay, which will be reduced under all plans.

▪  Teachers participating in the district’s health care program will receive a “premium holiday” (no premium deductions) for the month of December, 2017.

The highlights of the agreement for paraprofessionals are as follows:

▪  The salary schedule will be increased 15 cents per hour.

▪  All paraprofessionals will move up two levels.

▪  The average salary increase is 4.2 percent.

▪  The agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2017.

▪  Health care benefits and rates will remain at the current level with the exception of emergency room co-pay, which will be reduced under all plans.

▪  Paraprofessionals participating in the District’s Health Care program will receive a “premium holiday” (no premium deduction) for the month of December 2017.

Ryan Callihan: 941-745-7095, @RCCallihan

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