Manatee County residents paved the way for better education salaries when they voted for a one-mill increase on property taxes, giving a competitive edge to the school district, which is now tasked with hiring nearly 280 new employees by August.
As of Friday morning, the district had 118 openings for K-12 teachers, 90 for paraprofessionals and 69 for support personnel, which includes food, transportation, custodial and clerical staff, according to an email from Sarah Brown, the chief human resource officer.
At about $44,400, Manatee’s starting annual salary for new teachers with a bachelor’s degree is higher than in any surrounding district, according to an email from Jacob Davis, a district analyst. It’s thousands of dollars higher than teachers’ recent starting salary of about $39,100.
Davis’ data said Manatee will outpace the starting salaries in:
- Sarasota — $44,300.
- Pinellas — $43,000.
- Polk - $40,672.
- Pasco — $38,790 .
- Hillsborough — $38,201 .
School board Chairman Scott Hopes received applause when he made a similar announcement during Thursday’s candidate forum at Pier 22, hosted by Manatee Tiger Bay Club.
He told the crowded room that Manatee’s starting salary for new baccalaureate teachers would be higher than any district in the state.
The district could not confirm Hopes’ statement on Friday, nor could the Florida Department of Education. The information came from other administrators, Hopes said in a follow-up interview.
“In all fairness, I haven’t gone back to validate it,” he said.
While it’s unclear how Manatee’s starting salary compares to districts statewide, it seems the district is in a position to one-up surrounding counties.
“The support of the voters by passing the referendum gave us a huge advantage,” said Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association.
The district is bolstered by the approval of higher property taxes, whereas other districts are struggling to cope with the state’s 47-cent increase in per-student spending, she said.
However, there is always room for improvement. When it comes to average teachers salaries, Manatee has traditionally lagged behind districts throughout Florida. At $46,919, it was nearly $1,300 behind the statewide average last year, and Florida falls behind the nationwide average by about $9,000.
“The lack of funding from the legislature to public education is dismal,” Barber said.
She said Manatee’s starting salary may help with both hiring and retention, and that job-seekers can visit manateeschools.net to review job descriptions and file an application.
“Once they’ve applied, if there’s a specific school they’re really interested in, they might want to make contact with the principal, beyond just putting their application in with the district,” she said.