COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Collier County teachers are on the losing end of a year long battle against the district over contract negotiations.
The Collier County Education Association (CCEA) and the District have been at an impasse over teacher raises.
Last week, a special magistrate ruled the district had nearly $80 million in reserves, enough to give teachers a three percent step increase. The district rejected that, leaving the final say in the hands of the school board.
One by one, hundreds of Collier County teachers walked out of the Administrative Building frustrated with the boards 3-2 vote to reject the magistrates recommendation and the teacher raises.
"We've earned it and the funds are there," says Naples Park Elementary teacher Chandra Cox. "I've lost confidence with my school district."
Darcey Olscamp, a Collier County parent says, "I think it's really disturbing to be honest with you that the board rejected a magistrates recommendation and they turned it down. How are we ever going to improve our school district if we can't retain the best teachers?
Board member Barbara Barry pointed to the districts $9 million deficit and uncertainty in the economic climate. "When you are dealing with the publics money and carrying that responsibility, then I think you have to be very very careful as to how you allocate funds."
Many of the teachers say they were counting on the step increase to help make ends meet. "I think it's going to have a tremendous impact on student achievement, and on morale. We love to teach, we want to teach but we feel that we're not valued," says Cox.
In an effort to ease the blow, the board decided to give all teachers a one time, one percent bonus. Speaking only to WINK, Superintendent Kamela Patton says the decision shows the district is being fiscally responsible.
"When times get better and we can do more, that's our intention to do it," says Patton.
That one time bonus check is for last school year. Teachers will receive the check next month. Dr. Patton says they will not focus on beginning negotiations for next years salaries.