COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - The people who care for your kids at school say they're being taken advantage of. For the first time in years they're not getting the raise they think they deserve.
Earlier this year, Collier County teachers got a 7.2 percent raise, which averages out to about $3,500 per teacher. The district says that money, allocated by Governor Rick Scott, is to be used only for teachers, not aides.
But, employees say school leaders have the money and should pay up.
Every year in Collier County, teachers negotiate their salary increases with the district. Then, a few weeks later, aides follow and get the same percentage raise. It's been that way for more than 30 years, until now.
"When they came and made us the offer they made us we were all totally shocked," says Connie Steed, a general assistant at Pelican Marsh Elementary. She's been with the district for 26 years.
When asked how the districts original offer of a step raise and 5 cents per hour made her feel Steed said, "worthless, like they don't appreciate us. The work that we do, the time that spend in the classrooms with the kids and what they're offering us is humiliating."
In some districts, like Lee County, teachers have agreed to take a smaller raise so other workers, like aides, can get their fair share.
"Teachers lean very heavily on these folks, but their unsung heroes," says Jonathan Tuttle, CCEA Executive Director.
In a statement to WINK News, Collier leaders say the money for raises is to be used only for teachers and that per the Legislature splitting it with aides was never an option.
"We're not arguing that point, we understand that's the law," says Tuttle. "But, a district with this much money could have planned for this a little bit better."
The two sides will meet Monday afternoon for another round of negotiations.
Below is the full statement from the Collier County School District:
Support personnel are valued by the District and it is the District's desire to reach agreement on salary quickly so these employees can receive a raise as soon as possible.
The District's last salary offer to the Collier County Association of Educational Office and Classroom Assistant Personnel was to provide a step increase plus an additional $0.10 to the hourly rate per step on a newly revised salary schedule. The average percent increase per step on the District's proposed salary schedule would be 3.96% for this year. The District was hopeful to settle negotiations at the end of October so employees could receive a raise before the holidays, but the union made it very clear during negotiations that they were not concerned about when employees in this bargaining unit received a raise.
Historically, the District has made similar salary offers to all bargaining units. For the District, this year is no different. The District was prepared and has made offers to all bargaining units to provide at least the value of a step increase. What did change this year is that the Florida Legislature, for the first time ever, provided funding designated exclusively for salary raises. The Legislature specifically identified teachers in the list of positions intended to receive a raise from this new funding. During teacher negotiations, when this new funding was discussed, the teachers' union made it very clear that they strongly believed the additional funding from the State for salary raises should only be used for teachers. The additional funding from the State for teacher salary raises is the only reason teachers were able to receive a raise greater than the District-provided step increase. Support personnel were not designated by the Legislature to receive salary raises from this allocation of funding.