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SWFL teacher unions work with school districts to meet state’s teacher pay standard

School districts are left scrambling to find a way to increase teacher salaries. The state soon requires the minimum teacher salary to be $47,500.

We looked at what happens if school districts can’t promise those salaries, where Southwest Florida counties stand and how it’s going to impact your children.

Lee County and Collier County teachers are not exactly in the same boat when it comes to salary negotiations.

“Collier is settled,” said Jonathan Tuttle, the executive director of Collier County Education Association. “We settled two weeks ago.”

“We just started negotiations two weeks ago,” said Kevin Daly, the president of Teachers Association Lee County.

With Collier County all done and Lee County still sorting it all out, both union reps told us they appreciate the extra dollars from the state, glad Gov. Ron DeSantis is hiking the minimum salary up to $47,500.

Still, challenges come with the required pay standard.

“There are all sorts of different rules and strings attached to that money,” Tuttle.

The new standard means new teachers get sky-high raises, while veteran teacher salaries stay about the same.

“So the guy next-door is making $9,000, got a $9,000 raise, and you got [$150],” Tuttle said. “And we just obviously couldn’t have that.”

Collier County didn’t let it happen. Collier County Public Schools bumped up every teacher’s pay. In Lee County, the union is hoping they’ll be able to sort something out too.

“A lot of my veteran teachers, quite frankly, see it as an insult that the state would devalue their experience and their expertise,” Daly said.

The state wants every school district to submit a plan by next Thursday.

Board member Gwyn Gittens with Lee County School Board — a veteran teacher herself — says retaining those older teachers is priority no. 1 and critical to the education of students.

“We can’t lose that knowledge of our veteran teachers, who know just the right way to help you learn the Pythagorean theorem,” Gittens said.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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