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"It's not enough": Collier County teachers push for better pay amid tense talks

The district currently pays teachers an average of just over $69,000, but base salaries start at $54,000.
Posted at 6:38 PM, Jun 26, 2024

NAPLES, Fla. — Collier County teachers are negotiating for a third day, seeking better pay from the school district. The Collier County Education Association says this is not about luxury but about giving teachers a livable wage.

"They can't tell us that they can't afford to pay teachers," said Ken Mouton, president of the Collier County Education Association.

On Wednesday, the teachers' union held its third day of talks with the school district. The group has been fighting for better teacher pay for over a year.

The district currently pays teachers an average of just over $69,000, but base salaries start at $54,000.

"They have over $122 million in their reserve," Mouton said.

Mouton explained that current pay can't keep up with the cost of living. He insists the district has the funds to pay teachers more.

"The reason why we're bargaining with such resolve is because teachers are leaving this profession. School districts are not paying them – they refuse to pay them. During this teacher crisis, our district has saved millions of dollars that they can put toward teachers' salaries."

Ken Mouton, Collier County Education Assocation

During the last negotiation session, the teachers' union proposed an $8,000 salary increase for some teachers. The school district countered with an increase that was less than a quarter of that amount. The vice president of the union says it completely missed the mark.

"Naples is one of the most expensive places in this state to live," the vice president said. "When you look at the beginning salary, many teachers have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. It should not be that way."

However, the union remained hopeful heading into Wednesday's negotiations and said they are ready to continue talks with the school district to find a middle ground.

"Coming out of this meeting, we hope to reach some kind of consensus to get teachers a fair, livable wage so we can stop losing our teachers," Mouton said.