FORT MYERS, Fla. — The latest round of negotiations from the Teachers’ Association of Lee County (TALC) and the Lee County School District happened Tuesday, September 26. Both sides are working toward an agreement.
Robert Daniels, a Lee County teacher of 11 years, says he deals with misbehaved students every day, all while being paid what he considers to be too low of a wage.
"People wonder why the teachers don't want to be teachers," Daniels said.
In negotiations, the school district nearly doubled its initial pay increase offer from about $16 million to $30 million.
Now, the conversation is focused on how the funds will be distributed.
"I feel undervalued when I hear some of the options," another Lee County Teacher, Marie Aulino said.
She says some of the offers on the table are not enough for teachers to feel a real impact on payday, though one did resonate.
"A ladder, a step program, every three to five years you get a certain percentage, it was very clear cut," she said.
Some of the elements on raising teacher pay include credible years of experience, teacher performance, student test scores, and management ratings.
"Everyone is going to reassess before our next meeting, run some numbers, see what we can come up with, and at that point we will start eliminating options," Lee County teacher Amanda Blacketer Colucci said.
After the district and TALC decide on a plan for how that pay increase will be distributed, all Lee County teachers can vote on whether they want to adopt the plan.
"The state has really put a lot of emphasis on raising starter teacher pay," said TALC director Kerr Fazzone. "In fact, they earmarked money that could only go to classroom teachers to raise their pay to $47,500."
The district is also working to adjust that amount for veteran teachers who have given years to the profession, a method called compression.
Many are calling this push on the district an adjustment — not a raise — to account for the rising cost of living.
"20 years ago, when I was in high school and I decided I was going to be a teacher, teachers made the equivalent of about $68,000 on average today," Daniels said. "Our district pays $51,500 on average, that's exactly what I make."
The next meeting is this upcoming Monday, October 2.