LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A first time teacher in Lee County makes $48,500 to start. After 10 years in the county, they see a raise of about $2,000. Teachers are saying with the cost of living so high, and a workforce shortage, they're reaching a breaking point.
Monday night, the school district held a meeting with the Teachers Association of Lee County. The district has nearly doubled its initial educator pay offer of about $16 million. Many teachers in attendance say the increase shows the district is serious about listening to their grievances, however it's still not enough.
Robert Dodig, the Executive Director of Human Resources for Lee County Public Schools says the new offer for teacher compensation is $32.8 million.
The offer from the district went from about $16 million to $32.8 million after hearing teachers complain of burnout. For example, some talked about teaching algebra when only qualified to teach English. Others mentioned not being able to make ends meet at home.
"Those additional dollars were originally allocated in the budget for a reaction to the salary schedule study," Dr. Ami Desamours, the district's Chief Financial Officer said.
This is a start of negotiations between TALC and the school district.
"In the grand scheme of things, we still need more [of a budget raise]," one Lee County teacher, Jake Nordbye said.
More experienced teachers are on their way out, with 18 teachers quitting since the start of the year, one month ago.
"I'm not the only one, but for me, if we don't get a stronger offer it's literally the difference between me doing what I love in the town that I'm from or having to move on and find a different profession," Lee County teacher, Amanda Blacketer Colucci said.
As the contract negotiation continues, teachers have the opportunity to vote on if they think the offer is suitable or not.