Teacher reacts to latest deal proposed by Lee County Schools

Reporter: Claire Galt Writer: Matias Abril
Published: Updated:

Lee County Schools calls its latest offer to teachers impressive, but teachers disagree.

The district started Monday’s bargaining session by telling the union it’s ready to spend $32.8 million on teacher salaries to get a deal done.

Jake Nordbye loves what he does, teaching kids at Bonita Springs High School. He also loves being a dad to Olivia, but Nordbye said he fears he’s going to have to choose between the two. To him, it’s not a choice.

“I want to stick around. I love doing what I’m doing, but we have to make a certain amount of money,” Nordbye said.

Nordbye shares custody of Olivia, so he does not pay child support. His monthly net income is $3,246, and he’s been with the district for nine years.

Nordbye went to Monday night’s bargaining session with Lee County Schools.

The district’s negotiator said he’s got approval to pay out $32.8 million to get a new contract done.

If spread out evenly, that translates into an 8% increase in salary for all of Lee County Schools’ approximately 6,000 teachers.

For Nordbye, that would be a net pay raise of $400 a month.

Nordbye said he already works a second job to make ends meet, and this is why:

He pays $400 a month for his car and another $180 for car insurance. There’s $60 for his phone, $500 for gas and groceries, $80 for internet, $30 for streaming services. He sets aside $300 a month for Olivia’s sports, clothing and recreation. He also pays $70 for union fees and $1600 a month for rent.

That leaves just $26 left over for any extras or emergencies.

The cost of living has gone up astronomically in the county, so yes, the $400 extra a month would help, but…

“Your entire check for two weeks is going to rent. That tells you it’s still not enough,” Nordbye said.

Lee County Schools said Nordbye is a highly effective teacher, and those are the kinds of teachers he wants for Olivia.

But Nordbye thinks those will be harder to find unless Lee County Schools ups its offer. 18 teachers quit in the last week.

Lee County Schools sent a mass email to its teachers saying, “We’ve heeded the call for immediate action from our dedicated staff. This gesture underscores our commitment to enhancing the salaries of our teaching staff.”

The teachers union said that both sides will meet again next Tuesday, and the teachers will make a counteroffer.

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