Divide between teachers grows after recent board meeting

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Elyssa Morataya
Published: Updated:

After it seemed Lee County teachers and the school board had finally reached an agreement to increase teacher pay in the district, It almost didn’t pass at Monday night’s board meeting.

Sliding by with a vote of four to three. Something Kevin Daly, president of the Lee County Teacher Association, calls “Unprecedented.”

“In my 27 years, I can never remember a single board member voting against a contract,” said Daly.

Among those who voted no was board member Armor Persons.

Persons expressed disappointment in the teacher’s union and accused them of leaving money on the table for newer teachers.

“If they had gotten everything that we had put on the table, a new teacher would be making $54,999,” said Persons. “Instead, they’re going to be making $50,500.”

“The union is not looking out for those beginning teachers, or even first-year teachers that have finished the first year. They did not even get the full amount. So I’m just disappointed in them,” said Persons.

When WINK News spoke with Daly, he called Person’s comments “Ironic.”

“You know, to be complaining about the veracity of the raises when you’re the one that set the money aside, of course raises were less because you gave me less money,” said Daly.

But Persons is doubling down on his stance. He told WINK the board gave all the money it could give and feels the deal, and the union, favors veteran teachers over newer ones.

“I just encourage if the teachers are gonna stay with a union that more of the first, second and third year teachers become involved, so they have a voice,” said Persons.

WINK News spoke with a teacher on Wednesday who said Mr. Persons failed to mention that new teachers would get a pay raise in the 2021 school year while veteran teachers got nothing.

This meant new hires were making the same as a teacher with five years more experience.

This teacher said, “These last two bargaining sessions have been the only opportunity to address that compression, which is why the raises were broken down in the way they were.”

According to the Florida Education Association, 40% of Florida’s new teachers leave the classroom within their first five years in the profession, state records show. This is 15 to 20% above the national average, depending on the year.

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