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Wakulla Schools Among First To Dole Out Teacher Pay Raises

Wakulla County Schools logo

The teacher pay raises Florida lawmakers budgeted for earlier this year have been slow in trickling down to teachers, but those in one Panhandle county are already cashing in.

Most teachers in Wakulla County saw an average salary bump of about $2,100 a year as this school term began, even as most of their peers in other counties wait on their pay hikes to take effect. The money for the increases comes from a $480 million allocation by the Florida Legislature, and Wakulla School District administrator Karen Wells says the timing was right:

“We had gone through a spell, multiple years where teachers didn’t receive any pay increase. We don’t have an automatic step—other districts do, and that’s a challenge for them. It was something that was negotiated annually. So, they hadn’t had a raise. And they were like, ‘what’s a step anyway?’ So, that helped in the negotiations," Wells said.

Wakulla wrapped up its collective bargaining process over the summer and the money began flowing by August. Teachers that state standards rate as ‘highly effective’ are seeing an increase of $2,300 a year. Those rated ‘effective’ are getting $2,100, and teachers rated ‘developing’ -- including those who have been working less than  three years, are getting a $500 pay boost.

According to the Florida Department of Education’s Linda Champion, fewer than one-in-five school districts statewide has implemented the teacher pay increases:

“Based on a survey of districts done last week, we found 13 have completed the negotiations and have plans, as well as 52 that are ongoing. We have one district at impasse, but as I understand, a hearing has been held and they are waiting on a ruling," she told a Florida House education committee Wednesday.

Wakulla County Schools also stand out from the rest in the state because the district is one of two that used the performance pay structure suggested by the Legislature. The lack of districts following that advice has disappointed lawmakers who pushed to tie the raises to performance.

Roughly 97 percent of our teachers [statewide] are at that effective or highly effective, and so it troubles me that we have school boards and superintendents that ignored that from the legislature," said Republican Representative Janet Atkins (R-Fernandina Beach).

The Florida legislature wanted nearly a half billion dollars to go only to teachers rated effective or highly effective. But state law specifies teacher pay is ironed out on the local level through collective bargaining. In Leon County, that process just concluded, and teachers will see slightly larger paychecks starting this month.

For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on twitter @HatterLynn!

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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