As the first semester of the 2023-2024 school year comes to an end, Alachua County Public School District employees prepare for the break and a potential increase in salaries.
The Collective Bargaining Unit and the school board are voting on a proposal that would allow all instructional and non-instructional personnel within Alachua County Public School District a salary increase of 3.5%.
The Alachua County Education Association (ACEA), a union composed of over 3,000 school district workers, aims to “negotiate and bargain rights for its members, advocate for individuals and advocate collectively for professions,” said president Carmen Ward, who also spearheads all negotiations.
The ACEA originally proposed a 10% total salary increase in October 2022 to be effective over two years, where salaries would increase by 5% annually.
In return, the district countered with a 1% increase, saying it was “all they could afford,” Ward said. The ACEA and school district settled on a 3.5% increase in order to help Alachua County’s school ranking and job shortage.
The A-F School Rating System shows the effectiveness of schools based on standardized test scores, according to the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Alachua County Public School District ranks a B for the 2022-2023 school year.
Due to an employee shortage in education — including teachers, bus drivers or any positions within the school district — Alachua County has suffered the consequences. Individual schools like Lake Forest Elementary within the district have received years of failing grades on this individual school rating system, according to the Gainesville Sun.
With this shortage comes the possibility of migration to other higher paying school districts. The 3.5% increase will “give people some hope,” and decrease individuals leaving Alachua County seeking higher paying work, Ward said.
The salary increase will both help accomplish the ACEA’s goals of improving salaries for teachers and help struggling schools within the district eliminate the growing job shortages and thus the overall rank of Alachua County’s ranking of public school districts, Ward said.
In a news brief sent out Monday, Superintendent Shane Andrew said if the school board and the Collective Bargaining Unit approves it in time, this new salary proposal will be placed on the schedule at the school board meeting Jan. 16.
“Once the salary schedule is ratified by employees and approved by the school board, district staff will be working very hard to get those dollars into employee’s paychecks as quickly as possible,” Andrew said in the brief.
Kairi Lowery is a second-year journalism major and a metro general assignment reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing you can find her lounging on the beach with a book or collecting vinyls.