JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The Duval County School Board wrote a check Tuesday night for more than $6 million that will increase teachers' salaries for this school year.

During its August meeting, the seven-member board approved a step increase for teachers, paraprofessionals, and clerical staff, resulting in salary increases for more than 7,500 of them throughout Duval County public schools. Steps are salary levels that are determined based on years of teaching experience.

Teachers and staff at the highest level are receiving a $500 increase to their salaries. The average salary increase for teachers is $827.

"The board's approval last night affirms our continued commitment to educators," said Fred "Fel" Lee, chairman of the School Board. "Across the nation, school districts are having to make tough decisions about budget dollars where pay increases for teachers are often absent. In Duval County, we are committed to investments that best support and serve our teachers."

"Studies tell us that the teaching profession loses way too many educators each year," Superintendent Nikolai Vitti added. "We must be competitive in the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers with on-going efforts that shift resources, support and dollars to classrooms and those who are serving our students directly."

Last October, the School Board approved an agreement with Duval Teachers United, a collaborative effort that specified that teachers would receive an additional step increase in 2013-14 if economic conditions supported it, as included in a three-year agreement. With this year's step increases for teachers, paraprofessionals, and clerical staff, Duval County is allocating more than $7.3 million to this commitment. This is in addition to the $22.8 million in state funds the district is to receive and is negotiating with DTU for teacher bonuses.

"The first three-year contract settlement in 2012 showed a continued commitment and respect for the work of the education employees in Duval, and was reaffirmed by the board's action last evening," said Terrie Brady, DTU president.