In historic first, St. Johns County teachers vote down pay raise because it wasn’t enough

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – St. Johns County teachers have rejected a proposed pay raise, with many saying the raise wasn’t big enough.

The fact that the union rejected the proposal was historic. The St. Johns County teachers union has been around since 1975 and has never voted against a pay increase — until last week.

While the St. Johns County School District consistently ranks among the top school systems in the state, state data shows the typical teacher pay is well below the state average.

After weeks of negotiations, the district and the St. Johns Education Association came to a tentative agreement that would have raised the starting teacher salary to $48,200 and given a raise of $1,260 to the majority of teachers.

But before it went into effect, it had to be voted on by union members. With a record turnout, 77% of teachers voted to not ratify the agreement.

He’s a detailed breakdown of the rejected proposal:

  • All incoming teachers with 0-10 years of experience earn the same salary
  • Beginning teacher salary = $48,209
  • Grandfathered highly effective and effective raise = $945
  • Pay for performance effective raise = $945
  • Pay for performance highly effective raise = $1,260

According to the union, about 70% of district teachers are typically graded “highly effective.”

Union negotiator and St. Johns County high school teacher Morgan Mousley said the union had asked for more than double the $1,260 salary increase, but the district didn’t budge.

“We didn’t think what we were asking for was that much,” Mousley said. “And, you know, we were trying to listen to their concerns, and I feel like they didn’t necessarily listen to our concerns, which our concerns are that teachers are not a priority right now.”

The union said part of those concerns includes the high cost of living in St. Johns County and the need for increased pay for veteran teachers.

“We are the number one district in the state and the teachers are not being paid as such,” Mousley said.

In fact, according to the most recent state data from last school year, St. Johns County ranked 41st out of 67 school districts in Florida for median teacher salary.

The union said the district claims it is broke and it doesn’t want to deplete its current fund balance. But Mousley said the district’s fund balance is at 7.7%, which it’s only required by law to be at 3%.

“We want the district to come up with more money because they have it, we’ve seen it,” Mousley said.

News4JAX reached out to the district and a spokesperson issued a statement: ”We are currently still in negotiations with SJEA and are working to schedule a time when they can bring forth a proposal.”

The district and the union will have to go back to the negotiating table which could happen in December.

The negotiations come as the district is still dealing with teacher shortages.

As of this week, there are 68 classroom teacher vacancies in the district. That’s an average of a little more than one vacancy per school.

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