MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Manatee County School District is making a case for a renewal of a referendum school officials say has helped them bring in top-notch teachers. It all comes down to the dollars. The more a teacher makes, the better incentive the school district has to bring in the best educators.
A referendum passed three years ago has helped Manatee County Schools stay competitive, but now it’s up for renewal, and there’s fear the votes won’t come in.
“I was a school bus driver for a long time here in Manatee County. Drivers, teachers, and all are very unappreciated,” said Sally Payton, who has a grandchild at Palmetto High School.
Payton knows how important bus drivers and teachers are in Manatee County Schools.
“It’s very personal for me. If we don’t get this renewed, then our students are going to suffer,” said Terri Rohde, a teacher in Manatee.
That referendum passed in 2018 is set to expire at the end of the school year, and the renewal is up for a vote this November. Manatee County Schools says the first referendum has paid for an increase in teacher and staff wages allowing them to keep up with what surrounding school districts, like Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Sarasota, are paying.
It has also increased instructional time for students, the amount of STEM classes, and now, if renewed, will also expand arts education programs.
In 2018 the referendum barely passed with 51% of votes. They’re hoping more people will support it this fall.
“We definitely have an improvement of our academic progress that we can show. We also have solid financial oversight, so I think those two things that might have been a concern we definitely have data that supports what we’re doing is working,” said Cynthia Saunders, superintendent of schools.
Working on a mill rate, the money brought in to the district has increased. From $37 million the first year, $40 million the second, and $42 million the third. This last year, the district is expected to use 51% of $45 million to continue to pay teachers; a massive loss if the referendum doesn’t pass.
“I think it should definitely pass, because this is one of the better things to keeping employment,” said Payton.
Supporters of the referendum say residents owning a home worth $300,000 pay about $23 a month. They hope that’s worth the renewal vote coming up on November 2nd.