Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Step toward better pay, better schools

After six years of stagnation, salaries for Pinellas County schoolteachers may finally be headed in the right direction. An agreement to raise teachers' salaries an average of 5.6 percent would mean the district would have the highest starting salary — $40,000 — in Tampa Bay. But perhaps most importantly, the entire salary schedule would be adjusted so young teachers earn more earlier in their careers, giving the district a better chance of attracting the best talent to the classroom.

Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego, nearly one year into the job, has said raising teacher salaries was a priority. The 2013-14 state budget, with $18 million marked for Pinellas teacher raises, went a long way toward getting it done. Under the tentative agreement that needs formal approval from the School Board and union members, pay for a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree would jump by $3,000, to $40,000. Teachers with one to seven years of experience would receive smaller raises but also would be paid $40,000. Pay would increase to $42,000 by the 12th year, four years earlier than before. And a teacher with 20 years of experience would earn $46,978 — $2,023 more. The top pay at 28 years will be $61,300, compared to $60,079 at 31 years under the current contract.

Thanks in part to a voter-approved local property tax, Pinellas once ranked among the state's top 10 for teacher pay. But Pinellas teachers have lost ground since 2007, as the district's enrollment dropped and as health care and pension costs rose. Last year, Pinellas teachers received a 1.5 percent raise that was erased by the Legislature's requirement that all members of the Florida Retirement System contribute 3 percent of their salaries toward the pension fund.

In an ideal world, proven teachers with seven years of experience wouldn't earn the same as a new teacher fresh in the door. But the new schedule looks ahead. Starting in 2014-15, all school districts are required by the Legislature to shift their pay schedules to a merit system that will require pay raises larger than the next salary step for any "highly effective" teacher. It's not yet clear how that will play out, but at least this agreement would give all Pinellas teachers a long-delayed boost and provide principals a better tool for recruitment.

Despite all the hoopla over the coming Common Core State Standards or other education policies, the best chance any child has of learning in school is to have a good teacher. As Pinellas works to improve its lowest-performing schools, paying a wage to attract and keep good teachers is the most important investment of all.

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Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

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Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18