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St. Johns County approves pay increases for bus drivers, custodians; ‘what about teachers?’

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — More money is coming to the St. Johns County School District staff, but some parents say it’s not going to the people who could need it most.

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On Tuesday, the school board approved an agreement with the St. Johns Educational Support Professional Association to boost pay for the district’s support staff:

- Bus Drivers: Up to $17.50 / hour (starting, 0 years experience)

- Paraprofessionals: Up to $15.31 / hour (1 year experience)

- Custodians: Up to $15.23 / hour (1 year experience)

Noticeably absent from the agreement, parents noted to Action News Jax, was any mention of a salary increase for teachers.

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That’s because the SJESPA doesn’t handle teacher pay negotiations. The union that does is the St. Johns Education Association, which negotiated a $4.2 million teacher salary package last month.

It includes a raise for current teachers between $519-$2,075, added onto this year’s salary, depending on experience and performance. The agreement does not include a pay bump for new teachers starting the 2024-2025 school year.

Read: St. Johns County School District unanimously approves zoning changes

Despite the pay bump, teacher pay in St. Johns County is still ranked 55th out of Florida’s 67 counties. School district leaders say working to pay teachers more has become a problem.

“We need to pay our teachers more,” says Brennan Asplen, Deputy Superintendent of Operations for the school district, “there’s a shortage across the state of teachers and support professionals.”

It’s become a concern to parents like Tom Kanaporis, who moved his family down to St. Johns County in February specifically for the schools.

Related Story: St. Johns County educators and parents demand change for teacher salary

“We were highly recommended to come to St. Johns County because we heard those were the best schools in the country,” Kanaporis says.

Kanaporis’ daughter goes to Wards Creek Elementary School. This week, Action News Jax told you when the school district voted to send 149 of its students to another school next year. But the overcrowded school is still expected to have 1178 students next year, more than the current number of students.

Kanaporis has noticed the toll it’s taking on teachers.

“I think they’re doing their best, but it’s not enough,” says Kanaporis.

Related Story: St. Johns County moves closer to higher teacher pay with superintendent’s recommendation

Like other parents, he sees raising teacher pay as a solution.

“It has to be,” Kanaporis says, “there’s no other way.”

But right now, the school district says it can’t anticipate another guaranteed salary increase for teachers. District leaders tell me the next round of teacher pay negotiations is set to start next summer.

For Kanaporis, it’s a matter of keeping his kids educated and the teachers motivated.

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“The kids are our future,” Kanaporis says, “there’s nothing more important than the kids.”

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