Raises for teachers and staff is well-deserved CHRONICLE EDITORIAL

The issue: School board approves salary hikes for staff.

Our opinion: Raises well deserved.

For years, teacher recruitment and retention have been school board topics of discussion in Citrus County.

In light of a national shortage of teachers, CitrusCountySchool District officials recently approved a series of employee raises, presumably to equal the playing field with other districts also seeking teachers in a shrinking pool of candidates.

In the past few weeks, the board has:

■ provided three years’ worth of increases in the base teacher salary, worth a total of $3,400. The current starting salary in Citrus is about $35,000;

■ provided 1.25 percent salary increases to other types of employees, teacher aides, bus drivers, and custodians. This is on top of step increases for eligible employees;

■ provided an increase of $32 per month in the amount of match to offset the cost of health insurance;

■ increased pay rates for both support and instructional substitutes.

Senior staff acknowledged they have historically paid new teachers less than surrounding counties. The pay raises will offset the difference and help close the gap in recruitment.

Aside from being able to draw more candidates for teaching positions, the raise in pay also places a greater importance on the profession. Never more so in our nation’s history has education been as important as it is today.

Education can help bridge the inequities in one’s station. It can be the stepping stones that lead students from financially challenged families into a new future for them and their offspring. Teachers are the essential component to leading students down that path. They are the conduit for the instructional system that inspires, motivates and educates students.

We are pleased the district recognizes the value of its teachers and hope this is the first step toward showing them their worth.

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