TAMPA, Fla. - In Hillsborough County, parents, students and teachers gave school board members an earful Tuesday night in an effort to get them to reconsider eliminating or shuffling hundreds of teaching positions.
Hillsborough County Public Schools is facing a $72-million budget deficit and 670 teaching jobs are on the chopping block to recoup some of those funds; 424 of those positions are already vacant, but another 246 teaching jobs are being eliminated.
“When you cut a teacher, or a unit as you call them, you are not only impacting that one teacher’s family, you are severing every relationship they had with every person in their school and every child they taught,” said one teacher.
The district expects about 60 temporary teachers to lose their jobs. The other 186 are being re-assigned, meaning most of those educators don’t know where they will be working or what they will be teaching when the second grading period starts Monday.
“We’re losing core subjects, teachers that teach science, math, social studies, losing guidance counselors, support staff, those are normally not moves that happen,” explained third grade teacher Emily Lee.
The changes are emotional for students and families, but superintendent Addison Davis says they are necessary to save money.
“I’ve had to make really difficult decisions that I wouldn’t make as a leader,” Davis said. “I would never ever take educators out of schools but when faced with a situation like this it’s taxing.”
Combining classes, moving teachers, or even having them work at two different campuses is all on the table as part of the money-saving efforts.
“I’ve been there 17 years and I’ve been there for five days, and then all of the sudden, I’m supposed to get cut and go to another school two days a week, which doubles the class load that I’m currently teaching,” an elementary art teacher said.
She decided to quit, saying the district is not treating teachers fairly.
Davis vows art, music, physical education, IB and magnet programs are being protected amid these changes. However, school board members pointed out there’s a huge difference between maintaining a program and making sure the program is good quality for the students.
The teacher cuts, combined with eliminated administration positions and non-instructional cuts are expected to save the district $51 million. The rest of the money will be saved in a phase-two plan Davis outlined at the school board meeting.