Hillsborough students stage walkouts over teacher pay

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For the third day-in-a-row, students at Hillsborough County schools left their classrooms in the middle of the day to insist the district pay their teachers more.

It comes as negotiations over teacher salaries have stalled.

"It feels good to know that we have the right these days because usually, our words don't mean anything as children," said Tie'que Davis, a student at Hillsborough High School.

Around lunchtime, students at Hillsborough high demanded that teachers - who make an average of $47,000 - get the $4,000 raise they were due at the beginning of this school year.

"We need to support them," said Davis. "Some of them take their money out their pockets to pay for our school supplies."

Hillsborough was the ninth high school to see students walk out. Jefferson was one of seven just Wednesday. 

The union head had no idea this was coming.

"I think it is really moving in terms of just from a civic perspective, having a bunch of young people think they can make a change," said the head of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins.

Generally, one-third of the district's 15,000 teachers are eligible for the raise every year. 

After two years of coming through, the district says it can't, thanks to cuts in state funding and a depleted reserve fund.

"Teachers deserve the right to earn more money," said student Janele Munguia. "But at the same time, you have to look at the aspect of finances in the district and what you deserve, it's more like are we able to do that for you."

The district says it has other immediate needs, like new technology for classrooms, training programs, and building upgrades. 

Strikes aren't allowed in Florida, but teachers could cut out what they do on the side, like grading and lesson plans.

"Show people what it would be like if they didn't go above and beyond every day," said Baxter-Jenkins.

The union has asked the district for a new round of negotiations after the first seven of them produced no resolution.
The district says no students will be disciplined for walking out.

"I was very proud," said Tie'ser Davis, a student at Hillsborough High School. "At that moment, I said, wow, other students do care about their teachers. I was just talking to one of my teachers, she struggles to pay certain bills. It's hard for her, she says I can't keep going on like this."