Teacher raises become focus of packed school board meeting

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Standing united to send a strong message, Hillsborough County teachers, parents, and students were out in force at Tuesday night’s school board meeting to protest an on-going pay dispute.

Wearing blue and holding signs, teachers, parents, students, and employees wanted to get a message across. 

Educators have been fighting with Hillsborough County Public Schools after the district said it can’t afford to give raises that were scheduled for nearly a third of the 15,000 teachers.

“The School Board signed a contract saying that we were going to get a raise, and they knew about, and then they reneged on the contract,” one teacher said. “So this is all about them going back on their word for a contract they signed.”

The district and union agreed to a salary plan that lays out when teachers get pay bumps.

However, a spokesperson says it’s also in the contract that those increases can be negotiated each year, and this year the money’s not there, thanks to cuts in state funding and a depleted reserve.

“When the teachers are supported and respected and given what they are due, then the whole county benefits from it,” Jamela Passmore said.  “These are the people who are nurturing and teaching our children to become successful in life.”

Speakers dominated Tuesday’s school board meeting for hours, giving members an earful about putting students first, but educators last.  Teacher pay raises wasn’t on the agenda, but the message was hard to ignore.

Everyone FOX 13 News spoke with is frustrated.  They just want the $4,000 raises they were set to receive.

“This is my fourth year, so this is the first year where I should be getting a raise,” Giunta Middle School Library Media Specialist Holly Schwarzmann said.  “It’s very difficult to make ends meet on such a low salary when we are required to have education beyond most professions.”

In Florida, teachers aren’t allowed to strike.  Last week, hundreds of students in nine different schools walked out of classes to support the educators.

A district spokesperson says negotiations over the pay raises are ongoing.