LUTZ, Fla. – Several Hillsborough County teachers protested Monday morning the district’s decision to withhold salary increases.
The district told the teacher’s union last week it would not distribute the raises - about $4,000 for qualified teachers - because of continued financial pressures, according to our news partners at the Tampa Bay Times.
On Monday, about two dozen teachers gathered in the parking lot of Steinbrenner High School. The teachers protesting will work contract hours on Monday, meaning they will work the hours specifically stipulated in their contracts.
“We’re giving them [the district] kind of a dry run of what a work to contract looks like to show how much our teachers and support professionals go above and beyond every single day,” said Hillsborough County Classroom Teachers Association member Missy Keller. “They’re going to start their day, they’re going to end their day on time today, and it’s going to look a lot differently than the time they normally put in.
“When you work to contract, you show up and you leave at exactly contract time, but we know all of our public school employees put in far more time in the evenings, on the weekends. They give up their family lives. They still have a cost of living, bills that they have to cover and we’re going to make sure they can cover all of that in the time that is allotted.”
Teachers are barred from striking under Florida's right to work laws—it's in the state Constitution. But Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, union director, says there are other options for teachers too. If progress is not made soon, she says, the work to contract demonstrations could become commonplace and countywide.
Also, Baxter-Jenkins says Hillsborough schools did not break any contract by reneging on the promised $4,000 raise for qualified teachers because the state's right to work laws allow teachers to renegotiate contracts and working conditions.
"It is not a breach of contract because negotiations are reopened yearly," she said. "So not technically in a legal sense, but what it does represent is a breach of good faith.”
District spokesperson Grayson Kamm said the district has given out about $200 million in raises over the last four years.
10News requested an interview with Supt. Jeff Eakins.
The average annual salary for a Florida teacher was $47,858.26 for the 2016-2017 school year, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. The average teacher salary in Hillsborough is $49,910, second only in the Bay area to the annual salary of teachers in Sarasota County which is $54,524.
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