TAMPA, Fla. – One week after Hillsborough school leaders offered the teacher’s union what amounted to a 92 dollar raise per teacher, union leaders say an impasse is not yet a definite next step even as negotiations have appeared to stall between both sides.
Last Monday's offer from school leaders was the latest development in what has been a tense few months of negotiations brought on after the district went back on a promise to give qualifying teachers a $4,000 dollar raise.
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, the executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers' Association, said district leaders have yet to schedule another meeting for negotiations.
So is the ball now in the teachers' court? Superintendent Jeff Eakins told 10News that's not the case yet.
"At this point, we’ve got some things on the table, we’ve opened up some conversations, and we look forward to having further conversations," Eakins said.
But are the teachers willing to continue those conversations? Last week's offer from the district was met with tepid reception by union leaders.
However, Baxter-Jenkins says an impasse declaration is not definite. Any declared impasse would launch a process that would take months, potentially spilling the conflict into next school year.
The union's next council meeting is Thursday, at which point Baxter-Jenkins said some big decisions could be made on how to proceed.
Eakins would not say whether the district was preparing for the possibility of an impasse.
"I know how incredibly stressful this time has been for everyone: our leaders, our teachers, our schools and our kids, but we want to make sure we're being responsible stewards of the taxpayers' dollar," Eakins said.
"It's our hope we continue the conversation."
Instances like what's happening in Hillsborough County don't do much to help improve interest in college-level education programs, according to University of South Florida Assistant Dean of Education David Allsopp.
"That does feed into the narrative that if you go into education that you’re going to have a low salary and it’s not ever going to change," Allsopp said.
Nationwide, enrollment in teacher preparatory programs has steadily declined since 2010, while enrollment at USF during that same time period dipped by 30 percent, according to Allsopp.
"One of the issues that has come to bear is that in the past there was this kind of guarantee process for continual raises and in many cases, that has changed," he said.
However, Allsopp cautions that pay isn't the primary reason for waning interest in the field, according to surveys they've conducted. The surveys found most dissatisfaction stemmed from a lack of resources in the classroom and curriculums which are increasingly rigid in their standards and standardized test expectations.
Allsopp said enrollment for next fall is expected to rise for the first time in seven years, by roughly three percent.
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