Joe Henderson: Teachers deserve raise, but where is the money? - Florida Politics

Joe Henderson: Teachers deserve raise, but where is the money?

The dirty secret for public school teachers in Hillsborough County, or basically anywhere in Florida, is that the amount they are paid doesn’t cover all the work they do.

Many teachers just shrug at that reality and spend part of their “free time” grading papers, preparing lesson plans, or volunteering at school events because they think it’s the right thing to do for their students.

Well, it looks like that will stop. No more freebie time. We’re about to find out what happens now that Hillsborough teachers say they will do only the work specified in their contract. That means grades could be late, lesson plans could be disjointed, and they’ll be out the door and gone as soon as the final bell rings. See you in the morning.

This is happening because the county school board said it doesn’t have the money to pay a $4,000 raise it promised years ago to about one-third of the estimated 14,000 teachers employed by the nation’s eighth-largest district.

About 600 angry, fed-up teachers showed up at a school board meeting Tuesday to deliver that message. They call it “working the contract” and if they follow through, it could cause chaos in the system.

Teachers are given planning time during the day, but it’s frequently inadequate to accomplish all the requirements of the job. That means taking work home, and hundreds of teachers have shared stories about finishing their job tasks at the expense of family time.

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Their reward for this has been a kick in the teeth from the Legislature, which has been focused on expanding private charter schools. Lawmakers allow charters to use tax money for their buildings and they can take federal dollars targeted to help low-income students. That cuts into public school budgets.

That doesn’t account for all the fiscal problems, though.

Student population is expanding as Florida grows. Hillsborough has more than 300 public schools, and the maintenance problems at many of them have been well documented. The district also accumulated about $1 billion in debt for new-school construction between 1994 and 2014.

Add to that the expectation that voters will approve a $25,000 increase in the homestead exemption in 2018, and that will cut into school budgets even more.

And, yes, decisions like the one years ago to partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation proved to be a financial disaster. That’s on the school board.

Guess who got caught in the middle?

Those teachers wore blue shirts in solidarity and chanted slogans at the contentious board meeting Tuesday, but that was never going to get them the money they deserve. They see “working the contract” as the only viable way to get the attention of the people in charge.

As much as I hate to see it come to this, this is only leverage they have. The Legislature’s answer to all the school problems has been for officials to manage their money better, but what’s happening in Hillsborough is way beyond that simplistic solution.

The teachers deserve the raise they were promised, and for that to happen Hillsborough needs to find about $17 million somewhere, somehow. Good luck with that.

This problem is about to get real.

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

5 Comments

  1. PUBLIC NOTICE

    For ongoing constitutional and statutory failure to provide the 2017-18 Adjunct Faculty Contact List and 2017-18 Adjunct Faculty Handbook requested in June of 2017, the Indian River State College (IRSC) Trustees and Florida Department of Education (FDOE) are furnished this public notice of demand for $32 million in compensatory and punitive damages with administrative corrections.

    FDOE and IRSC attorneys are advised of grounds for bar sanction due to negligence, malpractice, conspiracy, retaliation, and criminal violations against whistleblowers in Florida education.

    I am the founder of the Adjunct Faculty Union (AFU) at Indian River State College (IRSC) and a Florida educator since 1988. We have documented Florida state college interference with the right to form an union to collectively bargain. We demand teacher run schools in Florida instead of bloated admin violating open government laws to engage in unfair labor practices at public cost.

    Govern yourselves accordingly FDOE, IRSC, and Florida state colleges, public schools, and universities. This is a final notice of trespass on the constitutional rights of public educators and taxpayers in Florida.

    Reid Friedson, PhD
    Professor & Consultant

    Cornell University Worker Institute

  2. And the 2013-2014 legislature, touted by Governor Scott, that increased teacher salary only increases of $480M? Did that suddenly stop the very next year? That was 40M for Hillsborough alone.

  3. I arrived at the School Board at 2:00pm Tuesday and we gave away 1,800 T-shirts before we ran out…..Don’t want SB to underestimate what is happening with both our teachers and ESPs!

  4. It will only get real if we work to rule for more than a week! All that a week will do is cause more work when the work to rule week ends.

  5. I am glad teachers are working to contract for a week. I hope it has an effect. I’m concerned, however, that it will be minimal because it is too short. Like a previous commenter indicated, eveyone will know that their teachers will put in extra hours the following week and things will quickly get back to normal. To have a significant impact it would have to last longer, and most teachers I know wouldn’t do that to their students.

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