Hillsborough County's deal to give teachers 8 percent raises certainly has turned heads in neighboring Pasco County. The two growing districts have competed for the past few years to have the better starting salary, in hopes of attracting new teachers to their increasing number of classrooms. Pasco has held the upper hand.
So when the news emerged that Hillsborough would add 8 percent to the wage, after hiking pay by 10 percent a year ago, Pasco School Board chairwoman Marge Whaley immediately asked what her district could do to keep its position. The answer she got didn't thrill her. Whaley's simply not too keen on increasing teacher workloads, as Hillsborough has done, to make up the difference. And she doesn't want to mine the "rainy day account" or class-size reduction funds, either.
Pasco superintendent Heather Fiorentino tells the Gradebook that 8 percent raises will not happen in Pasco, barring a financial miracle. She has, after all, asked department heads and principals to set aside 10 percent of their budgets in case they need to cut. Still, Fiorentino contends that Pasco still offers the better deal. "We have a higher hourly rate than they do," she says. Plus, she adds, "I think they like our family atmosphere, and they like our culture."