As classes resume today in Hillsborough County, some teachers will refrain from doing extra tasks in an attempt to pressure the school district into paying their promised raises.
Faculty meetings will be limited to one a week, as specified in the contract. Teachers who heed the union’s call will not attend after-school events, come in before the work day begins, tutor students or give up lunch, unless they are paid to do so. They will not take home papers to grade, attend parent conferences or email parents in the evening hours.
They say they will do this for one week to avoid long-term harm to students.
About 300 union members approved the tactic at a meeting before the Thanksgiving break. Their vote was unanimous, but it is hard to tell how many of the district’s 14,000 teachers will follow through with the action or how it will impact school operations.
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, has said the move will illustrate what the school system would look like if teachers always worked to the letter of their contact instead of using their personal time on school tasks. "We run schools on the notion that tons of what happens is basically done out of the good of (teachers’) hearts," Baxter-Jenkins said.
The union wants the district to honor a 2013 pay plan that calls for a $4,000 raise for roughly a third of its teachers. Under the plan, salaries remain the same for three years then increase in the fourth if the teacher earns at least a satisfactory rating every year.
District officials point to contract language that says pay can be renegotiated, as it is every year under state law, if there is not enough money. And that’s the case this year, they say.
Officials argue that they have raised employee pay for the last four years, that Hillsborough teachers are the second highest paid in the Tampa Bay area, and that money is needed for other uses, such as building maintenance.
But teachers consider the raises an obligation that could be met with better financial management. They also argue that their performance bonuses, required by the state for the highest performers, are half what they were in 2014.
The disagreement has sparked teacher protests and walkouts earlier this month by high school students advocating for the teachers’ position.
Teachers are planning another protest rally at 7 a.m. Tuesday at Westchase Elementary School.