Hillsborough district pushes back against teacher complaints

The sides are in a dispute over pay raises.

Responding to emails, pickets and media statements from teachers who are being denied scheduled raises, the Hillsborough County School District fought back Wednesday with a two-page fact sheet that seeks to set the record straight.

"Our district has given our employees more than $200 million in pay and benefits increases over the past four years, despite a district financial picture that was not promising," says the statement, which was also sent to the Tampa Bay Times.

"Because of that, our district's fund balance – which is like our savings account – has dropped dramatically as increased pay has been given out, while at the same time funding from the Legislature has not kept up with the amount needed to pay for our additional costs. As a district, we have to balance priorities and budgets every year to focus on all aspects of what it takes to help students succeed."

The statement goes on to name specific expenses the district continues to face: Fixing ailing air conditioners, training teachers to do their jobs better, and investing in up-to-date classroom technology.

The list does not include mounting legal bills as the district defends itself in a flurry of lawsuits and regulatory complaints.

Nor does it note the increased number of administrators who earn more than $100,000 a year, from 96 at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year to 131 as of last month.

Elementary school principals, who got a pay bump, account for the greatest share of that 36 percent increase in the number of six-figure salaries.

Technical issues stopped us from posting the full letters from teachers and parents when the Times' article about the teachers appeared Tuesday.

They are here, and the file will be updated.

UPDATE: School district communications chief Grayson Kamm, concerned about the previous headline on this post, said the two-page fact sheet was sent to the news media, in response to questions about teacher pay, and not to the teachers.

– With Marlene Sokol, Times Staff Writer