Hillsborough teacher pay could get a new look

Teachers and administrators want to arrive at a more competitive starting pay.
Hillsborough schools employee relations manager Mark West, human resources chief Marie Whelan, deputy superintendent Chris Farkas and assistant superintendent Tracye Brown at teacher union negotiations. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]
Hillsborough schools employee relations manager Mark West, human resources chief Marie Whelan, deputy superintendent Chris Farkas and assistant superintendent Tracye Brown at teacher union negotiations. [MARLENE SOKOL | Times]
Published June 12

TAMPA - At $38,200 a year, Hillsborough’s salary for starting teachers is not competitive.

The district’s head of human resources, Marie Whelan, acknowledged as much at Wednesday’s opening session of contract talks between the district and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

But what to do about it is a big, open question.

The $38,200 starting salary is behind Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas, and even Polk and Pasco counties, which used to offer about the same as Hillsborough.

But it’s part of a pay plan, negotiating during grant-funded teacher reforms of 2013, that is supposed to raise pay by $4,000 every three years.

For awhile, teachers in Hillsborough could look at relatively high salaries with more than 10 years seniority.

But even that edge is diminishing over time. Union executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins pointed out that in the last five years, annual earnings have gone up by only $200.

The district’s negotiating team made it clear Wednesday that as they consider raising the starting pay, they will want to revisit the $4,000 pay bands.

“We’re certainly not against having a conversation,” Baxter-Jenkins said. She contends that the district saves money with the pay bands because often, a teacher will resign or retire before it is time for that third-year raise.

But Whelan and deputy superintendent Chris Farkas said they do not want to be in a position of saving money by losing a teacher in year two.

Nor do they want teachers to have to wait until mid-career to make a livable salary in Hillsborough.

“We would rather have them be the lifers for us, and our great teachers, from the beginning,” Whelan said.

There were no details given on Wednesday, except a general agreement to keep discussing the issue.

In 2018, with money tight, the district and union reached a compromised that gave the teachers some, but not all, of the increases called for in the pay plan.

The next session is planned for June 19 at 2 p.m.

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