Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Gradebook

It’s the beginning of the end of Hillsborough teacher “pay bands.”

Salary talks are just beginning.

TAMPA — Three year pay bands — a big factor in the teacher unrest of recent years — are coming undone.

The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, meeting with the district in a bargaining session Wednesday, proposed a new scale that would start teachers off earning $40,000 a year and go as high as $68,000.

“It’s something to ponder,” union executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins told the district team.

For about the last five years, teachers have been paid according to a schedule that holds their salaries stagnant for three years, then increases them by $4,000 if they qualify for an increase based on their work.

While technically not a part of the teaching reforms that were funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the pay plan was implemented alongside those reforms. They reflected a compromise between Gates, who called for a corporate-type system that rewarded teachers strictly on performance; and the union, which wanted to make sure teachers had an incentive to build careers in the classroom.

The system they designed included performance bonuses as well. But those bonuses evaporated over time, and the Gates foundation ended its relationship with the district in 2015.

As money grew tight, district leaders complained about the pay bands, referring to those who were due to receive the $4,000 increase as “band jumpers.” Teachers, for their part, said they should not be called raises, as the district had committed to paying the money.

Negotiations reached an impasse in late 2017 and when the two sides settled in mid-2018, the teachers got most, but not all of the money they expected. The following year, district negotiators suggested undoing the three-year bands. District leaders also said they want to pay new teachers at least $40,000 to be competitive with other surrounding districts. Hillsborough’s starting salary is now $38,200.

What Baxter-Jenkins proposed Wednesday is a 23-year plan that pays teachers $40,000 for the first three years.

After that, salaries move up by $800, $1,000 or $2,200 until they reach $68,000, which is $1,800 more than the current top-of-the-scale $66,200.

“I think it’s got a lot of benefits in terms of meeting your needs on the front end of the scale,” Baxter-Jenkins said. “We absolutely need to do that to be competitive.”

In addition, “we have a lot of veterans who have dedicated their whole lives to this district, who often feel that they get left out," she said. "So the nice thing is, we will give them something too.”

The district team neither accepted, nor rejected the plan, but indicated they will consider it.