Saturday, September 22, 2018
News Roundup

Hooper: Raising teacher salaries is a moral imperative.

The map of the Tampa Bay region flashed on the television screen with numbers over each county.

For a second I thought they indicated the day’s temperatures. But no.

The numbers represented each school district’s unfilled teaching vacancies as students returned to school.

Forecast: high and uncertain.

The teacher shortage has grown more problematic every year. A number of factors are at play, but low salary certainly is one of the reasons school districts face this struggle. Florida’s average teacher pay ranks 45th in the nation, more than $12,000 below the national average.

The Florida Education Association has asked all legislative and gubernatorial candidates to sign a pledge to only support state budgets that will raise teacher and education staff salaries to at least the national average by 2023. It’s a reasonable timetable.

With all this in mind, I attended the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s recent Political Hob Nob to ask legislative candidates if they had signed the pledge or were willing to commit. Ryan Haczynski, a Strawberry Crest High teacher and education advocate — he hosts his own podcast called Teacher Voice — joined me as we quizzed candidates. Almost all agreed they would like to see teachers earn more.

But the political divide was clear. Democrats enthusiastically embraced the proposal, and several have signed the pledge or have the FEA’s endorsement. Republicans, while saying they support teachers, expressed reservations.

Sen. Dana Young said she favors higher salaries for teachers, but bristled at the mention of the FEA.

I asked if she could elaborate on Tallahassee’s legislative funding decisions. She responded that she paid money to the chamber to talk to voters, and if I wanted to interview her, I could call her office and schedule an appointment.

Well ... I am a voter, albeit not in her district, and I guess she thinks it’s unreasonable to expect a candidate to spend three minutes discussing a critical issue.

I guess.

Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, lamented that FEA officials never engage him, and as someone with a number of teachers in his family he might be swayed if they would sit down and talk. An FEA official told me they have indeed met with Harrison.

Maybe they need to start taking selfies at the meetings.

Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, spoke passionately about education reform and a market-based solution that would put teachers and students first, eliminate unnecessary administrative costs and force competition.

Grant conceded a few problems with this approach, which has emerged in part through charter schools and vouchers, but said the state should go further in supporting the GOP’s definition of "choice."

He definitely came across as sincere, but his philosophical perspective didn’t resonate with Haczynski, who is well versed on the state’s educational issues. Haczynski said talk of breaking through the status quo overlooks the role the Legislature has played in creating the teacher shortage, low teacher pay and "starvation budgets that have left nearly all 67 school districts seeking various tax referenda to support basic operational costs."

"Perhaps more critically, however," Haczynski wrote in a follow-up email, "had the Florida Legislature the foresight to properly invest in public education, traditional public schools would have had the resources to provide all of the options parents seek, thereby rendering this market-based approach ... both unnecessary and obsolete."

Overall, I appreciated the time most of the candidates granted, and I loved having Haczynski come along. I’m tired of writing that "I love teachers" and not doing more to force the issue.

Mrs. Woodson, my fourth-grade teacher, always said that we have to "show, not tell" when writing. While most everyone says they love teachers, we need to start showing it.

Every candidate needs to be challenged regardless of party. Democrats, long the minority in Tallahassee, need to answer demands with plans for collaboration, not excuses about lacking control of the process.

We should be pushing to increase salaries not just because it’ll improve the system.

It’s a moral imperative.

That’s all I’m saying.

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

TRINITY — What at first looked like a defensive stalemate between Clearwater and Mitchell quickly turned into a rout.Clearwater had revenge on its mind Friday night after a 45-28 loss to Mitchell last year during the the regular seaso...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

TAMPA — The decision was made as soon as Hillsborough got the ball back. Trailing by a touchdown with just over four minutes remaining against Tampa Bay Tech, the Terriers had the ball on their own 6-yard line.They hadn't been able to move the ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

LARGO — The offense was relentless and merciless Friday night, but that has been the case a lot recently. Largo is scoring points in bunches and getting contributions from everyone. Add in a defense that has been smothering, as well as a special team...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays bounce back big after a debacle

Rays bounce back big after a debacle

TORONTO — The way the Rays played Friday — all nine innings, lesson learned — in beating the Jays 11-3 provided the best answer on how, or even if, they could rebound from the crushing loss the night before that all but ended their ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Football: Sickles 7, Freedom 3

TAMPA — Sickles needed a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to escape Freedom 7-3 on Homecoming and remain in the hunt for a Class 7A, District 8 title.Gryphons coach Patrick Murphy knew that facing the Patriots would be a battle. Freedom (1-...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Football: Armwood 24, Jefferson 14

SEFFNER — Armwood is becoming accustomed to winning close games.The Hawks fended off visiting Jefferson 24-14 in a defensive battle that featured a plethora of holding penalties in the second half.Armwood (3-1) earned two rushing touchdowns from juni...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Football: Plant 44, Gaither 34

TAMPA — Seventy-eight points. Eight hundred and 40 yards in total offense. Five players surpassing the century mark in yardage.When the game was over Friday, Plant had the edge in every category — including the scoreboard as the Panthers (3-1) opened...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Football: Robinson 28, Blake 25

TAMPA — Nevermind that Blake scored a go-ahead touchdown with 87 seconds left in the game.Forgive him, but part of Robinson junior Lateef Al-Shaa’ir was hoping it would happen just so it would set up a comeback.And it did.With 24 seconds left in the ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Football: St. Petersburg 23, Gibbs 6

ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg’s Aumhryaun Brown’s two touchdowns helped overcome the ejection of quarterback Tonio Shavers as the Green Devils cruised to a 23-6 win against Gibbs on Friday.As time expired during the first half, with the Green Devil...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Football: Plant City 24, East Bay 7

GIBSONTON — Plant City’s high-powered passing game gets most of the attention. But the Raiders’ defense is just as responsible for the team’s unbeaten start.In Plant City’s 24-7 road victory against East Bay in Class 7A, District 9 on Friday, the def...
Updated: 4 hours ago