As Hillsborough Education Foundation’s leader, I back the tax for teacher pay
The school board should put this on the ballot to let voters support our teachers.
Members of the Hillsborough County School Board discuss student discipline data at a workshop on Jan. 30, 2024.
Members of the Hillsborough County School Board discuss student discipline data at a workshop on Jan. 30, 2024. [ MARLENE SOKOL | Times ]
Published March 30

As chairperson of the board for the Hillsborough Education Foundation and a businessman overseeing corporate strategy for a Nasdaq-listed company located in Tampa, I am deeply concerned about the state of education in Hillsborough County.

Chris Taylor
Chris Taylor [ Provided ]

The reason for my concern is simple: There is an alarming exodus of educational talent taking place in our schools. Currently, there are 422 teacher vacancies in Hillsborough, leaving more than 10,000 students without the educators they need to grow, develop and prosper.

The reason for this exodus is also simple: Teachers in Hillsborough County are not paid enough for the crucial work they perform. In fact, 65% of our teachers have contemplated leaving their roles for better-paying opportunities nearby. This statistic underscores the urgent need for tangible support that allows educators to focus on their classrooms and students, instead of worrying about making ends meet.

So, what about our neighbors in Pinellas, Pasco and Manatee counties — do they also have alarmingly high levels of teacher vacancies? No, they do not. And that’s largely because those counties offer more competitive rates of pay supported by a small property tax that has brought their educator salaries more in line with the cost of living.

And the same could be true in Hillsborough County.

On Tuesday, the Hillsborough County Public School Board will vote whether to send a millage referendum to the ballot this November. This referendum, a modest property tax increase, would cost the typical homeowner $281 annually, averaging about 75 cents a day. In return, this would provide a $6,000 supplement for teachers and school leaders and a $3,000 supplement for support staff such as bus drivers and school counselors. Our school board members were elected to put the interests of our students and teachers first, and now is the time for them to do just that.

If the referendum passes the school board, it would be a critical first step on a journey toward ensuring that every student has access to quality education, every family has confidence in their children’s schools, and every educator feels valued and supported in their role. It would also put the matter into the hands of voters, which is where it rightfully belongs.

Public education is the cornerstone of any thriving community, and there is an urgent need for increased teacher compensation in ours. Passing this referendum is crucial. I strongly urge the school board to vote in favor of it.

Chris Taylor is chairperson of the board of the Hillsborough Education Foundation.