HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — Teachers in several states are holding walkouts as they demand more money. In Hillsborough County, teachers and parents rallied outside the School district meeting Tuesday for raises they say the district promised them after three years of good reviews.
$4,000 is what teachers say should have been tacked on to their salaries last August. But after nearly four years, they say the district won’t budge.
"If more people thought about what goes into teaching, giving up of your personal time to do after school activities, and most teachers do that because they care and want to make their schools great. But that can only go so far when you continue to stretch people on that,” said Brittni Wegmann, an Art teacher at Riverhills Elementary school in Temple Terrace.
The association says great teachers have left, and Wegmann is certainly concerned about her future.
"I've heard that buzz going around that a lot of people are looking. It's difficult when you love something so much and have to even consider that,” she said.
The district would not talk to us on camera Tuesday - they say they don’t discuss on-going negotiations.
But, in the past they say they've already given out millions in pay and benefit increases and with current budget constraints, can't afford those pay raises.
Plus, they say state flexible funding is 300 times less than what was originally proposed for the budget this year. The Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association says pay raises are a minimal expense and should have been worked into the budget in 2013/14.
"It was always our intention that the money was always going to be put aside, and always going to be available and our concern now is why the budget was re-prioritized,” said Missy Keller, with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
Some teachers locally say things won’t change until they do something big, like a walkout in FL - the association says there are serious consequences to that. In 1968, collective bargaining was written into the state constitution. In return, teachers gave up the right to strike.
"The union will be fined by the state more than $20,000/day or, the law says, any higher number commensurate with the losses that the public suffers,” said the Hillsborough Classroom teachers association. "In the worst case scenario, the union will be fined and decertified by Public Employee Relations Commission. As a teacher, you will be fired. Florida law says you can be rehired if you are fired for striking, but only on a permanent probationary status. The state can deny you your pension/retirement from FRS. If you have worked for a long time to earn this, that is a big risk to take."
That's why they plan on going in front of a magistrate judge April 23 if nothing changes.