Hundreds of students walked out of Hillsborough County schools on Wednesday morning in support of their teachers awaiting pay raises.
At Jefferson High School the students were dressed in black and some held signs saying things like "Praise the Raise" and "My teachers, my future."
There were similar walkouts at several schools, including Alonso, Middleton and Sickles, Freedom, Robinson, Armwood and Steinbrenner high schools. All were organized using social media and text messages.
Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association Executive Director, said she couldn’t believe how so many students organized such a large protest on behalf of teachers all on their own.
“Having students come out and show that kind of of love for our people is certainly heart warming for all of them,” Baxter-Jenkins said.
While Baxter-Jenkins said it’s impressive to see teens standing up for what they believe in...she says the teachers union did not play any role in the walkout.
“We want to make sure they stay in school and are in their classroom. As far as I know all of these went very calmly and were quick today.”
Action Air One shows hundreds of students from Jefferson High School standing together Wednesday morning:
The reason behind the protests was because teachers were expecting a raise of about $4,000, but the Hillsborough County School District told the union last month those increases wouldn’t be possible.
The District said they’ve given employees more than “$200 million in pay and benefits increase over the past four years, despite a district financial picture that was not promising.”
They added that average pay in Hillsborough County is the second-highest in the Tampa Bay area and 8th highest in Florida.
They also said the money is needed for other things like building maintenance, technology, and training.
On top of that, the district said their revenue is also “drying up” because the state is shifting money to charter schools and reduced tax rates.
But the teacher’s union said its fight is not just about money, but the district keeping it’s promise.
“It’s also about peoples working conditions, they are having to do more with less year after year,” said Baxter-Jenkins.
As contract negotiations continue, Baxter-Jenkins said the best way students can get their message heard is to go school board meetings, writer letters and meet with elected officials.
The district said most schools did not discipline students for the short walkout. Although Armwood High School administrators are looking at some discipline.