An impasse hearing is underway at the Hillsborough County School Board Auditorium. Special Magistrate Mark Lurie, is listening to both sides of the argument from teachers and school board members.
This comes after frustrated school teachers have argued that not only are they underpaid, but they also didn’t get a big chunk of change they’ve been counting on.
“I understand the money is not in the budget. They say it’s not in the budget. They can’t pull money out of thin air, but we were promised that money we count on that money,” says Mitchell Elementary School teacher Jennifer Butorak.
The money she is talking about is a $4,000 pay increase that one-third of Hillsborough school teachers say they were promised years ago.
Throughout the school year, they have been going back and forth with the district, showing up at school board meetings, protesting, and even working to contract, meaning they only worked their required 8 hour days for some weeks.
“We’re not asking for anything extra and we’re just asking what was promised and the district is not honoring that,” said teacher Valerie Churchman at one of the protests earlier this year.
“We are hoping that the magistrate will rule in our favor and give our teachers what they expected,” says Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, Executive Director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
The school district stands by their argument. that although their teachers get paid a comparable salary to other districts in the state, their hands are tied. They don’t have the money to dish.
“This is the year that the district has to take a pause. It has to take a pause, and it has to reset its finances,” said School District Attorney Janet McEnery during her opening statement. “We have seen what is happening in Tallahassee, and we know that the district cannot count on any new money from Tallahassee.”
Back in December, the board offered a lump sum of $1.8 million to the teachers as a one-time bonus, equaling about $92 dollars per teacher. Teachers called that an insult.
Today, the special magistrate will listen to both sides and make recommendations for next year’s budget. The hearing started at 9:00 a.m. in the School Board Auditorium and is expected to continue tomorrow.