Last night I went to the Hillsborough County Teachers’ Association (HCTA) Representative Council. It was one of the most powerful union meetings I’ve ever been too.
It’s November and the teacher contract is still under negotiations. The district has said ‘no’ to honor teachers’ step raises. These are raises teachers earn after working three years and maintaining an effective teaching style. They are steps in a pay scale. They amount to a cost of living raise, essentially, since teacher pay is stagnant during those three years.
The school district says ‘no’ to these raises while saying yes to other things: charter schools, high-level management positions, etc… Someone on the district’s side of the bargaining table said that “no one would get hurt” if these raises weren’t issued.
But people will. These are people who have worked hard to earn this step. They’ve worked hard and waited patiently while cost of living has increased around them.
Letters and e-mails have been written. Phone calls have been made. Even students have cued in to the unfairness and disrespect towards their educators. Around the county, thousands of students have staged walk-outs in support of teacher pay and working conditions. These students know they would not get the great educations they do without us.
The students took a stand, and last night the union took a strong stand too. We voted unanimously to work to contract the week after Thanksgiving.
Hundreds of people at that rep. council voted ‘yes’ to demand the school district support us by honoring the pay scale they agreed to in 2010. We clapped after this historical vote.
The week after Thanksgiving teachers across the district will work their contracted hours. For me:
- No more taking lesson planning and grading home.
- No more students in my room during lunch.
- No more meeting students after the end of the work day.
- No more coming in early to check e-mails and make copies for the department.
- No more off-the-clock Edsby messages or posts.
If I don’t get it done, it’ll get done during working hours the next day.
The action is meant to show the school district all of the ways teachers support students outside of the work day. They get a lot of work out of us for free. And now they won’t even agree to honor a pay school they previously said they would honor.
Yes, we do our jobs for the kids, but we often do it at the expense of our own lives outside of school. We deserve fair pay. We deserve to be seen as people, instead of just a monetary amount. (Apparently, the person who said that “no one would be hurt” can live without random $4,000 increments in his pay.)
Tuesday is the next School Board meeting. There will likely be hundreds there, demanding that the school district get its priorities right and support its front-line employees. Students have said they are going. Teachers from my school are going. I’m making a protest sign. I may speak but I have to figure out exactly what to say in 3 minutes.
I’m excited to rally with my colleagues and with my students and their families at the School Board meeting on Tuesday.
I hope the district sees and listens. I hope they do the right thing.