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Plan To Boost Teacher Pay At Struggling Hillsborough County Schools Approved

Kerry Sheridan/WUSF
Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins talks to reporters about a plan to pay teachers up to $13,000 per year extra at 50 struggling schools.

A plan to boost teacher pay at 50 struggling schools was approved Tuesday by the Hillsborough County School Board.

Hundreds of educators could earn up to $13,000 more per year as part of the plan, which aims to ease an ongoing teacher shortage.

The $17 million comes from the federal government, and does not affect ongoing negotiations about teacher salaries.   

"We know that these strategies work, because we have done the research," said school board vice chair of District 4, Melissa Snively. "I wish we could have done it even earlier."

The incentives -- part of a program called Spark --  begin with the 2019-2020 school year, and will last three years.

In addition to higher paychecks, teachers may take advantage of free or reduced-cost child care for their own kids. 

Hillsborough County Schools have about 200 classroom vacancies, most of which are in low-performing schools.

School board member Lynn Gray said that not having enough teachers makes it harder for children to learn.

"What we have is a crisis of these kids not being able to read," she said at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

The extra money can be used both to retain current teachers and to hire new ones.

Julie Black, a fourth grade teacher at Forest Hills Elementary School in north Tampa, is among those who could benefit from the salary boost.

"I just think that with this incentive, that's going to pull highly effective teachers into achievement schools, because it is a challenge coming over here," said Black.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.