The state of education in Florida with Hillsborough School Board member Jessica Vaughn

Bank of computers at Sheehy Elementary School. By Pamela Robinson/WMNF News (2022).

On Wednesday, the State Board of Education will meet.

One topic will be whether ten school districts, including Hillsborough County, are following Florida’s new “parental rights in education” law, which critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”

On WMNF’s Tuesday Café, we spoke with Jessica Vaughn, a member of the Hillsborough County School Board.

Vaughn said that instead of culture-war issues, there are real education concerns that should be dealt with.

“Right now, we have so many issues in education.

“We have teachers and staff members who are literally writing to us saying that they can’t afford to pay their bills, their electricity. Pleading with us for a livable wage because they’re living in poverty, we don’t have enough teachers and staff to make sure that we’re supporting our ESC students who need the most support or make sure that we can safely get our kids to school for bus drivers. I mean there’s so many issues of education where our families are pleading for help and our staff members.

“This priority over books or restrooms or a word in policy that doesn’t affect the curriculum in schools is very confusing to me. That’s the priority above our leadership members in our community right now.”

We also talked about teacher contract negotiations and how the district is filling teaching vacancies.

Listen to the show here:

Watch the interview here:

Contract negotiations between the district and the teachers union

“Well first I just want to preface that bargaining — and executive session where school board members help go over the budget — is out of the sunshine and private so I can’t give a lot of details about it.

“And I can’t appear to be negotiating with the union and all.

“But I can give details in regards to — so I do know the district offered one step and then in lieu of a second step a bonus that’s equivalent to that. That’s kind of where the union brought in the special magistrate because they believe that as teachers deserve their two years of full steps.

Because with this bonus next year teachers are not raised at that pay grade, right? They may get the money for this year’s or employees. But next year when it’s you know for their salary, they’re not getting that increase so they have to come back again and negotiate.

“So, the magistrate you know we’re at an impasse where no negotiation is going forward, and the union took a poll from their membership and the membership supported the impasse.

“So, both sides the district as well as the union presented their case to a special magistrate last week. Who will then come back, and you know, go over our finances and make a recommendation whether or not they do think that within our budget that there is room for an increase or whether there isn’t.

“And then from there the board members will vote on upholding what the magistrate finds or not. So, it’s still a pretty lengthy process.

“When you talk about, we have gotten a lot of money from COVID relief. Now that has been separated into certain buckets from the state we haven’t been able to spend it exactly how we want it they broke it into 5 different budgets. And there’s also been very clear instructions on how we can spend it and if we don’t spend it on exactly what they want they take the money back.

“So, recently we’ve been approving a lot of items and because we are afraid we’re going to lose that money they’ve pulled the money back. The issue is even if that helps build up our reserves, the money that we have in savings it’s not a reoccurring fee, right?

“So, when you make a salary increase for that 16 million dollars, we’re talking about that’s going to come out of this year’s budget next year’s budget and the budget after that. The money that we got is a one-time money, so, guaranteeing an amount of money using a lump sum isn’t sustainable per the district’s argument.

“So that’s where a lot of that has come into play. Personally I believe in paying our staff a livable wage and that’s the upmost priority. And I personally voted no on several items that kind of come out of our general fund that are reoccurring that I believe we should be prioritizing paying our staff a livable wage, and that’s just me personally.”

Florida’s special legislative session on property insurance

We also heard about this week’s special legislative session on Florida’s property insurance crisis. The session began Monday and is scheduled to conclude Friday.

WMNF’s Tuesday Café

WMNF’s Tuesday Café airs weekly beginning at 10:06 a.m. ET.

You can listen on 88.5 FM in Tampa Bay, on or on the WMNF Community Radio app.

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