PBC teachers working multiple jobs to make ends meet rally for 'step raises'

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Many Palm Beach County teachers say they are struggling to get by on their current salaries. Some in the Classroom Teacher's Association took their fight for more pay to school district headquarters on Wednesday. The teachers union is urging the school board to bring back scheduled pay increases, or 'step raises'. The move would cost the district about $14 million.

Hundreds of members of the CTA took their message to the streets Wednesday afternoon. Hours later, they brought their stories of struggle right to the school board. They are hopeful that the board will restore the automatic experience-based pay increases, which have not been implemented since 2008.

Educators like Rosey Gekas have gone without those additional dollars for four years. The 7th grade civics teacher said it is money that she and her two children were counting on.

"It's really sad when a new teacher comes in and makes just two or three thousand dollars less than someone that's been teaching for 15 years," said Gekas.

The pleas to bring back the scheduled pay increase did not go unnoticed by school board members.

"The stories we heard tonight are very much a shattering to me of how our teachers are living," said Palm Beach County school board member Marcia Andrews.

But there are only so many dollars to go around in a district facing a deficit of more than $30 million.

"I just wish we had a pot of gold so we could pay them what they're worth because they are worth more than what we pay them," said Frank Barbieri, Chairman of the Palm Beach County School board.

These teachers chose their profession to make a difference.

"We're creating lawyers and doctors and we can't even take care of our own children," said Alyson Daniels, a 3rd grade teacher who has three college-age children of her own.

Now, some teachers say that their choice of profession under these circumstances is coming at a cost to themselves and their own families.

"It hurts us so much. It hurts us the heart and the pocketbook where we need to live," said Debbie Fratrik, who teaches 2nd grade.

The teachers union says restoring 'step raises' will be priority number one during contract negotiations with the district.

"It's time to be recognized. It's time to be the district's priority," said Debra Wilhelm, CTA President. Contract bargaining is set to begin during the last week of May.

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