Teachers sought to make their point clear to Hamilton County School Board members Thursday.
They'd like to be paid more—4 percent more.
More than 30 educators gathered in the board room for the group's evening session to hear Sandy Hughes, president of the Hamilton County Education Association, make the case to Superintendent Rick Smith and the board's nine members. Hughes said teachers' wages had remained flat while living costs had increased.
"Our teachers need a raise," she said, drawing applause.
Hughes said that factors such as increases in the consumer price index, rent and housing payments were putting an undue burden on teachers, who work one of the most stressful jobs in the county. She added that costs of living in Chattanooga were higher than in other areas of Tennessee.
"I urge you to be a catalyst for change in Hamilton County," she said.
No board members responded to Hughes' remarks.
Following the meeting, board Chairman Mike Evatt said he was optimistic a solution could be worked out. In June, the board asked Smith to begin the negotiating process for a potential 3 to 5 percent pay increase.
"We always work it out," Evatt said. "Sometimes, it's not exactly what they want, but we always do."
Board member Donna Horn said she was "absolutely confident" the group would reach a resolution.
Smith, who received a $25,000 raise from the board in June, declined to comment.
Negotiations for a possible raise are ongoing. But before the board can consider boosting salaries, it will have to find where to draw funds in its $393 million budget that was recently approved for the fiscal year.
Hughes said she was hopeful the board would find a solution.
"The school board does have to approve any raise," she said. "So there's no point in negotiating any raise if you don't have the funds to give it. And it's really their job to find funds in the budget."
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