values matterOnce again it’s contract negotiation time and once again the Holy Trinity of Miami Dade County Public Schools (the United Teachers of Dade, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, and the Miami Dade County School Board) has given a collective middle finger to their mid-career teachers. If you belong to the especially misfortunate sub group of mid-career teachers (teachers with approximately 9-17 years experience of which I am one) then the MDCPS just gave a double middle finger to you. This leaves Kafkateach wondering why Miami Dade County Public Schools and the United Teachers of Dade harness so much hatred towards some of their most dedicated and effective employees?

OK, so I get why UTD, the superintendent, and the School Board might have a special dislike of this particular mid-career teacher (after all, I have been quoted in several Miami Herald articles about class size, VAM, and retaliation, spoken at a few School Board meetings without the usual effusive praising of the Board and the superintendent, and devoted the past six years of my life to ranting about horrible teacher pay, VAM, and class sizes in the MDCPS on this blog, social media, and through district email) but do my actions really merit the collective punishment of the other 7,000  mid-career teachers who are about to once again get completely shafted in the next collective bargaining agreement?

Much to the disappointment and dismay of approximately 13,000 financially devastated veteran teachers working for the MDCPS, the superintendent’s speech at the last School Board meeting where he promised a “creative and elegant” solution to the economic plight of teachers illegally removed from the grandfathered salary schedule turned out to be a huge let down. It was basically the equivalent of having your boyfriend of 15 years promise to take you to a fancy five star restaurant on your anniversary and instead you end up at McDonald’s watching him eat a Big Mac while you sit there starving to death.

If you would like to watch the superintendent’s Academy Award winning performance at the last School Board meeting after the MDCPS Science of Teacher of the Year’s impassioned speech regarding the financial losses incurred by veteran teachers, you can watch the video here https://youtu.be/e7uNrnpHldc

Although the superintendent’s acting skills were on point, his speech writer should be fired. WTF is a “creative and elegant” solution? When I did a Google image search for what “elegant pay” might look like, this was one of the first images to show up

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That’s right folks, according to Google images “elegant pay” is really high end prostitution (which is what some mid-career Miami teachers may have to resort if the next bargaining agreement passes.)

After much anticipation, the superintendent’s “creative and elegant” solution was unveiled yesterday. Conveniently, it was first announced as being too complex for teachers to understand and then it was hidden on a special password protected UTD website. Given that ALL members of the bargaining unit should have access to as much information as possible before they vote on a contract, I will take the liberty of publishing it here for all you freeloaders (many of whom’s sacrifices have actually been paying for the financial rewards of the few for decades) http://www.utd.org/utd-content/uploads/2017/10/Schedule-Transition-Teacher-Retention-Supplement-Proposal-13-.pdf

Funny how the superintendent’s “creative and elegant” solution was actually published as a proposal by UTD. This will enable the district and the School Board to say, “blame your union” when the 7,000 grandfathered teachers who were left off UTD’s proposal to mitigate the losses of veteran teachers complain. If there were any doubt left that UTD, the district, and the School Board have formed the perfect trifecta to impoverish teachers and are really one and the same entity, just check out the UTD Facebook page and how they respond to their dues paying members who leave disgruntled comments about bargaining (that’s if they haven’t already blocked them from leaving comments)Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 4.29.24 PM

If you read the comments posted by the wizard of UTD, they may as well have been written by the superintendent himself. They are certainly not comments befitting a labor union representing the district’s 20,000 teachers.

There was actually nothing creative or elegant about UTD’s solution to veteran teacher pay. It is the same old solution as every other collective bargaining agreement, massively screw over as many teachers as possible while throwing a bone to just enough teachers to get the contract to pass. Unfortunately, it is the same 7,000 teachers who seem to get the short end of the stick every single time. In this year’s contract, veteran teachers who were on steps 13 as of 2015 may apply for a supplement for 5 years after working for 25 years. The following are the amounts of the supplements for teachers who were on steps 13 -22 as of 2015.

“Teachers who were on step 22 in 2015 shall be eligible for a retention supplement of $1,000 per year. Teachers who were on step 21 in 2015 shall be eligible for a retention supplement of $3,500 per year. Teachers who were on steps 13-20 shall be eligible for a retention supplement of $5,500 per year.”

That amounts to a pay out of $27,500 to 5,000 of the grandfathered teachers who are actually losing at least $48,000 (not including retirement) given a 3% raise every year until they retire. The other 7,000 grandfathered teachers who stand to lose at least $65,000 (not including retirement) given a 3% raise every year until retirement will receive absolutely nothing for their financial losses. Thanks again UTD! Always sticking it to the 35% so the other 65% can get a few peanuts tossed their way.

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You can view these figures for yourself here https://1drv.ms/w/s!AhDpVy8XhRUenARyVvrczgBuP5nc

When I wrote an email to members of UTD’s bargaining team, the district’s bargaining team, the superintendent and School Board members no one would answer two simple questions:

1. When UTD says “step 13 in 2015” are they referring to the actual steps teachers were on or years of service (since steps did not match years of service like they were supposed to)? 

2. Why have certain grandfathered teachers (steps 6 to 12) been excluded from the union’s and district’s attempt to mitigate financial losses for grandfathered teachers?

 I basically asked them why MDCPS hates mid-career teachers but not surprisingly no one responded. I won’t take offense because UTD doesn’t respond to dues paying member emails either. When one fellow co-member of the les miserables mid-career steps 6-12 cohort who actually belongs to UTD questioned on social media, “Can anyone please tell me what I get for my $861??? Anyone????

I responded, “You get screwed repeatedly with every contract. It’s like Hollywood actresses having to pay Harvey Weinstein.”

Sorry but the truth hurts. A real union that represented all members would not leave 7,000 financially devastated grandfathered teachers out of a proposal designed to mitigate losses of veteran teachers. It just wouldn’t. A district and School Board that sincerely valued its experienced teacher workforce would not leave us out of a “creative and elegant” solution either. They do it because they can. Either that or they really do hate us.

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The absurdist dystopian nightmare that is teaching in Florida in 2017 continues as the Sun Sentinel ran an article this week about teachers sitting alongside high school students to take the SAT in hopes of qualifying for a $6,000 Best and Brightest bonus. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/fl-schools-teachers-retake-sat-20171004-story.html

It should be noted that the brainchild behind the Best and Brightest bonus, Erik Fresen, was sentenced to prison for 9 years of tax evasion while serving in the Florida legislature last week in Miami. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article176100881.html

Meanwhile, Miami Dade is forcing teachers to use overpriced vendors and pay excessive shipping fees to buy school supplies using a new software application called “Class Wallet” for fear that the IRS will audit teachers’ dry erase marker purchases with the $284 they are given by the state to purchase classroom supplies.

I digress. Being lucky enough to have barely qualified for the Best and Brightest bonus one year, and unlucky enough to have been disqualified for the Best and Brightest bonus last year due to my district generated punitive VAM score, I feel for the Florida teachers that are so desperate for the shot at an extra $6,000 that they will invest hours of their life, hundreds of dollars in testing fees, and endure the utter humiliation of having to sit next to one of their students during an SAT administration. Here is how an imagined version of that awkward conversation might go down.

(Middle aged teacher stumbles into SAT testing room looking haggard with a coffee mug with the inscription, “World’s Best Teacher.” Like her students, she pulled an all nighter reviewing Algebra. She hasn’t solved an equation in over 20 years. She was bad at math in high school (that’s why she is here, her English score was high but not good enough to compensate for her abysmally low math score). She is probably even much worse now at math, but she is so desperate at the shot of a $6,000 bonus to help her pay off her credit card debt amassed while trying to survive over the summer, that she signed up to take the SAT. She tried to sign up to take it in another district to avoid the humiliation of sitting for the test with one of her students but there weren’t any available seats. Her greatest fear has been realized as she immediately recognizes her brightest student and he immediately recognizes her despite her disguise of a blond wig and sunglasses.)

“Hi, Ms. Jones!”

The student runs up and gives his favorite teacher a big hug.

“That’s so cool that you’re going to proctor my test today! Maybe you can give me some answers,” he chuckles.

“I’m sorry Johnny but I’m not actually your proctor. I’m here to take the SAT just like you.”

“You’re joking right? he questions. “Why would a teacher need to take the SAT? You already graduated from college?”

“I know it doesn’t make any sense Johnny. The world doesn’t make any sense anymore. Donald Trump is our President and teachers are taking an exam meant for high school students for the shot at an extra $6,000.”

She takes a seat next to Johnny and proceeds to tell him the following story.

“There was once a very evil and stupid man that didn’t pay his taxes and he served in the Florida legislature. He hated teachers and traditional public schools. He also had important familial ties to the charter school industry which was struggling to find teachers because their pay was so low. He wanted to help his brother in law increase his teachers’ pay without cutting into his profits, so he came up with the world’s stupidest bonus program for teachers. In order to hide the glaring fact that this his idea was the dumbest idea of all time, he called his plan, “The Best and Brightest Scholarship.” It promised to give highly effective teachers in Florida a $10,000 bonus if they also had SATs in the top 20th percentile.”

“But that’s absurd!” exclaimed Johnny.

“I know Johnny. But absurd is the new normal. The only way I can pay off my credit card debt is by winning the lottery or getting a Best and Brightest bonus. My odds are probably about the same.” Ms. Jones sadly lamented.

“But you’re a great teacher! Just look at your coffee mug! And you’re so smart. You are definitely one of the Best and Brightest!”

“I may be a great teacher and have graduated from a top university with a 4.0 GPA but I have always been horrible at math. I haven’t done any math in 20 years but if I don’t improve my math score on the SAT I will never get a Best and Brightest bonus. I paid some private tutoring service over $600 this summer to help me with SAT math.” she admitted.

“Why did you pay some tutor? I would have tutored you for free Ms. Jones.” offered Johnny.

“I got some email in my district email advertising SAT prep classes to teachers (this is a true fact). I was so desperate I signed up for the course. Besides, Johnny, I’m your teacher. I’m supposed to tutor you, not the other way around.”

“Is this why you haven’t graded any of my essays over the last month and why we’ve been watching Dead Poet’s Society in class instead of analyzing Shakespeare?” inquired Johnny.

“Yes, Johnny. I’m so sorry for neglecting my instructional duties because I have been too busy studying for the SAT just so I have a shot at getting a $6,000 bonus. It’s my only hope. The state of Florida has taken away the salary schedule that was promised to me when I first started teaching. Now I have no guarantee of any future pay increases. Last year a Teach for America teacher at our school with no training and no experience made $10,000 more than me just because she has high SAT scores.”

“Are you talking about Ms. Penny? She’s hot but she can’t teach and doesn’t care anyway because she’s just doing it for college loan forgiveness and to pad her resume for a education reform think tank position.”

“Take my advice Johnny. Don’t ever be a teacher. Especially not in Florida.”

“Don’t worry about that Ms. Jones. None of my friends want to be teachers either. We’ve been taught our entire lives that teachers are fat lazy losers that just want a job for life and only teach because they can’t do anything else. Besides, I can make millions playing video games and posting it on youtube. Why would anyone want to be a teacher?”

The test begins and Johnny’s last words, “Why would anyone want to be teacher?” resonate in Ms. Jones mind as she tries to solve a word problem that requires Algebra II.

After the test is over, Johnny asks to take a selfie with Ms. Jones. Mentally exhausted after the four hour exam she agrees. As soon as Johnny leaves the testing room he posts the picture on Snap Chat, “Hangin’ with Ms.J at the SAT. #hopemyscoreisbetterthanhers.”

When Ms. Jones returns to work on Monday her Principal calls her into the office.

“Ms. Jones why is there a picture of a student with his arm around you on a Saturday morning floating around social media? Did you think people wouldn’t be able to recognize you with that ridiculous blond wig? Do you think we’re that dumb? How do you think this looks for the school? Teachers fraternizing with students early on a Saturday morning…You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Ms. Jones doesn’t respond. She walks out of the Principal’s office and goes to her classroom to collect her “World’s Best Teacher” coffee mug. She hugs her students good-bye and then walks out of the school forever.

Why would anyone want to be a teacher indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beware Florida teachers! The Gates Foundation has been instrumental in taking away your job security, your annual step increases, and now it looks like they may be coming for your advanced degree pay next! In a new report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (which is primarily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as Walmart’s education reform foundation, the Walton Foundation), Florida is used as a case study for merit pay failure. The report entitled, “Backing the Wrong Horse. The Story of One State’s Ambitious But Disheartening Foray Into Performance Pay” deems Florida’s merit system unsuccessful due to the fact that teachers still earn more money for advanced degrees than they do for being rated highly effective. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/NCTQ_Backing_the_Wrong_Horse_2017

The irony of calling advanced degree pay “the wrong horse” is particularly grotesque for teachers. Teachers are supposed to instill an appreciation for learning in their students and make them believe that academics will have some financial reward for them in the future. By taking away pay for advanced degrees for teachers, we are essentially telling students that education does not matter and will not benefit them monetarily.

Given the current teacher shortage in Florida since the passage of the Race to the Top inspired SB 736 legislation, it seems like the report released by the NCTQ should have been entitled, “Backing the Wrong Horse. The Total Failure of Merit Pay to Recruit and Retain High Quality Teachers.”

Alas, the Gates and Walton Foundations are still clinging to their disproven theory that performance pay for teachers will somehow save the American public school system. In their bubbles of private finance, they don’t seem to understand what American teachers have always understood, in the world of publicly financed institutions, any bonuses awarded for performance will be lilliputian compared to bonuses earned in corporate America.

The report begins with a promising tone, emphasizing the importance of competitive salaries and even concedes that many organizations pay more for experience.

“There’s no silver bullet to attract and retain effective teachers. In order to recruit and retain top talent in the classroom, schools must implement a multi-pronged strategy. An essential component of that strategy is a competitive compensation package. Pay matters. Indeed, research demonstrates that teachers who are satisfied with their pay are less likely to be interested in leaving their jobs.

As is true in any job sector, salaries set by a school district reflect its priorities and values, along with the priorities and values of the state. Although it is not necessarily true that the employee with the highest salary is also the most valued employee, the salary an employee earns is a partial reflection of particular attributes valued by the employer. For example, new employees typically earn relatively small salaries compared with salaries earned by long-term employees because many organizations highly value employee experience.” (p.1)

By page 2 the tone of the report has shifted and the chastisement of Florida begins,

“While the road from legislation to implementation is rarely smooth, in the case of Florida it takes a u-turn. Only two out of the 18 Florida districts we analyzed are implementing performance pay systems that comply with the spirit of the law. Sixteen of the 18 districts we analyzed continue to award teachers who earn an advanced degree — one of the traditional routes to earning a higher salary in teaching a higher annual salary award than teachers who earn a top rating based on their classroom effectiveness, contradicting the law’s intent. These 16 districts appear wedded to a pay system based on the disproven hypothesis that an advanced degree will make a teacher more effective.”

Although an advanced degree is no guarantee that a teacher will be highly effective, from personal experience I can attest to the fact that having more content knowledge in my subject area obtained by pursuing an advanced degree, does indeed make me a more effective teacher.

At least the report is honest at times and concedes that there actually is no data to suggest that performance pay attracts top talent to the profession or entices them to stay,

“The promise of performance pay is both to encourage talented individuals to consider a teaching career and entice high-achieving teachers to stay in the classroom. The research that would cement these advantages is still quite thin. Although there is little evidence that performance pay systems cause teachers to become more effective, there is some early research, albeit limited, demonstrating that school districts that adopt performance pay systems experience significantly greater success attracting teachers with higher academic aptitude.”

Poor Florida has gone from “best practice” merit pay darling of the NTCQ to the “wrong horse” merit pay failure in just two years.

“In NCTQ’s most recent (2015) biannual State Teacher Policy Yearbook, Florida was highlighted as a “best practice” state for the strength of its performance pay policy.7 Specifically, we celebrated Florida’s policy for allowing “local districts to develop their own salary schedules while preventing districts from prioritizing elements not associated with teacher effectiveness.” (p.5)

The NTCQ is appalled that performance pay awards are still smaller than advanced degree payments and at times may even be smaller than the COLA. *Miami-Dade teachers please note that a COLA stands for a Cost of Living Adjustment. I know we haven’t heard that term used in Miami-Dade in over a decade, but most districts still believe that inflation exists and adjust salaries accordingly.

“In addition, the new law aims to ensure that no universal source of teacher pay would supersede performance pay as the largest salary award available to teachers. Many districts nationwide provide teachers with an annual adjustment in pay through a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, which helps to ensure that a teacher’s purchasing power is not diminished by inflation. Florida’s performance pay policy does not rule out a COLA, but it specifies that districts may not use such an adjustment to exceed 50 percent of the annual adjustment provided to a teacher rated as Effective.” (p.6)

Let’s move on to what got Florida branded the “wrong horse.” According to the NTCQ, Florida is paying way too much money for those silly advanced degrees.

“In the clear majority of Florida school districts in this study during the 2016-2017 school year, the dollar amount of performance pay awards falls well behind the award amounts associated with a teacher’s degree status. Nearly all districts continue to offer salary supplements that are higher than their adjustments for Highly Effective teachers, functionally ensuring that attainment of a graduate degree is the most significant factor in salary award determinations. This distinction between salary supplements and salary adjustments is critical. It appears, in effect, to function as a loophole that enables many of Florida’s districts to continue to place a higher value on an advanced degree than performance.”

“Among the districts we reviewed, there are two noteworthy outliers: Hillsborough County Public Schools and Duval County Public Schools. These districts compensate effectiveness at a higher rate than advanced degree attainment. Hillsborough does not distinguish between its Effective and Highly Effective teachers, as a teacher earning either an Effective or a Highly Effective designation in Hillsborough qualifies for the same salary award. ” (p.6)

While the NTCQ may think Hillsborough County and Duval County are to be commended for not offering much of a financial reward for advanced degrees, as a highly effective teacher with an advanced degree, those are two counties I would steer clear of in a job search. Why would I want to work in Duval County where I am only offered $1,042 for my Master’s degree when I go across the state to Sarasota County and be paid $5,066 for the same degree?

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Note that Hillsborough county offers zero payment for advanced degrees and exactly the same pay for effective and highly effective teachers. This actually means that Hillsborough County is not following the merit pay law at all since highly effective teachers are supposed to make more money than effective teachers. The only reason “merit pay” awards in Hillsborough are worthy of recognition by the NTCQ is that the amount of the award is larger than advanced degree pay since the amount for advanced degree pay is ZERO. Similarly, the only reason Duval County has a merit pay award higher than advanced degree pay is because they pay so little for advanced degrees, not because their merit pay awards are much larger than any other district. So the answer to merit pay according to the NTCQ, is not to make the amount of merit pay awards much larger, but to make the amount awarded for advanced degrees much smaller and even further de-professionalize teaching.

The irony behind the NTCQ commending teacher pay in Hillsborough County goes beyond the fact that they don’t even follow the Florida merit pay law and that highly effective teachers are not rewarded with greater pay which is the primary tenet of Gates inspired education reform. Hillsborough County was the recipient of a $100 million Gates Foundation grant that bankrupted the district and the foundation pulled their funding out before the grant was even completed. http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/sticker-shock-how-hillsborough-countys-gates-grant-became-a-budget-buster/2250988

Talk about “backing the wrong horse”! The wrong horse to back in education has time and time again been any reform funded by the Gates Foundation! Gates has even admitted himself that the billions of dollars he has spent on education reform has not resulted in improving American schools. Any school district considering future grants from the Gates Foundation needs to read the entirety of this article about the economic fiasco in Hillsborough County. I can think of no greater example of an institution “backing the wrong horse” than Hillsborough County’s $100 million Gates Foundation performance pay boondoggle (actually it was $200 million since the county had to bring matching funds).  Certainly a much worse horse than paying teachers for advanced degrees. http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/sticker-shock-how-hillsborough-countys-gates-grant-became-a-budget-buster/2250988 

The end of the NTCQ’s report finishes with the typical education reform allegiance to performance pay based on test scores.

“Florida’s performance pay law emphasizes that adjustments for Highly Effective teachers must be the highest available through any salary schedule, and yet, in most districts we reviewed, our findings demonstrate a clear disconnect between the spirit of the law and its implementation. This means that the majority of the districts we reviewed are continuing to invest significant sums of money each year in a compensation system that is not reflective of what they no doubt value most: student learning and growth.”

Note that “student learning and growth” is a politically correct way of saying “test scores.” They really don’t care about any kind of “growth” that can’t be measured by a multiple choice question and some good old fashioned psychometrics.

Given that Florida’s forays in merit pay have failed to attract and retain high quality teachers and conversely, created a teacher shortage, instead of listening to organizations like the National Center for Teacher Quality funded by the Gates Foundation, Florida legislatures might do a better job of attracting teachers by listening to the people who actually represent the views of teachers. Hillsborough County’s union director offered some common sense suggestions to teacher pay which do much more to recruit and retain teachers than stripping them of yet another means of improving their meager pay.

“Baxter-Jenkins, the union executive director, said she wanted to do right by long-time teachers who had been underpaid through prior pay schedules.

“You cannot leave out the people who gave their life here and stuck to this district through thick and thin,” she said.

Regardless of what reformers might say, Baxter-Jenkins said it’s not reasonable to expect a teacher to commit to a job that offers no expectation of increased earnings.

“While I think performance pay is fine,” she said during a recent bargaining session, “having good base salaries is a much better draw for people to become teachers and stay teachers.” http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/sticker-shock-how-hillsborough-countys-gates-grant-became-a-budget-buster/2250988

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Besides enriching and empowering Florida’s charter school sector, legislation passed in HB 7069 was also aimed at disempowering local school districts and teachers’ unions.  During house speaker Richard Corcoran’s victory tour, he lambasted the Hillsborough County school district for its wanton spending, claiming modern school districts “just want to build Taj Mahals.” http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/speaker-richard-corcoran-to-hillsborough-schools-stop-blaming-the/2327807

Clearly house speaker Corcoran has not actually stepped foot in many Florida public schools (which I can personally assure him do not resemble Taj Mahals). I’m sure speaker Corcoran would be singing a different tune if he had to spend one week in a public school classroom with no windows and no AC in August teaching freshmen boys who have yet to discover deodorant after gym class.  One week of using a bathroom in a public school with no running water in the sink and stopped up toilets would certainly be enough to make him reconsider diverting capital funds away from school districts. Sinks that don’t function actually help save districts more money because who needs soap and paper towels if you have no running water? I wish I had taken a photo of it, but at a school where I was attending an unpaid professional development session two weeks ago, there was a large “Operation Clean Scrub” sign stressing the importance of hygiene over a broken sink with no water. Oh…..the irony.

HB 7069 was also about rendering the state’s teachers’ unions impotent in the collective bargaining process. So much so that journalist Joe Henderson renamed the bill “Let’s Bust the Teachers’ Union Act” http://floridapolitics.com/archives/240325-joe-henderson-richard-corcoran-change-florida-education-whipped-teachers-union

Now that HB 7069 has become law, there may be ways for school districts and teachers’ unions to work together to return the middle finger to the state and help get more money into their teachers’ pockets at the same time. Clearly, school districts will be using HB 7069 as an excuse to give teachers puny raises across the state. The least school districts could do in return is to ensure that the majority of their teachers qualify for the largest amount of funds from the state as possible. According to HB 7069, highly effective teachers are entitled to $1200 but effective teachers only receive $800 and there is no guarantee of even receiving the full $800 as the language of the bill includes the following caveat: “If the number of eligible classroom teachers under this subparagraph exceeds the total allocation, the department shall prorate the per-teacher scholarship amount.” (p.223).

Furthermore, the more highly effective teachers a school district has, the more teachers will qualify for the $6,000 Best and Brightest bonus, thus driving that nail even further into the hearts (not sure that they really have any) of state politicians and their asinine bonus programs. Now that the state has decided to toss the VAM legal hot potato into the laps of school districts, school districts are entirely in control of how many of their teachers are rated highly effective. As far as I am aware, there are no statewide mandates as to how many teachers may be rated highly effective because you have some school districts like Palm Beach County rating over 50% of their teachers highly effective and other school districts like neighboring Broward County only bestowing a highly effective rating on 18% of its teachers. If I am an annual contract teacher on performance pay with high SAT scores working for Broward County, I could likely increase my pay by over $7,000 just by getting a job in neighboring Palm Beach County. School districts, do you really want to be the county with the lowest percentage of highly effective teachers in the state when teachers could easily make thousands more just by working for a neighboring county with a more generous teacher evaluation system?

While unions may be strapped to negotiate job security and larger raises, they can still negotiate generous cut offs for highly effective versus effective evaluations. Some may argue, “But then districts will have to give larger raises to a larger percentage of teachers, thus costing them more money?” Now that many districts have started using a standard percentage basis, instead of honoring their grandfathered step schedules, the difference in pay between a highly effective performance pay teacher and an effective performance pay teacher only amounts to a few hundred dollars more. And let’s not forget that the majority of their teachers are not on performance pay and a highly effective rating will not cost school districts any extra money but it will certainly cost the state a heck of a lot more and could net their teachers an extra $7,000 per year!

At the last Miami Dade County School Board meeting, the union called upon the district to come up with innovative solutions to increase teacher pay.  One of my principals used to always say when faced with the challenges of education legislation, “Control what you can control.” One of the aspects that Florida school districts and unions can still control is the number of highly effective teachers in their districts. By maximizing the number of highly effective teachers in their districts, they increase the the amount of state funding that ends up in their teachers’ pockets, while simultaneously penalizing the state for its usurpation of how public education tax dollars are spent.

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It’s summertime and most teachers are taking at least a mental vacation if they cannot afford to take a real one. Other teachers, like myself, may have spent the last two weeks attending professional development sessions without any monetary compensation and are anxiously awaiting their first day off. Anyone remember Rudy Crew and the Summer Heat PD’s where teachers actually got paid their daily rate to attend professional development during the summer back in 2004? Well, that was when the MDCPS was ruled by the big baller Rudy Crew who is said to have bankrupted the district and was quickly deposed by the School Board only to be replaced by El Cheapo who has ruled the MDCPS with a fiscally conservative fist ever since. The current superintendent is happy to snip away at other people’s budgets but when it comes to anyone messing around with his $5 billion funding, watch out. He is so upset with the federal legislation dismantling his control over how Title 1 funds are spent, that the School Board has hired the lobbyist responsible for Trump’s Presidential win at the tune of $108,000 for the next three years. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article157484599.html

I don’t have the mental stamina to transcribe a school board meeting during the summer months, but I did catch the portion of the meeting where the 2017-18 budget was discussed and thought it was important to inform Dade County teachers of some major implications, especially if you work at a Title I school. Thankfully, someone else in the 305 has taken it upon themselves to keep the public informed about what happens at School Board meetings and you can read brief recaps here http://www.ps305.org/ps-305-blog.html (keep in mind that the writer is part of the education reform agenda and is a former TFA teacher and charter school advocate).

As previously mentioned, the superintendent is not happy about changes to the way that Title I funds can be allocated. Previously, the district pretty much had carte blanche and redirected the funds to support their ETO lowest performing schools. Now Title I funds must be allocated based on economic need alone and academic performance indicators cannot play a factor. So a Title I school with an A grade will receive the same funding as a Title I school with an F grade. If you happen to work at a Title I school with high academic results, this is actually good news for you. On the other hand, if you work at a Title I school that is struggling academically, you are about to lose some major bucks. For example, Carol City is expected to lose over $300,000 from next year’s budget. Keep in mind that it was only after the implementation of No Child Left Behind and the state’s accountability system was created that academic indicators became a factor for allocating how Title I funds were spent.

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Other system wide consequences for the district’s newfound impotence over Title I funding allocation include the following:

  1. The downtown district type ETO school interventionists may find themselves sent back to the classroom. If you work at an ETO school, you may be happy to see them go. Maybe some teachers at D and F schools enjoyed the extra support from their ETO designation, but they have not been as vocal as the critics who work at an ETO school.
  2. They may have to cut summer school programs designed to assist with credit recovery and boost graduation rates. Given that Florida Virtual school exists and that starting next year all senior high school students will have access to district devices, I’m not sure why we really need summer school or night school anymore. Summer school and night school have been a nice source of extra income for teachers that don’t have families to rush home to, but they seem anachronistic and an added expense given the prevalence of online learning.
  3. We may see a reduction of secondary schools on the 8 period schedule. This would be a huge impact for many schools, teachers, and students who have become accustomed to the 8 period schedule and have developed certain programs at their schools sites that necessitate the extra periods.

Keep in mind that these changes will go into effect immediately and impact teachers and students as they return to class next August. I want to post the slides that were presented during the Superintendent’s doom and gloom 2017-18 budget forecast.

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So according to the superintendent, despite a $100 increase in per pupil funding, the district will be facing a $90 million shortfall.

The superintendent used some interesting numbers to come up with the $52 million general fund shortfall which included: a mandatory retirement contribution of $6 million, raises from last year costing $30 million, an increase in utilities of $6 million and continued commitment to instructional technology at $14 million.

It seems like the retirement contributions and salary increases are something that the district must budget for every year and are not exactly new expenses. So the district is going to use the fact that we got a raise last year to argue that they don’t have money to give us a raise this year?  The increase in utilities seems like an expected consequence of creating curriculums that are dependent on technology and students with charged devices. People got to plug in somewhere. It seems like some of those utility costs could be controlled by turning down the AC! How many classrooms resemble meat refrigeration centers? Utilities costs may be up but it seems like if teachers and administrators embraced the digital technology copying costs would be come down. How many times has the district placed fliers in our mailboxes and we distribute them only to have the students immediately throw them all over our classroom floors? Another $14 million for instructional technology? What instructional technology? My desktop is over 7 years old. I thought we passed a $1.2 billion technology bond to pay for technology. It seems like the Superintendent was really grasping at straws to come up with a $52 million budget shortfall.

 

Other issues of note from the School Board meeting were the district’s impressive results in testing data which showed that despite socio-economic hardships faced by our student population, the students met or exceeded the statewide performance. The Board congratulated the teachers for their efforts and at least one board member, Dr.Gallon, questioned the superintendent about how the district would reward teachers.

Dr. Gallon: “These results don’t manifest themselves without the 1 to 1 relationships between students and teachers. Our teachers are our unsung heroes. In the state of Florida, there is not a lot of sun shining on our teachers. Our teachers continue to create magic in the classroom. While we’re working there is a a teacher in the classroom who is continuing to work with the children in the classroom. This work cannot happen without our teachers who are doing the work. My final comment is that we celebrate this achievement. Everything in that bill is not bad, one of those things that came out of that bill is the district latitude in the use of VAM. That was a source of consternation for many teachers who produce these results but don’t translate into results in their evaluation. Considering that we have these results despite economic issues, outside of school recognition funds, is there any plans to celebrate and acknowledge these teachers?”

Superintendent: “We should always celebrate the work of teachers. I would rather give that some thought. There may be some collective bargaining. We should celebrate the their exquisite work. Beyond the change in VAM which is now an optional element. We need to carefully examine a one time bonus for effective teachers up to $800 and highly effective bonus of $1200. We hope to put these elements together as we endeavor to recognize their achievements.”

There you have it folks. Expect the bonus money in HB 7069 to be used as an excuse to give you a smaller raise.  I predict we will get a 2% raise from the district. They will claim it as a historic 5% because the $1200 for HE teachers is almost 3% of a beginning teacher’s salary.  UTD called for “innovative” solutions to teacher pay but we will have to wait and see exactly what “innovative means.”

 

As the Chairman of the Board stated: Crisis gives us opportunities.

We can only hope those opportunities benefit the teachers this time around.

 

 

 

 

vampire-treatment-post

I was hoping to take a hiatus from blogging over the summer now that the Florida legislative season finally came to its tragic conclusion with the passing of HB 7069. Teaching in Florida is the gift that keeps on giving, however, if the main theme of your blog is educator disgruntlement. A news story out of Brevard County about HB 7069 threatening the district’s ability to give teachers raises was particularly disturbing as the article begins with an interview with a teacher that has actually turned to selling her own plasma twice a week to make an extra $200 a month to pay for her car.

http://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/16/education-budget-jeopardizes-raises-brevards-struggling-teachers/402971001/.

My immediate reaction was that of horror.  Florida teachers have turned to selling their own blood to make ends meet? How awful! My second reaction, was “Hmm…I wonder how much I can get for one of my kidneys? Who really needs two kidneys anyways?” Turns out it’s technically illegal to sell a kidney in the United States but the black market price seems to range anywhere from $10,000-$200,000! http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/10-body-parts-you-can-legally-sell-for-big-bucks/ It’s only a matter of time before some entrepreneurial evil genius sets up an offshore kidney transplant center in the Bahamas where desperate Florida teachers board suspect cruise ships for the weekend and wake up from their drunken stupor with stitches on the left side of their abdomen. Florida teachers having to sell body parts in order to stay in a profession they love in a state that they love seems like the next logical conclusion.

In a seeming attempt to soften the blow from the Florida Today story about Brevard teachers selling plasma to make ends meet, the Brevard Times ran a story about how Governor Rick Scott’s bonus will bring Brevard teachers monthly pay way above the average worker in Brevard County, “At Brevard Public Schools, teachers’ salaries currently range from $3,922 to $5,988 a month under their 10-month contract. With the additional state bonus for very effective teachers, their salaries will now range from $4,042 to $6,108, which is well above the average monthly wage of $3,899 for all residents in Brevard County.”  http://news.brevardtimes.com/2017/06/governor-rick-scott-gives-florida.html?m=1

There is so much wrong with this shoddy piece of journalism that the writer didn’t even attach their name to such blatantly misleading information. Where to begin? Let’s start with the idea that earning an extra $120 a month puts a teacher well above the county’s average monthly wage. I hate the use of averages. Whenever someone uses averages, it’s usually because they want to cover something up. The average county wage includes fast food workers without college degrees or any specialized training. Brevard County is not exactly a major employment hub so most of its workers are probably in the service industry. A more legitimate comparison of average worker pay would compare average pay of other college educated and certified professionals like lawyers and dentists.

Brevard County teacher starting pay is only $39,222 so the mystery author is clearly discussing the pay for teachers on the 10 month pay schedule and comparing those figures to people’s salaries who are spread out over 12 months. This artificially inflates the monthly wage of a teacher since they will have to save a much larger sum of money every month to survive over the summer than the average worker who receives 12 months of pay. If you divide the $39,222 teacher salary over 12 months instead of 10 months, the teacher monthly wage prior to taxes, retirement and health insurance being taken out is $3,268 which is $631 less than the average Brevard County worker makes!

Another misleading point, and it is one that school districts across Florida will be making in the coming years, is that the bonus money from HB 7069 will increase teacher salaries so school districts can give their teachers much smaller raises or none at all. Let’s do some basic math, Highly Effective teacher A receives a bonus of $1200 for the next three years thanks to HB 7069. Their starting salary is $40,800. How much will their salary be after three years? It will still be $40,800! Let’s compare this to Highly Effective teacher B who receives an actual performance pay raise of $1200 from their school district as mandated by SB 736 for the next  three years. How much will teacher B’s salary be after three years? It will be $44,400. At the end of three years, teacher A will still be $31,200 from the top of the pay scale whereas teacher B will $27,600 from the top of the pay scale. A three year suppression of teacher salary growth will have major impacts in cumulative financial losses for teachers and major financial gains for district and state budgets as fewer, if any, teachers make it to the top of the pay scale before retirement.

It is the overall tone of the unnamed author of the Rick Scott PR stint in the Brevard Times that is most disturbing. The idea that a teacher making more than the average worker in Brevard (even though they actually make $631 less) is somehow deemed newsworthy. In the state of Florida, we have come to expect our educators to have to sell their own blood to be able to afford a car payment. If the rest of Florida follows Miami’s example of building subsidized teacher apartments on top of school sites, the public will come to accept factory housing for teachers as the norm. Teachers won’t have to sell their blood to afford a car because they won’t need cars if they live on top of their schools! We can have our own little Chinese Foxcon Apple manufacturing teacher housing projects in Florida! And just like in China, they can place large nets under the windows in case any teachers decide they don’t like being an indentured servant to their employer. We wouldn’t want the children to be traumatized by having to step over their teacher’s lifeless body on their way into the school building after all.

The de-professionalization and marginalization of teachers in Florida impacts the quality of education our children receive. To expect teachers to have to work a second job or sell organs in order to support their own families is a travesty that leads to a worse education for our students. We would all be better teachers if we could just focus on our one job instead of finding additional sources of revenue or taking on extra responsibilities or loads of students. Imagine if I didn’t have to give up a planning period to teach an extra class of students because I need the money. I would be able to make more contact with parents, give students more immediate feedback, plan better lessons, collaborate with peers to improve instruction….Imagine the extra tutoring, coaching or clubs teachers could provide for students if they didn’t have to run off to a second job or monitor computer screens at night school after a full day’s work in the classroom. Imagine if teachers were treated like other college educated highly trained professionals like doctors or lawyers that would never be expected to take on a second job or sell their plasma to make car payments. Imagine….

If you would like to donate to the Kafkateach blog so she doesn’t have to donate a kidney over the summer, you can do so here https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LLM8XWXXUSNS8

the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-il-buono-il-brutto-il-cattivo.9123

Despite impressive efforts by teachers, unions, superintendents, and other supporters of public education, Governor Rick Scott finally signed the dreaded HB 7069 into law. The bill is mostly condemned for its provisions that benefit charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools, but what do you expect when our state legislature behaves like the Wild West? When you have politicians with close ties to the charter industry presiding over the education committee, and nothing to restrict them from passing laws that they personally benefit from, you can expect more charter school loving bills to be passed every year.  The only way to avoid politicians like the Miami charter mafia trinity of Erik Fresen, Anitere Flores and Manny Diaz from raiding public funds for privately managed charters is to drain the swamp.  Now that HB 7069 has finally been signed into law, here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of what educators can expect. Let’s start with the good.

The Good

  1. Mandatory recess. As a parent, I’m thrilled that my three young children will now have the right to 20 minutes of recess a day (unless they go to a charter school). I can’t tell you how many times my daughter came home from school depressed that she did not have recess. Young children need unrestricted time to play and release pent up energy. Is it any surprise that the increase in young children with ADHD has coincided with our test obsessed accountability system? Maybe kids wouldn’t need fidget spinners and prescription drugs if they weren’t expected to sit silently in desks all day long doing math worksheets and answering multiple choice questions about the world’s most boring text based passages. Even the classical Greeks and Indians understood the importance of the mind/body balance.

     2. Bye-bye Algebra II EOC! I think most educators agree that expecting the majority  of public school children to be able pass an EOC in Algebra II was an exercise in futility. Who the hell needs Algebra II besides a select group of engineers? Good riddance.

3. Testing has been pushed back to the last four weeks of school. I’m not sure that my school’s testing coordinator is going to be loving this one, but as an AP teacher who lost the entire month of April to my kids taking every EOC and FSA under the sun, I’m happy to have more time to finish my curriculum. I’m also happy that we won’t be faced with multiple weeks of time to kill at the end of the year because all of the testing had to be completed three weeks prior to the end of the school year.

4. No more cap on AP or IB bonus money. This is big news for certain AP and IB teachers. There used to be a $2,000 cap on the amount of bonus money an AP or IB teacher could receive. Most teachers rarely exceed the cap, but for certain subjects or teachers at certain schools, this could mean big bucks. There has never been a better time to be an AP Spanish Language teacher in Miami Dade County or work at one of the district’s prestigious magnet schools! If you teach at a challenging school or teach a challenging subject like AP Chemistry, there will be no uncorking of champagne bottles for you. (see p.33 of HB 7069)

5. Almost every teacher will receive a bonus. Just in time for midterm elections, the Florida legislature wants to shower teachers with “scholarships” worth up to $800 for effective teachers and $1200 for highly effective teachers. Keep in mind these are not raises. They will have no permanent effect on your salary or count towards retirement. If more teachers qualify than expected, your $800 may be whittled down to $80 so don’t go out and buy that new 52 inch HD flat screen TV just yet. (p.222 of HB 7069)

6. The Best and Brightest Scholarship program continues. This probably belongs in the bad category, but some teachers have been benefitting nicely from this program for the last two years. If you happen to fall on the opposite side of the SAT bell curve, then this definitely belongs in the bad. The good news is that starting in 2020, the criteria drops to the 77th percentile and you can use other standardized tests taken for graduate school to qualify. The bonus has also been capped at $6,000 instead of the previously advertised $10,000. (p.221 of HB 7069)

7. The Florida VAM is now optional. When your district tries to blame Tallahassee next year when your highly effective evaluation falls to effective because you got slammed by VAM, don’t let them get away with it. The Florida VAM may be used but is not required by state law. Districts are allowed to determine how learner growth is measured. I’m sure the state decided to make the Florida VAM optional in order to avoid being slapped with potential lawsuits. VAM has lost in court twice in the past year so the Florida Department of Education can see the writing on the wall and doesn’t want to be sued. So now they’re passing the VAM legal hot potato back onto districts. If a teacher wants to sue because they lost out on a $6,000 Best and Brightest scholarship due to an arbitrary VAM score, they will have to sue their district. Miami Dade has created their own version of VAM called the District Covariate Model and it is much worse than the Florida VAM. There is no science or validity behind their formula at all. They use PSAT scores as the predictor for AP test scores yet a true VAM is designed to measure growth, not whether a student passes or fails a test. The Florida VAM is based on three years worth of data from the same test. Dade County doesn’t even require 9th graders to take the PSAT but AP World History is taught primarily to 9th graders. A teacher could teach five sections of regular World History and one section of AP World History in which only 5 students took the PSAT and 35% of their evaluation will be based on the scores of those 5 students. It’s insane but the county doesn’t care. They know their formula is flawed, they know most freshmen don’t have PSAT scores, but they don’t care. So beware when districts are left to their own devices to determine the learner progress portion of your evaluation! This also means that districts are now entirely in control of how many of their teachers are rated highly effective. (p.183 & p.186 of HB 7069)

The Bad

1.Florida principals now qualify for Best and Brightest scholarships. Other than the fact that most principals are very nicely compensated with six figure salaries already, financially rewarding principals for the ratio of Best and Brightest teachers at their school can lead to discriminatory hiring practices and further warp the already warped observational portion of a teacher’s evaluation. (p.223 of HB 7069)

2.Failing schools will have to compete with charter schools. Charter schools designated as “Schools of Hope” will now be able to open their doors in close proximity to traditional public schools designated as “Schools of Despair” because they have received the dreaded D and F label due to low test scores. Most of the world recognizes that failing schools are located in zip codes with residents who have been failed by our socio-economic system but the state of Florida still maintains that it is the school and the teachers at those schools that are failing the kids. As charters move into these neighborhoods, the local school may lose students which in turn causes them to lose funding which in turn causes teachers to lose their jobs.

3.Annual contract teachers have no job guarantees. Even highly effective teachers can no longer be guaranteed a job the following year through collective bargaining. This was a separate bill that was much contested and then was snuck into HB 7069 at the last minute. (p.192 of HB 7069)

The Ugly

If you teach at a traditional public school or your children attend one, it’s about to get a whole lot uglier. We have some nice looking facilities (some more than others) in Miami Dade County, but with HB 7069, school districts will now be forced to share construction dollars with charter schools. The Miami Dade Superintendent claims this will cost our school district $250 million over the next five years (so an average of $50 million a year).

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article156444609.html

If you teach in Miami Dade, you have a good idea of which part of the budget is going to take a hit to make up for the loss of those funds! Though the sky may not be falling with the signing of HB 7069 as some public school advocates have claimed over the last six weeks, there is a greater chance that the roof over your head at your school may be falling thanks to diminishing capital improvement funds. The public should really be outraged that tax dollars are going to fund improvements on private buildings that will never be held by the public, but this Florida, and we are all either too drunk, too strung out on prescription opioids, or too busy living the vida loca to care that our state legislature has committed a heist of public school funds of unprecedented proportions.

You can read the entire 274 pages of HB 7069 for yourself here https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2017/7069/BillText/er/PDF.

If you would like to thank Kafkateach for reading those 274 pages for you, you can make a small donation here. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LLM8XWXXUSNS8

 

My 12 year old pug has a nightly ritual of waking me up at 4 am to go to the bathroom every night. Just my luck, as soon as my children are old enough to finally sleep through the night and not need diapers anymore my dog becomes an incontinent insomniac! Will Kafkateach ever get a decent night’s sleep again?  My nightly ritual consists of letting my dog out at 4 am and waiting 20 minutes for him to finish doing his business. Not wanting to wake anyone in the house, I turn to the colossal time suck that is my Facebook newsfeed to entertain myself in the dark. Last night while scrolling through endless meme’s saying something about some weird “covfefe” word or “teachers be like” on the last day of school, I came upon a photograph someone posted in a Santa Rosa County teacher group of a flier that the Palm Beach County school district has been circulating in neighboring counties to help solve their teacher shortage.19029424_251551978582237_4663215482437867946_n (1)

You’ll notice that the first bullet point is about Palm Beach County having the highest teacher salary in South Florida. Don’t get too excited Dade County teachers, starting pay is only $200 more and they are using the same min/max salary schedule that Miami Dade County currently uses. https://www.palmbeachschools.org/compensation/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2016/11/CTA_InstrSalarySchedule_FY17.pdf Unlike Dade County, however, Palm Beach County will honor your years of experience and I would actually be making $47,420 rather than $44,900 if they placed me with 14 years experience. Remember that for teachers transferring into Dade County, even if they have 25 years experience, their base salary upon transfer will max out at $46,920. That sends a strong message that Dade County is not interested in recruiting experienced out of county teachers. Which got Kafkateach wondering, is Miami Dade County interested in recruiting teachers at all? The answer: not really.

If they are actually trying to recruit teachers, they are making a pretty sorry attempt at it compared to other school districts. Miami Dade’s version of the Palm Beach flier, “Why Teach in Miami Dade?” can be found here http://jobs.dadeschools.net/teachers/Why-Teach.asp. Because the font is so small, I decided to just copy and paste what it says into my blog and add a touch of teacher reality to their selling points. Which is probably not the first time this document has been copied and pasted somewhere. It reads like Dade County Public Schools just highlighted and right clicked this sucker from a brochure from the Miami tourism bureau. Notice how it says nothing about actually teaching or working for Miami Dade County Public schools.

Why Work in Miami Dade?

Claim: Miami…Where The World
Wants To Live, Work And Play!

Counterclaim: Where the Third World wants to live, work and play. Most Americans avoid Miami Dade like the plague. They might come here to party, behave badly, and get a tan during the winter months, but to live and work most Americans prefer Palm Beach.

Claim: Miami is one of the world’s most dynamic, vibrant and exciting cities, attracting residents and visitors from around the world. This booming metropolis offers something for everyone – fabulous climate, fascinating culture, plus world-class arts, entertainment, sports, shopping and dining. It’s all happening here in Miami!

Counterclaim: Miami might offer world class arts, entertainment, sports, shopping and dining but you can’t afford any of that living on a teacher’s salary in Miami Dade (unless of course you are married to a Russian oligarch or plastic surgeon who specializes in Brazilian butt lifts). Also, world class cities have some sort of decent public transportation and good local eateries and clubs that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Claim: A Lifestyle That’s Appealing To All                                                                              
Simply put, there is no better place than Miami to live, work and play. Miami combines the appeal of a tropical resort with all the benefits and opportunities that come with living in a major metropolitan area. White, sandy beaches with palm trees and warm ocean waters are located just minutes from major business, shopping and cultural centers. And who wouldn’t want to live in a place where you can enjoy being outdoors all year-round?

Counterclaim: Um…I can think of a few better places to live and work. Hmm….like Loudoun County Virginia where I can do the exact same job and make $75,000 a year and send my kids to wonderful local public schools. Seasons can be nice and not everyone thinks 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity 11 months out of the year is the perfect climate. Other people might not enjoy having to break out a kayak every time there is a major rainstorm just to get out of their driveway. The warm ocean waters are nice, but swimming is frequently not advisable due to high levels of fecal matter.

Fascinating Cultural Diversity                                                                                                           
With more than half of its population born outside the United States, Miami offers a rich and colorful tapestry of cultures, customs, sights, sounds and flavors. Miami’s strategic position as the “Gateway to the Americas” makes it one of the most fascinating and diverse cities anywhere – a hub of international life, culture and commerce. Miami itself is home to many different communities and neighborhoods, each serving up its own distinct sights, sounds, rhythms and flavors.

Counterclaim: Miami is the capital of Latin America, but if you don’t speak Spanish or Portuguese you probably won’t fit in anywhere or be able to find a job in Brickell. For teachers who don’t speak Spanish, you better have excellent mime skills and good luck with parent contact. People don’t really mix in this city either. They stick with people who cheer for the same soccer team or are from the same island. If you are East Asian, South Asian or African, good luck finding much of community down here. And forget about finding any decent Chinese delivery as well. Mission impossible.

Claim: Endless Arts, Culture & Entertainment
Broadway road shows, cutting-edge theater, symphonic masterpieces, music, dance and art from around the world…Miami has it all! Miami’s cultural offerings are among the most diverse and vibrant of any urban area in the United States. From neighborhood galleries and community stages to major museums and the spectacular Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, every minute of every day can be filled with the endless possibilities afforded by Miami’s arts and cultural community. Miami is also home to popular attractions such as MetroZoo and Jungle Island.

Counterclaim: Adrienne Arscht cheap seats: $88, Jungle Island entrance fee $32.95. Multiply by family of five equals 16% of average teacher take home pay.

Claime: Top-Notch Sports & Recreation                                                                                                                 
Miami is a sports enthusiast’s dream, with championship teams at every level (professional, college and high school), top-notch venues (Dolphin Stadium, American Airlines Arena and Homestead-Miami Speedway), and world-class events (Ford Championship at Doral, Sony-Ericsson Open at Key Biscayne and NASCAR’s Busch Series and Nextel Cup). For those who wish to be more than a spectator, Miami provides endless opportunities for sports and recreation with magnificent parks and beaches (including 84 miles of green space and coastline) plus numerous golf courses, tennis centers and other venues.

Counterclaim: But they still won’t let poor David Beckham build a friggin’ soccer stadium here! The cheapest seats for a HEAT game are $60 (not including parking and libations).

Ok, class, did anyone notice any differences from the “Why Teach in Palm Beach?” flier and the “Why Teach in Miami Dade?” webpage? The Miami Dade webpage actually doesn’t say anything about working for Miami Dade Public Schools!

Another oddity on the jobs page for Miami Dade Public Schools http://jobs.dadeschools.net/teachers/Index.asp is that they use a third party vendor called “Teacher Match.” Supposedly this is an organization that saves school districts money, and I hope that is the case, but it also sounds like it was founded by a TFA alumni especially since their application asks you to list whether you work for or have ever worked for TFA which I have never seen on any other district’s application. The teacher match twitter profile reads as follows:

@TeacherMatch

K-12 Education Talent Management organization that uses predictive analytics to help schools identify, hire and develop effective teachers. https://www.peopleadmin.com/k-12-solutions-teachermatch/

I have done my fair share of looking at job listings in other school districts and Miami Dade is the only website to have you apply to a general applicant pool of  “Math” teachers instead of listing individual job postings which give the exact name of the position and school.

Miami Dade’s odd teacher application process and lack of recruitment efforts make me think that they are not actually all that interested in attracting new teachers to Miami Dade County. They do hold some recruitment fairs around the district, but they seem aimed at recruiting locals who think that paying $3000 a month to rent a 1300 sq. ft. house with bars on the windows in a bad school district is normal. By recruiting the local population who may have parents from Guatemala who sold flowers at intersections for a living, being a teacher making $40,000 with health care benefits probably seems pretty good. If, however, people have a frame of reference outside of Miami for how college educated professionals are paid in other major cities like D.C. and New York with similar costs of living, they may tell Dade schools to take their forty geez with a Master’s degree for life and shove it where the sun don’t shine.

There are some other indicators that lead me to believe that Dade County is not particularly interested in recruiting or retaining teachers. Ever since the teacher workforce peaked over 22,000 in 2007-2008, the number of teachers working for MDCPS has decreased every year. http://drs.dadeschools.net/StatisticalHighlights/SH1617.pdf  I have a feeling they over-hired to meet the class size amendment at the class level back in 2007-8 and ever since Tallahassee has worked to effectively nullify the class size amendment, we don’t need so many teachers anymore.

Another indicator that makes me think Dade County is more interested in removing teachers from its workforce than recruiting more is the district’s current proposal to limit professional leave. http://www.utd.org/utd-content/uploads/2017/05/MDCPS-PROOSAL-3.pdf Why would the county want to limit professional leave? It doesn’t cost them any money. If they do limit professional leave, however, that means they can actually reduce their teacher workforce even more. If someone goes on leave, the district needs to hire someone to replace them and provide the same job for the teacher at the same pay when they come back. If a teacher doesn’t qualify for leave and wants to take time off to pursue other interests, they will have to surrender their job and Dade County will not be obligated to hire anyone to replace them. If the teacher does want to work again for Miami Dade County they will be placed on annual contract with a maximum salary of $46,900 even if they were making $60,000 base when they left.

Also, UTD’s proposal to put qualified clerical and support staff into teaching positions allows the district to shift employee costs. If a secretary leaves her clerical position to try out classroom teaching, the district doesn’t necessarily have to hire another secretary to replace her.

And let’s not forget the sad situation of over 7,000 Miami Dade veteran teachers who are taking a huge financial hit over the loss of the step schedule. Do you think if the district was really concerned about retaining top talent that they wouldn’t find a way to compensate their most experienced and loyal teachers in some way? They want us to leave. Teachers hired before 2011 are like the last of the Mohicans. We are the last Miami teachers with professional contracts and some right to reach the top of the salary schedule. They want us to get so frustrated and hopeless and financially destitute that we quit. They want us to be replaced by teachers on annual contract, 70% of whom will receive effective evaluations and probably never reach the advertised maximum salary. A teacher workforce that can be reduced and replaced by cheaper teachers at will.

All of this makes me think that instead of asking teachers to donate to my blog so I can stay in Dade County, I should probably be asking the six figure district types downtown to donate to me so I can afford the $10,000 moving truck out of Florida. I’m sure they would be more than happy to see me leave! To donate to the Kafkteach blog, you can click here https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=lCxwu5i6V54WhWeBvBNRCBXgEJqPQvCs8a7pRnHSxIcE5UeG1EaPhm5PlMS4Nnp46KRgwG

reality tv

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Kafkateach is desperate. So desperate that when a Hollywood casting agency randomly contacted me on Facebook about a new reality TV series on a major TV network (I am not allowed to name the network at this juncture) that was looking for teachers, I actually responded. I even went through a Skype interview but I’m not convinced that Kafkateach makes for great reality TV. I’m sure there are younger teachers with bigger boobs and nicer abs that might provide for better eye candy than myself so I offered to post the flier on my blog. I had to warn the casting agent that teachers are held to a moral standard second only to nuns and that we would not be able to run around wasted in bikinis randomly hooking up with hotties in hot tubs.  The good news is that there probably won’t be any beach scenes or hot tub orgies on this particular reality series. The bad news is that it involves you living in Kansas for a month. She said the filming would try to revolve around the teacher’s schedule and take place in the summer but most teachers in Miami probably don’t list Middle America as their top July travel destination. On the other hand, if you don’t have any exciting summer plans and need a way to pay the bills until your next paycheck in September this show might be for you!

By now you are probably dying to know what the premise of the show is. Like any good reality TV show, there has to be some element of social experimentation. The idea behind this reality series is to take professionals from major coastal cities like New York and Miami and send them off to Kansas to try to do their jobs in Middle America. Any reality series needs drama and I’m sure they are hoping to create some epic culture clashes. I get the impression that they are particularly looking for ethnic, swarthy, urban types who have never stepped out of the confines of their concrete jungles.  It might be slightly interesting to watch Kafkateach, an Arab Christian World History teacher, try to instruct a class of Kansas youth about the merits of the Islamic faith. Knowing reality TV, however, they would probably force me to wear a burqa and throw me into the classroom as the school’s new World History teacher direct from Kabul, Afghanistan. Watching Kafkateach get bludgeoned to death by some angry Middle American youth might make for great ratings, but my children need their mother. Imagine the headlines, “Destitute Miami Teacher Dies Filming Reality Series While Attempting to Bridge Cultural Differences.”

That’s where you come in young attractive desperate teachers of the the 305! I’d love to see a nicely physiqued Mr. Calle Ocho shirtless in a pair of overalls milking a cow or driving a tractor trailer! Imagine his disbelief when he walks into the local diner, orders a cafecito, and is stuck drinking a huge mug of water-downed instant Maxwell House instead!  “Good to the last drop mi culo,” he mutters. Maybe he could try to teach a salsa dance lesson to a crowd more accustomed to country line dancing? I’m sure the local farm girls would swoon over his rico suave moves. Let’s see how calling everybody “cono” as a term of endearment goes over in Middle America.

The series is looking to cast a wide range of urban professionals including real estate agents and people who work in the hotel industry so if you know anybody in those fields who might be interested in their 15 minutes of fame, feel free to forward them the flier.

casting call

Interviews will be conducted until June 13th. You can also contact the casting agency directly here http://www.popmagnetent.com/

This is a huge opportunity for teachers of the 305 to represent on national TV! It’s your chance to make America fall in with teachers again!

If you would like to help Kafkateach stay in the 305, small donations are appreciated. Here is the paypal link https://www.paypal.com/donate/?token=lCxwu5i6V54WhWeBvBNRCBXgEJqPQvCs8a7pRnHSxIcE5UeG1EaPhm5PlMS4Nnp46KRgwG

Share the Value - Total Compensation Statements

Some things are as predictable as a 3 pm afternoon thunderstorm in Miami during the summer. As soon as bargaining season begins between the Miami Dade School District and the United Teachers of Dade two things should be expected: the Superintendent announces a sudden economic catastrophe like no other and our “total compensation” statement appears in our employee portal reminding just us how lucky we are and how magnificently we are compensated. Although I recently appeared at a School Board meeting wearing a sign stating that after 14 years of teaching my base pay was only $44,900 according to my total compensation statement, I am actually being compensated to the tune of almost $86,000 (minus the $7,000 I contribute to insurance costs)! I’m rich b***h! The MDCPS is making it rain! Only I can’t pay the bills with health insurance and if I tried to show my total compensation to the bank when applying for a mortgage they would  surely get security to escort me to the door.

After joking around on Facebook that when my kids asked me, “What’s for dinner?” I would respond, “Your Cigna Health insurance plan,”  a former UTD Vice President signaled out Kafkateach’s irresponsible breeding habits as the reason the rest of you suckers can’t get a decent raise.

This was the former UTD VP’s comment: “Nobody ever talks about this, but if it wasn’t for the generosity of all of your peers, you would be paying over $700 a month for health insurance for EACH of your dependents. Tom wrote about the $150 subsidy he is getting from the state to bring down his health insurance costs. That is figured on $5.00 per month times a max of 30 years. It is a retirement benefit that isn’t even guaranteed.
YOUR dependent care subsidy comes directly out of the same pool of money that insurance and salary are paid from. The more dependents, the greater the subsidy. Typically it is less than 1/3 of employees that have dependent care at any given time. Imagine the subsidy costs that other employees are paying for someone with a spouse and 5 kids!
The District likes to say they are providing the subsidy. The reality is that your peers are paying for it with less money available for salary and benefits for the actual employees.”

I was so enraged by this former UTD VP’s suggestion that it was teacher’s like me who have the nerve to reproduce who are responsible for low salaries that I had to refrain from unleashing a chain of unladylike expletives in my response.

This was my semi-controlled response: “Guess what? This is the first year my kids are on the district health insurance because my husband lost his job. You are a real prick. My husband has no health insurance right now because at $44,900 a year I cannot afford to pay the extra $350 a month to insure him. For 12 out of my 13 years I opted out of district insurance and used my husband’s instead. For this I got an extra $60 a paycheck and it has been that way for over a decade even though the district claims health insurance costs keep rising. In the meantime I spent over a decade getting $0-$300 raises “subsidizing” everyone else’s health insurance and your generation of teachers getting $12,000 steps while I got $100. Now I get to spend the rest of my career subsidizing performance pay teachers and the union and district are just fine with that. You have some nerve talking to me about subsidizing! My kids are going to be part of the future workforce that subsidizes your retirement so STHU.”

Because I happen to be experiencing some major PMS and because I’m a Taurus so when you awaken the bull you better watch out, I continued: “You want to talk about subsidizing? Who subsidized your six figure salary as UTD Vice President? MDCPS employees. Who subsidized this slick UTD promotional video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-9t1L9H4w ? MDCPS employees. All of UTD is one giant subsidy from MDCPS employees. Both of my videos at no cost to anybody have more views than all of the UTD’s videos.

Needless to say that I did not get any response. That’s what’s nice about Facebook as opposed to a School Board meeting, you can actually have a chance to rebut someone else’s accusations.

The bottom line, which for most teachers happens to be their net pay every two weeks and not their total compensation statement, is that many Miami Dade County Public School employees struggle to make ends meet on district salaries. The district is well aware of this as each year they send out a friendly reminder email of our low salaries by requesting that only the truly destitute bother the district with the employment verification letters needed to apply for food stamps.

But when websites start publishing the fact that estimated monthly costs for a family of four, NOT INCLUDING RENT, amount to $3600, and many teacher breeders take home less than $3600 month, their total compensation statement is worthless in terms of making ends meet. Of course, according to former UTD top leadership, that’s our own fault because we chose to reproduce. Estimated monthly expenses for a single adult, not including rent, is only $994. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Miami

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If you find the information on the Kafkateach blog valuable and would like to make a small donation, click the link https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LLM8XWXXUSNS8. Thank you for your readership and support!