yugo

It has been a dreary and rainy weekend in Miami. It’s beginning to feel like Seattle, only thirty degrees warmer. Miami is great in sunny weather, but when the skies turn grey, there ain’t much to do in this town. Even with Art Basel going on, Kafkateach is starting to get cabin fever. Even if I had the money, the time, or the inclination to go to an Art Basel event, now I would have to fear getting stabbed by a crazy female artist armed with an exacto knife.

In true pretentious artsy-fartsy style, the patrons of the exhibit were extremely slow to react to the young woman spewing blood from her neck because they thought it was performance art! The stabber is quoted as saying, “I had to kill her. I had to watch her bleed.” In the photo accompanying the article, she looks like she’s posing for a Vogue fashion shoot instead of being booked for attempted murder. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article48177055.html

All of this week’s random violence has got Kafkateach wondering if the world has gone insane. Then after reading an article in the Tampa Bay Times about the Florida House Education Committee meeting to devise legislation to make the nationally ridiculed SAT based “Best and Brightest Scholarships” permanent, I had my answer. Yes, indeed, the world has gone insane and leading the pack are Florida Republican legislators. If there is to be an end of days, it will no doubt start in the Tallahassee legislature. This is an actual quote from a Florida Republican legislator regarding Best and Brightest:

“We want to open up the hood and see what’s under there,” Legg said Tuesday, indicating continued concerns with the model. “Is this a Porsche? Or is this a Yugo?”

http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/floridas-controversial-teacher-bonus-based-on-sat-scores-returns/2255954

Is this guy a friggin’ mechanic or a legislator? If Senator John Legg seriously needs to ask this question, I can easily assume he did not score in the 80th percentile of his SAT. I can tell you without even lifting the lid, Best and Brightest is one giant pile of discriminatory stank meant to recruit young teachers for Florida charter schools and ensure a continuing flow of TFA temps for large urban districts. No wonder he wants to lower the minimum SAT score to the top 60th percentile, which will water down the bonus even further.

If you haven’t heard the news so far, the $10,000 bonus is projected to be $8,600. This is still shockingly high and a fat chunk of change for having scored well on one stinking test twenty years ago. I’m assuming next year’s lottery winnings will be much smaller once more teachers have heard about the program and completed the $500 Kaplan SAT Prep course taught by one of their former students. Oh, the humiliation of it all……

All of this said, I may stand to be one of the lucky recipients of this large sum of unwarranted money. Only I have no idea if the district sent my name into the state because the Dade County school district operates under a cone of silence, especially regarding Best and Brightest. First, they waited until the very last minute to inform their teachers and they did so in the Weekly Briefing email knowing that most teachers have that on auto delete . Second, all we had to do was take a photo with our cellphones of our test scores (Photoshop anyone? Hell, even White Out would have probably worked). Third, we received no confirmation that our applications were received or sent on to the state. I even emailed the Human Resources officer in charge of Best and Brightest to ask if teachers would be receiving confirmation that their names were sent to the state. I have received no response and the several other teachers who emailed him also received no response. Is Miami-Dade onto something that other Florida districts are not? Are they hedging their bets that Best and Brightest will be thrown out in court and they don’t want any paper trail that might in some way hold them accountable to teachers who were planning on receiving $8,600 on April 1st?

It would be nice if Miami-Dade teachers were actually able to do some financial planning in advance. $8,600 could be a vacation to Europe for some teachers, help to pay closing costs on a house for others, or perhaps pay for that 2008 Honda Civic they had their eye on. At this point, Miami-Dade teachers have no idea what to expect as annual salaries. Miami-Dade has the vaguest possible salary schedule in the nation posted on their portal. The only information they provide is a minimum of $40,500 to a maximum of $71,000. So a new TFA teacher may start off making nearly $50,000 if they were the recipient of Best and Brightest, only to get their first effective evaluation and a ten thousand dollar pay cut the following year. How does anyone plan their financial future around that? How does anyone plan their financial future around a pay schedule that may give them a raise of 0-4% in any given year but does not guarantee them any financial advancement at all?

By attempting to make the insanity of Best and Brightest a permanent fixture of teacher pay in Florida, the Florida House Education Committee is relegating a massive portion of the state’s teachers to a perpetual underclass of poor test takers, who no matter how hard they work and perform in the classroom, will continuously make thousands less than their peers all because of one test that was designed to determine success in college and has failed in it’s ability to determine even that. Either these politicians are legally insane, or they just don’t give a damn.

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It is rare that I both start my day and finish my day listening to UTD on NPR. The morning began with a UTD advertisement on NPR asking people to get on the bus to attend the rally in Tally in January. I was under the impression that the buses were designated for educators to attend the rally, but UTD is now offering any warm body a seat on the bus. This leaves Kafkateach wondering who exactly is going to end up on that bus with these types of ads on NPR? Can anyone just show up and get a free ride to Tally that day?

It had been hinted to on Facebook that UTD would be attending the School Board meeting in mass so Kafkateach made sure to tune in for this historic event. UTD leaders are notoriously absent most times when their names are called to the podium (actually they were absent this time as well, but they did manage to send a bunch of executive board members down to do their bidding). So what pressing educational issue did these UTD teachers sign up to speak about? You guessed it, they signed up to talk about UTD and all of the amazing services it provides to teachers. I’m used to staff meetings when the only thing discussed by UTD is UTD and important issues impacting teachers and public education go completely unaddressed, but now I had to listen to the UTD sales pitch at a School Board meeting? And they wonder why teachers complain that UTD functions more like a membership drive than a union.

The following will be my attempt to provide a transcription of what occurred at the historic December 2nd MDCPS School Board meeting as most Miami Dade teachers were probably glued to CNN watching the crazy nut job/ISIS inspired shooting de jour unfold on TV. The daily barrage of mass shootings makes Kafkateach want to ask Santa for a bulletproof vest and combat gear for Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, my children decided that tonight was the night I had to read every Christmas book in the house to them during the School Board meeting so this transcription is going to be very sloppy!

First up is Sara Hays, a woman who has taken on the Super several times regarding the lack of a legally mandated performance pay schedule. Sara starts by reading the state statute and recalling the press releases regarding “a new era of education reform” and the ability to attract our “best and brightest” to the teaching profession. She ends with her disillusionment:

“How reassured I felt thinking my sixty hour work week would finally pay off. How foolish I feel now. A performance pay schedule did not happen. Our new contract obliterates steps but offers no incentives for performance pay. I have written numerous emails to UTD and district and received no response.”

Next up, a very long, boring, and confusing discussion about something called “quorum.” Not being up to date on fancy School Board Latin lingo (the Roman, not Miami, variety), I had to Google what the heck they were talking about.

“quo·rum

ˈkwôrəm/

noun

  1. the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid.

Ms. Perez brought the issue up because about four members of the board had disappeared from the dais once the public hearing portion of the meeting began. Most noticeably absent was Mr. Feldman, who miraculously appeared at the very end of the meeting after a speaker mentioned his name (of course she was reprimanded for doing so).

Perz: “Is there no requirement for quorum?”

Lawyer Man (Regalado will refer to him as “Walter” throughout the meeting): “A meeting is defined as two or more board members.”

Perez: “If we don’t have quorum, we don’t have the public hearing?”

Lawyer: “Traditionally the board has maintained a quorum to take official action.”

Benross-Mindingall: “In brevity Mr. Attorney, can you tell us when we absolutely need to have quorum?”

Lawyer: “In order to take action you need a quorum.”

Benross-Mindingall: “Being that I’m a learner, give it to me in cursive or manuscript.” (I’m assuming that was her way of saying she would like to see it in writing).

Regalado: “I want to clarify Walter’s point. In order to take action we all need to sit here. Does that mean that we should stop the meeting because we are not in our chairs? For the most part, we’re all here. If we add speakers that are not on the list we need a sitting quorum. There is a quorum present but not sitting on the dais.”

(This conversation went on for another five minutes but I quickly lost interest.)

Next up, the first of many UTD speakers, and the only one to discuss an actual educational issue.

Brian Fertel: “I’m a social studies teacher and member of UTD. I want to address the class size issue in Dade. Back in 2002 the voters passed the amendment. As a civics teacher, students ask “how can a law not be enforced?” I’m sure their parents have the same question. Since 2002 the state has watered the class size amendment down and it doesn’t work the way the voters wanted. UTD has pushed the district and the state to abide by the class size amendment. How can a VAM score be calculated if the class size is not accurate? Students and parents have a right to get the best education. Dade needs to join us in giving our students the best education possible.”

Regalado: “I want to thank the speaker, I love civics teacher (she gives him her best good girl student angelic eye roll). When CSA was passed it was an unfunded mandate. It required enacted legislation. It is an opportunity to speak to students about intent and end result and how we need to do a cost benefit analysis. (We know MDCPS sure as heck did their cost benefit analysis because they saved $49 million last year alone by using the phony baloney school of choice loophole. http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/pinellas-schools-class-size-violations-the-documents/2256111)

When you way the cost, the penalty was less than implementation.

(This is an amazing lesson the School Board member and mayoral candidate is teaching children- only follow the law if it is in your economic best interest! The next time you are pulled over by a cop for speeding, simply explain to him that after a cost benefit analysis, it is cheaper for you to get a speeding ticket than to arrive late to your destination. If you are a young blonde with big boobs, this reasoning might actually work for you. If you are old or male, you’re definitely getting the ticket. If you are young and a minority, don’t try this at all, it may get you shot.)

Regalado continues: “Then Charter schools received an exemption. I agree that we should abide by class size. Instead of looking at this law in terms of a penalty, can the state put forth the FTE that is missing to make the teacher’s salary whole? We stand by UTD every year.”

Another UTD diehard takes the stand: “Listening to program last month I heard half truths about UTD and the district. UTD has been offering PD, saving teachers’ homes (they must be old timers because young teachers in Miami-Dade can’t afford rent, let alone save for a down payment), and offering scholarships. Fed Ingram, Tom Gammon, and Karla Matz have done this. We don’t need to be standing here as teachers bashing ourselves. We need to be positive for students.”

Benross-Mindingall: “Someone up here said it’s about time and you’re better than good.” (this is the first of many compliments Benross-Mindigall will bestow upon UTD speakers)

Antonio White (Wearing UTD lanyard): “I’m one of 25 UTD executive board members. Last meeting you allowed an individual to slander our President in a public forum. I came here to provide a factual analysis. I once read we cannot change the cards we were dealt. As educators we are driven by purpose. A higher purpose to help improve students’ lives. We must stand together for the sake of our community. We are getting beyond bread and butter issues (ain’t that the sad truth). We are advocating for our students because our work environment are our students’ learning environment. In closing, I would like to urge educators to get involved . You are the union (unless you are Thais Alvarez, in which case your UTD application will be rejected).

Mindy Grimes: “I am a teacher and proud UTD member on the executive board. I have students that are dealing with so much, I am dealing with students who are having issues. We have students dealing with suicide issues in the fifth grade. We have students living in shelters. It is overwhelming. The one constant that we have is UTD (sigh… here comes the sales pitch). Whether it is professional development, UTD is at the forefront. One of these issues is health care. Teachers thanking me for having their healthcare costs go down.”

Andrew Benatti: “I would like to donate my time to Liz Hernandez.”

Lawyer man: “There are provisions against speakers donating time when they just show up to donate time. The intent of the policy is not being used. They are signing up just to donate time. The board may decline his request. He signed up to speak. ”

Andrew: “I can’t change my mind?”

Perez: “This is not a conversation. The leeway is for extraordinary circumstances.”

Liz Hernandez: “Why change the rules now? We’ve been doing this the last two board meetings.”

Regalado: “It’s important that we as a board discuss this. We have policies and we have practice. The practice of donating time that we’ve been doing for the last two meetings, started four years ago when we had a lot of well attended meetings on specific issues. With the MAST expansion we had a meeting. Are we going to listen to 100 speakers say the exact same thing or are we going to allow them to donate their minutes?

(I’m no mathematician, but I do believe that if you have 100 speakers speaking for three minutes and they decide to donate their minutes to another speaker, the speeches will still last the same amount of time)

Regalado: “We started the practice of donating time to expedite the discussion. The opposite has been happening at our meetings. We didn’t want to chill speech. We just didn’t want people to hear the same thing over and over again and have the public say, “Oh, a school board meeting who listens to that stuff?” (they’re saying that anyway honey). We are at a point where we need to codify our practice. The conversation is about items that have already come before the board, specifically about the UTD contract. We voted about it, we as a board cannot take action. I will give you my opinion, if you believe the Board acted inappropriately the remedy is to sue us. (I believe this action is currently being pursued)

At this point, this Board cannot undue it. I understand your frustrations, but I have limitations. People are emailing us but we cannot undue what we have already done. As we move forward, I want to ensure people are coming to speak to us. It starts to appear orchestrated. We are at a tipping point on this. I think it is proper for Walter to draft something. I don’t want a back and forth. I think it’s an opportunity to codify our practice. At our next meeting we will have a detailed explanation. This board is overly generous. We always allowed people to speak and donate time and it’s getting out of control. It’s starting to impact the meetings. I don’t want people who listen to think this is orchestrated (anybody who has ever listened to a School Board meeting knows it’s more orchestrated than the New York symphony. It’s friggin’ Kabuki theater!)

Regalado: “We respond to emails, we have staff. We can all agree to disagree. We can take it up with Walter. There was a purpose and we have lost sight of why we started this practice.”

Karp: “Hopefully we can resolve this right now. I don’t believe that the MAST teachers came with the intent to donate time. Today this is a different experience. This board is very generous. Never wanting to deny anyone the opportunity to speak. Everybody here is very respectful. I would like to ask Mr. Harvey to repeat the language you read. Apparently this is in board policy.”

Harvey: “Policy # 0169.1 sub paragraph F substitution for scheduled speakers will not be allowed except in extraordinary circumstances.”

Karp: “Will not be allowed is very straight forward. This gentleman drove over here to speak. He should speak.”

Liz : “But I wrote my speech thinking I would have ten minutes?”

Perez: “This is not a debate.” (I really need to start using that line in my classroom).

Andrew’s speech on the fly: “I’m a middle school math teacher. Students have been taking tests all week. Right now it’s taking two block periods to complete. That takes up class time. I’m not sure what kind of data you are getting from the tests. The kids don’t care. They’re Christmas treeing everything. If everything is designed to be on the computer, why wasn’t this test designed more like the FSA? What kind of data are we getting from highly unreliable tests? What about our Internet connection? In the real world, it is not like 24. After this test, they still have to take another i-ready test. And My Learning Plan? Can a high school student design the website for free next year? (perhaps my favorite line of the evening).

The Superintendent: “Normally I don’t comment because it’s not a dialogue. But I need to clarify misconceptions. Either we are a system with laws, or we are not. Selectively choosing which ones we follow is wrong (Did he really just say that? The leading class size violator in the state of Florida and the leader of perhaps the only district to not enact a performance pay schedule, is going to lecture us about the importance of following the law?)

With the chair’s permission, we will intermittedly interject the truth. If something is outside of the control of the board, the issue will not be addressed.”

Regalado: “This Board has spoken about this on several occasions. At this point to say we are the promulgators of computer based testing is wrong. We are not. Our speakers must understand state mandates are issued without our input. Nobody asks us what we think (we know exactly how you feel). They give us the test, we administer it. Vendors are chosen by the state of Florida.”

Karp: “I appreciate what Regalado said. But not everybody knows what is state regulated and what is the Board regulated. In fairness to the speaker, we can point someone in the right direction. He comes with a legitimate grievance who sees the issue with computerized testing and he’s dealing with it everyday and it’s frustrating. Maybe it’s not the appropriate setting, but it doesn’t mean his concern is not legitimate. Ultimately they are here because they want to solve a problem.”

The Superintendent: “If there is a connectivity issue in your classroom, we have email, call your principal. If your Principal doesn’t resolve the issue and we address it, then somebody will call and say we took negative action on the principal. (Growing visibly angry) We’re not stupid. We know when we’re being played. I’m not going to stop being Superintendent tomorrow. We are not stupid. This platform should not be used for political gain for anybody (except for UTD and School Board members). If you want an issue addressed, let’s talk about it. If someone calls the Miami Herald to verify an issue than expect us to address it. That visit is part of the expectation. These are not just speeches, it is a public hearing. It is not an exchange. It is a hearing. Conditions have not changed but intent has changed.

When I am emailed directly, I address the problem. I call the Principal and ITS to fix connectivity (OK, note taken. I am going to stop submitting HEAT tickets when I have technology issues and directly email the Superintendent instead). I donate my sick days to teachers. It’s clearly written in English posted on portal in two other languages. If we need to provide private tutorials, we will (this was not said in a helpful tone but an extremely condenscending one). I will provide direct tutorial session. And by the way, I can go teach the math class. We understand about reliability and validity. (Don’t ever question the Superintendent’s math skills, that makes him really angry. He knows a lot about averages. I would love it if the Superintendent showed up and taught middle school math using the tablets in a room with connectivity issues for a month. I would love it if he had to live on a teacher’s salary in Miami for a month with two kids in daycare. Let’s see if his math is good enough to figure out how to provide for your family when your rent equals your take home pay).

Unless somebody was asleep or out of the county when we raised a position against too much testing, it seems counterproductive to ask us to do what we have already done. There has never been an email that has been sent to me that I have not directly acted to (unless it’s from a person with the last name Alvarez).”

Regalado: “We want to make sure the Board is hearing factual information. “

A UTD Steward (who was not sent by UTD and who did not come to give a UTD sales pitch) takes the podium:

“What is the School Board doing to reduce stress among teachers? There is a vicious cycle. It’s hard to stay sane and teach. Fill out forms and copy receipts to validate what we spend on our students. Especially if you shop at dollar stores. Substitute teachers are scarce and classes are being split. I could go on further. The higher stress levels cause illness or they will choose to ignore it as a defense mechanism. I have a three year- old son but it costs a lot of money and it was difficult for us when my son was born because we had to pay $2,000 out of pocket. He was born premature and it cost another $2,000. We have to pay $80 a week for language therapy. Our job is to care for children but it is hard to do that when we have to care for our own children too.

Hantman: You’re time is up. (Bah humbug, the Board doesn’t have time to listen to your Tiny Tim story)

 Howell (another UTD speaker): “I’m an American government teacher. I want to thank the superintendent for what he has done to help Miami North Western. I want to thank the School Board members for their civic leadership. I’m here to say that UTD is my professional organization. I’m here to help public education of our students in spite of our difficulties. We come to teach Miami. UTD works to protect Miami and Miami Dade public schools. UTD has negotiated free health care options when most districts do not. We are here to let everyone know of opportunities to take professional development (they keep selling UTD PD as well. I don’t need my union to offer more professional development. The district offers enough of that already).

I’ve been to the NEA, AFT and FEA conventions and it has enhanced my professional development. UTD is not here to hinder the educational process but to enhance it. We don’t want to fight. We want to enhance each other. (I just want somebody to enhance my  damn paycheck!) I hope to see educators go to Tallahassee next month.”

Hantman: Sir, you can wrap it up if you wish.

Liz Hernandez: “I need to find out about the policy that states a person can only come up once. Why can’t they come up a second time? The board wasted 7 minutes to deny me 3 minutes. This shows lack of courage. Then I kept hearing, I cannot talk to the attorney. We should feel welcome to be here and not be made to jump through hoops and limit what we have to say. Teachers that waited 3 years with no increase, those teachers lost 5,000 every year! Cutting this large increase would save a lot of money. Isn’t the number one priority paying teachers? Is shafting teachers a good way to save the budget? We cannot just say that Miami Dade pays teachers more. We also collect more taxes. Let’s compare taxes. The money is there and we know it. For a large urban district, Miami Dade’s is an embarrassment (AMEN!).

Perez: “I always want people to be able to speak as much as possible. But if I am not mistaken, did the attorney not read something about no applause? I don’t have a problem with applauding. What’s the point of doing it if we allow applauding? I will sit here and listen, however, if we are at a meeting if certain decorum is required, we ask for that decorum. If you allow people to applaud for good things you should allow them to applaud for bad things. If that is our policy, we should abide by it. There has to be some decorum. Is that not what the attorney said?”

Hartman: “I have to be the enforcer but I don’t want someone upset at me so you all have to decide. For me, it disrupts the meeting. I will not allow clapping. You can raise your arms. Clapping is not allowed.”

A teacher who wants to donate her minutes to Thais Alvarez takes the stand: “I cannot donate my minutes? It’s regarding charter schools and she is speaking as an attorney.”

Hantman: “This is not permitted. You can speak.”

(Thais gives the teacher her speech to read).

Thais’s speech: “Tax dollars are used to fund private charter schools. Many of these dollars are used by politicians who run charter schools. Erik Fresen, for example…

Hantman: “Don’t use names. Charters are determined by the state.”

Thais’s speech: “School Board members are benefiting from charter schools. Let’s connect the dots. How can there be money for charters if this board claims there are no funds to pay teachers? Why is the board giving dollars to charter schools? This board will say they must comply with state law. But Florida constitution trumps state law. Washington state stipulated that charters are illegal. In the Nov. 18th board meeting, the board is not complying with statute to pay for performance pay or maintain a step schedule. Why do they need to comply with the state law to fund charters?

Regalado: “I know we don’t like to engage. But we said earlier we would step in. Of course we are going to say Florida statute created charter schools. It has been part of our legislative priority. Last year a bill was filed to create a standard application and we fought it vehemently. We have been trying to maintain authority. I understand that some people may be under the impression that it is unconstitutional but case law has determined it’s legal. As a point of clarification, this has been highly litigated and if it has been found to be constitutional . Florida is the birth place of charter rights.”

Hantman: “The 90 minutes for public hearing has expired. It’s up to the board.”

Karp: Does that 90 minutes apply to everybody or just to speakers? (Good question!)

Hantman: “The 90 minutes goes to us as well. The 90 minutes should be specifically counted for public speakers.” (Thank you Ms. Hantman!)

Perez: Extend it.

Hatman: From now on, I don’t know how the clock works. Not when we speak because that takes time from the 90 minutes.

Perez: That would mean we can only entertain 30 speakers. We should allow all the speakers.

Hatman: We can play it by ear. (so much for codification).

Navarro: Since you clarified the issue, include that Mr. Harvey. Make sure the clock stops when we speak.

Benross-Mindingall: I have to include the fact that I have had a little bit of training. Listeners need to understand we teach children about children and we want to be fair. We need to have rules before we get here. So all will be aware and we are not looking puzzled. We can’t make changes in midstream. We need to know if it is a policy or not. We are not perfect and many of us have been teachers.

Castillo: “I’m really happy all of you are here. It’s great to hear from you. I’m sitting here listening to you and I’m looking back at the audience, most of the time when the district is responding and you are not listening. How do we get information to the staff? Do we know how teachers salaries are funded? These are our employees and they are so misinformed.”

(Yes, we are misinformed. Because the district does a very poor job of informing their employees! I wasted an hour on the phone trying to find out why I couldn’t make changes to my health care enrollment, only to finally have someone tell me the program didn’t work in Google chrome and that I needed to use Explorer. You would think they could have mentioned that in an email!)

The Superintendent: “When I hear questions about charters and the FSA, these are rhetorical questions. With regards to questions about salary and collective bargaining, they understand but they disagree. There is a disagreement with the outcome. We don’t have the power to overturn what was negotiated. There was an intent for years at this board to help a majority of teachers who felt left out of salary increases. It took a decade to depart from $150 step increases. That was an insult to me. There was a slew of emails I used to get (I think I sent a few of those). They understand but they are in disagreement. Those teachers still saw more money than other teachers. But I understand their frustrations (says the man who has been living on a $300,000 salary for the last 8 years). There is no way of fixing it without coming up with a fair way of providing compensation. That what was negotiated. There is a process to overturn it as Ms. Regalado stated. There is an entity with which we negotiate with (blame UTD if you don’t like it teachers). If someone was waiting three years for the large step, I understand their frustration. Can you please spread the wealth? That’s what we negotiated. It’s a disagreement with the outcome. The union and the majority teachers decided this was a fair outcome.

(I would really like to know what percent of UTD members are teachers and what percent are support staff. I’m not sure a majority of TEACHERS actually thought it was a fair outcome. I love my support staff, but ya’ll need to get your own union. I don’t think support staff should be voting on teacher salary schedules).

We know how that step schedule was constructed. Anyone who is honest, knows why it was constructed the way it was. Who was a teacher in those years when those steps were negotiated?

(I’m going to have to agree with the Superintendent on this one. I used to wonder who was to blame for our wonky step schedule. Was it the district or UTD? I’m pretty confident at this point that UTD was the entity responsible for my $300 raises for the last decade. The district hands over a pot of cash to the Union every year and it is up to UTD to distribute it among teachers. Our step schedule sucked and it needed to be changed, but that doesn’t mean that it should have been thrown out entirely and teachers who wanted to stay on the previous schedule since it was in their best interest should have been allowed to do so).

Wanting to continue that injustice is a mystery to me. This was done in the spirit of fairness. They understand, but they are dissatisfied. It’s a philosophical disagreement.

We all know about charter schools but we are as far as you can be geographically from Washington state (he’s good at geography too!). Law in Washington has no bearing in Florida. That’s the truth.”

Another teacher takes the stand who wanted to donate time to Thais: “Ms. Alvarez would you like me to read what your wrote?”

Hantman: “I think if people come up to speak. They should be prepared with what they have to say.”

The savvy teacher continues: “I appreciate your comments (and then she continues with Thais’s speech)

Thais’s Speech: “Funding for charters but not enough for teachers. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use tax dollars to pay teachers and support public schools than private charters? When government officials call to change the constitution something is up.”

Hantman: “The issue of charters has been explained several times. But obviously you’re welcome to say what you want to say.”

Benitez takes the stand: “It looks like nothing is going to change. I didn’t have a speech prepared. I was driving over here thinking, am I wasting my time? We’re not happy with the pay. Whatever happened with the steps? It helps us to know how we are going to be compensated in the future. I hope more good teachers can stay and our teachers are going to get compensated. I want to come to school and feel like we’re getting a raise.”

Hantman: “The contract has been signed and there is nothing we can do. The majority agreed to that.”

Benitez: “That’s the part I don’t understand. I just hope it changes.”

Hantman: “There is nine of us. If 5 agree to something, the other four have to live with that decision. We want to give teachers what they deserve but there is a contract.

Another teacher takes the podium: “I want to see the details of how my money is used. I want to see the details.”

Regalado: “When we do our budget it is comprised of three documents. The third document, you can request it is a public document. One of the things we try to explain to our teachers. We have different funding structures and some of our funding is restricted. What percent of budget is spent on salaries?”

Accountant: “85% is spent on salaries. Millage and capital funds are restricted. Chief financial officer can show them how to locate our website where it is listed vendor by vendor.”

Castillo: “I’m glad speaker spoke about transparency. The dashboard is a available to entire public. Where is the money be spent? You can go to gob.dadeschools.net.”

Thais: “To learn who rules over you, realize who you are not allowed to criticize. I am completely appalled. We are very moved and shaken by unnecessary restrictions. I’m sure many people have clapped when you’ve had your dog and pony show. I truly do not understand. I have a letter dated Nov.12th, teachers at my school sent emails soliciting attendance for happy hours and Marlins games. But I cannot send an email to solicit teachers to come here? You do not want us to come here. For those of you listening, I’m sure you are appalled at home. People have private messaged me, “Wow, you are not we need.” Mr. Feldman made a comment about my mom at the last meeting…

Hantman: “I prefer you not use names. The rules are the rules.”

Thais: “It was years of service that were taken away. Teachers take notice of what’s going on here.

Feldman: (Where did he come from? He’s been absent from the dais the entire meeting. Mention his name and the guy magically appears). “I can assure you my reference was to a woman that was here defending her daughter. My parents have been gone for three years. When someone stands here defending their child, it reminds me of my mom. I apologize if anyone misinterpreted it.”

Perez: “I want to thank for Ms. Alvarez for her courage and her zeal. I hope you do take notice. I think we share the same values. We want to help our students and value our staff. Everyone one of us wants to hear what you have to say.

We have thanked you and tried to clarify things. I hope you do take notice. It is very difficult. This is all about money. There are many issues that this discussion entails. Taxation, what the state allocates. I hope you understand all of the steps. We had to approve the contract.”

Thais: “May I answer. Why can you speak and we can’t? You have unfettered time. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Perez: “We have limits so all the speakers can speak.”

The Fabulous Perdomo mother/daughter team takes the podium wearing “Drop UTD” T-shirts. Isabella is told she cannot donate her time.

Isabella: “I’m amazed that this problem with donate minutes keeps occurring.”

Jackie Perdomo abruptly tries to shorten her speech: “I’m so pleased to see the turnout today. At the November board meeting a few courageous speakers spoke before and they received the lengthy responses. Board members are there to hear the public. It was very unfair and reflects a corrupt administration. Let’s address fairness. Is it fair that our superintendent is one of the highest paid in the nation while our teachers are some of the lowest? How is it that my salary is only $3000 more after 16 years! It is a disgrace for all of the hard working teachers. My pay stub doesn’t lie. I am making less today than I would have ten years ago. My daughter said she doesn’t want to speak because the board doesn’t listen or will rebut everything I say and make me look stupid like they did to that lady. I’m asking the board to create a forum where teachers can be heard (I think this is a fantastic idea. Teachers have no voice in Dade. No way to communicate their frustrations other than to speak at the School Board meetings.) I am asking to be valued.”

A teacher with a great accent and a great chart takes the podium: “It is inaccurate to say that only 14% of teachers were effected negatively. Our salaries have been decimated for years. I made a chart calculating the increase from 2014 to the current one. There was a nominal increase for 30% of teachers. Palm Beach County shows both calculations (step and performance) and shows employees their future earning potential. Dade employees see only a minimum and a maximum without seeing any future path. Employees have a right to be able to know how much they will make in the future. Chart 2 demonstrates the step increase that were less than 2%. This is less than inflation. This is not a raise. This is a nominal increase.”

Hantman: “Time is up.”

Chart man: “That’s OK. I can come back next time.” (PLEASE DO!)

Another teacher not wearing a UTD lanyard takes the stand: ‘The past couple of months when I started listening to board meetings, I feel disrespected as a teacher. We are not given enough time to express ourselves. I came here thinking you can do something for us. What is the purpose of the school board if you say we cannot do anything for us? I am worried about my children, and grandchildren. It is very scary what is going on. That you limit us. I adored the superintendent. We all know who he is? Why can’t we say his name? I felt so good when he became Superintendent. My eyes are now open. I feel very sad now. I will come three minutes by three minutes and I will be heard three minutes by three minutes!”

Hantman: “Your time is up.”

Charles Carr (wearing UTD lanyard): “I’m a Carol city elementary teacher. I started after the school year started. That became my classroom. My father was a teamster. I understand the value of a union. I wouldn’t have made it through my first week without the union. My union stands up for me everyday. The focus of a teacher should be making their kids better everyday. I was very proud of Karla Matz when she filed the lawsuit. I’m proud to be a member of my professional organization. I ask the Board to keep our eyes on our kids. Teachers are disrespected everyday and I know I wouldn’t be able to do that without my union.”

Mauricio Restrepo (also wearing a UTD lanyard but not sent by UTD): “I came to speak about the tablet situation in my classroom. I will say I love the tablets, I am never going back! However, there are major problems with their repair. I don’t know the intentions of why everyone is here, but some people speak to share experiences and to get things done at a systemic level instead of an endemic level. I’m here because I’m a steward. I love UTD despite how they have treated me lately. It is very difficult to bring change in anonymity. You have to go out and speak publicly. They came. They showed up. There are no other intentions. I put a challenge to my teachers, if you come to speak at a Board meeting, I will be there with you. You will never be alone. If you decide to go to Tallahassee, I will drive with you. I will fight for you and for this profession!”

Regalado: “I’m your school board member. I am happy to speak to you about tablet issues. I know a lot of teachers have been asking about the facilities. I know they are complaining about traffic. I met with the mayor, of course that’s very easy for me (giggle, giggle).”

Yet another UTD salesman: “Congress is preparing to vote to modify NCLB. UTD has been lobbying very hard to get it to pass (I have been reading the modification may be even worse than the original so if it turns out to be another big bag of stink, we can blame UTD for this as well). Who is left to implement these policies? Our teachers and our district. I want to just remind you that in the midst of implementing all of these policies it does take away from teaching. Documenting teaching supplies, DPGT or whatever it’s called, and navigate a software program to document our professional development. It is the United Teachers of Dade that solves these problems! The union provides support directly to teachers and it often doesn’t get pointed out. I want it to be understood we do not think all of these policies are sound. It’s only by working together that we have prevented additional bad laws to get passed.”

Valerie Johnson: “I’m an executive board member representing support personnel. I have been a proud member of UTD for 11 years. Three minutes will not allow me time to express the diligence of our current leadership. Our union president has made sure our school personnel have been recognized with respect when we were told there were zero dollars at the table. I encourage anyone who is doubtful of current leadership to make themselves more involved in meetings, rallies. Ask not what your union can do for you, but what you can do for your union! (JFK must be rolling over in his grave. We pay our unions very substantial dues to do something for us. Not the other way around).

Benross-Mindingall: “I must compliment you on your oration. Did I get that right? I know I did.”

(I need to interject a Kafkateach rant at this point. Did a school board member really just compliment this speaker’s speech? After reprimanding other teachers for wasting the board’s time for speaking about issues that are not items issues that the Board is directly addressing, a UTD saleswoman get’s complimented! By allowing UTD to take over the public hearing to promote UTD the Board is setting a dangerous precedent. Maybe I’ll attend the next Board meeting just to discuss what an amazing teacher I am and promote my blog? Perhaps local business people will catch on to using the public hearing portion of the School Board meeting as an opportunity to hawk their wares and sign up to speak about their empanada shop.)

Angie Gonzalez: “Are bargaining sessions open to the public?”

Superintendent: Yes they are.

Gonzalez: “Thank UTD for improving the evaluation system. UTD has improved this system.”

Tom Lander: “I’m on the UTD executive board (Tom Lander is very proud of this. I was at a PD once and Tom Lander walked into the room and immediately announced to everyone who he was and that he was on the UTD Executive Board). We are excellent on purpose at our school. Thank you for letting me speak. I’ve been a teacher for almost 38 years. I’m gonna finish this race (I thought your race should have been over eight years ago). Teachers saved my life and gave me a reason to come to school everyday. This school board employed me and lets me and all these teachers teach our children. It’s the greatest honor. Its not just a job, it’s a ministry (Fun fact: Did you know Florida nuns get paid more than Florida teachers?).

When some people speak, they don’t know you as a board. But I’m proud of this board, and MDCPS and UTD. Boy our salary needs to be fixed (says the man who has been at the top of the step schedule for almost twenty years and has benefited the most from our previous step schedule. He will see a decent raise every year now that he’s at the top and couldn’t advance any further but will get a standard percent increase on $70,000). Just because I suffered with $180 pay raises, that should not go on forever and ever. We will see more raises in the end even if it’s just 2% or 3%, we’ll go up and over. We need to join together. Together everyone accomplishes more.”

Joe Minor: “Hello again. Good evening. I’m UTD staff here to read a statement from Karla Matz who is at a FEA executive cabinet session (no doubt plotting her coronation).

(At this point I’m sick of the UTD infomercial and hungry. I get up to get some dinner).

Heather Burdick takes the podium: “I’m surprised to find myself here today. Thank you Dr. Karp for letting that happen. I am a teacher but also youth advocate. I also lead Miami Girl’s Rock camp. I want kids to feel empowered. Often times I hear things that are supposed to be happening. Restorative justice is one. That is not the only thing. Our Superintendent has been getting national accolades but restorative justice is not happening. Our Superintendent said even in the lean years we didn’t cut the arts. My school has no art, no chorus, no media center because we have no librarian (True, you can’t cut something if it wasn’t there to begin with. I’m still appalled that my kids have no music or art in Kindergarten or 1st grade). When you spoke of the lean years. I’ve been teaching for 11 years. I make $42,000. I’m Best and Brightest and I cannot afford continue to be a teacher. Teachers don’t have time to informed. When you come to school to visit me, there will be something wrong. I can no longer work as a slave and be part of a system that is corrupt. I’m teaching transcendentalism, don’t worry, it’s in the pacing guide. You cannot be an agent of injustice. Stand up. Give people what they need. Restorative justice, art.”

Annie Thomas: “I’m a youth organizer. What’s interesting is that I’ve been a youth member and for 8 years and I’ve been coming to these meetings for 8 years. Never in the last year have I seen so much disrespect. But that is not why I’m here today. Power U does not fall under the cone of silence. We are going to have a youth speaking to you about restorative justice. I can’t stand here and stand for this disrespect. It’s intimidating to stand up here in front of a board the intimidates you. I can’t stay silent.”

Regalado: “I’m happy to talk about restorative justice. I don’t understand why you started with the cone of silence. Nobody told you you couldn’t talk about that. If we ask teachers to stop speaking, it’s because there’s a certain amount of time. We sit here and we listen. We always stay and we always listen. I see some people are taking video. You can contact WLRN and get the video. It’s a much better quality. You can just ask us for the DVD (Umm…does Regalado realize you have to pay $50 for the video? Does she realize $50 is a lot of money for teachers to pay just for the privilege of seeing Board members in Hi-Def? Are there any free transcripts of these School Board meetings? I can’t keep watching these things and typing all of this up).

Power Youth speaker: “We need restorative justice and better classroom management. We have been in….(crap this meeting has gone on so long my laptop battery just ran out. Somewhere between me running to get my charger and sitting back down this young man’s mic get’s cut off for saying a name).

Hantman: “Youth disrespected the chair and we had to cut off his mic. You said a name and I got a person who was not listening.”

(Out of all the School Board meetings I’ve watched or listened to, I have never heard a speaker’s mic get cut off. The fact that they would choose to do this to a young black male speaker was a disturbing image to see).

Youth: “We must be heard.”

Hantman: “Thank you have a good night.”

(At his point my son is demanding me to read “The Night Before Christmas” for the tenth time . so on that note, “Merry Christmas to all,and to all a good night!)

fed wrestlingDisclaimer: the image accompanying this blog post is real and was not photo-shopped by any disgruntled Dade County teacher (unlike some other images that appeared on the web during our last contract negotiations).

After Fed Ingram won the election for FEA Vice President, but then announced that he would be staying on as UTD President through May, some on social media began questioning the rather long transition period. The most obvious answer was so that he could oversee the next UTD Presidential selection and ensure current Secretary Treasurer and heir apparent, Karla Mats, gets crowned in May. This week we found out the real reason Fed is staying on in Miami was so he could fulfill his childhood professional wrestling fantasy!

On Saturday, November 14th, teachers in Dade County can finally see Fed “fight for our future” in the pro-wrestling ring (hopefully wearing nothing more than a speedo and knee-high boots). After one lovey-dovey group hug photo after the next with the Superintendent and other district officials, Dade County teachers are ready to see Fed finally battle it out for teachers (even if it is totally fake and rigged, no wonder they chose professional wrestling to partner with).

The details of this event were not only sent out in a district wide email but also posted on UTD’s website http://www.utd.org/news/watch-utd-president-fedrick-ingram-in-a-live-professional-wrestling-event-as-he-fights-for-our-future

“In order to make this event a success, Puder has partnered with United Teachers of Dade (UTD), The Florida Education Association (FEA), PTA/PTSA of Miami-Dade County, and Ronin Pro Wrestling! The highlight of the event will be a “Super 3 on 3 Match”, in which Fed Ingram, Daniel Puder, and Lt. Col. Major Mark will be taking on anyone who is up for the challenge!

⇨ Date: Saturday, November 14th, 2015

⇨ Time: 5:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. EST

⇨ Location: Miami Jackson Senior High School (Free Parking)

⇨ Address: 1751 NW 36th Street, Miami, Florida 33142

PURCHASE YOUR TICKET ONLINE at www.MLMPEVENT.eventbee.com

USE DISCOUNT CODE: MLMP001

Also, because this is a community event, UTD and My Life My Power Ent. have integrated a fundraising platform into the event where you and/or your school or organization can help sell tickets and 80% of the proceeds from those ticket sales go back to your school in the form of My Life My Power Programming where you can receive My Life My Power’s evidence based curriculum, assemblies, faculty training, parent workshops, etc. And, thanks to a gracious match sponsor, all funds raised will be doubled! We simply provide you with a coupon code generated specifically for you so you can begin raising funds!”

Since this is a charity event (even though only 80% is going back to the schools and it is all in the form of My Life My Power Programming), I am not going to knock it down too hard. Especially since the highlight of the event is Fed and two other wrestlers (I guess he needed some back up) taking on any one up for the challenge! Surely there are some massively perturbed Dade County teachers who just had their $11,000 step bargained away by UTD that would love a chance to take on Fed in the wrestling ring! Then again, these teachers are likely to be older and might not want to risk personal bankruptcy if they got injured and had to see a specialist using the district provided health insurance. I’m tempted, but I think my husband would get jealous and I have an old child-birthing injury. Tickets are only $10 for kids and $20 for adults!

Though I have zero interest in professional wrestling (greased up men on steroids with bad hair wearing nothing but weenie-bikinis is just not my thing), this could be a highly entertaining and precedent setting event. After Fed “Fights for our Future” against professional wrestlers, maybe he could take on some actual real life anti-teacher opponents. Here is a list of contenders teachers would love to see Fed take on in the ring:

  1. Before he leaves Miami, we want to see Fed and our “Gucci” Superintendent battle it out for teacher raises next year. If Fed wins, it will be a standard 3% increase across the board. If the Superintendent wins, the district will offer a measly 1% increase and the union will have to sing the praises about the generosity of the district at the following School Board meeting.
  2. Once he eventually gets to Tallahassee, we want to see him take on the big boys. Maybe Fed will prove himself so apt in professional wrestling that he can take on “steal your 3%” Governor Rick Scott and pretty boy “Best and Brightest” Erik Fresen at the same time!
  3. Of course, there will probably be visits to Washington D.C. now that he is Vice President of the FEA. That’s where teachers want to see some real action as “Super Union Thug” Fed engages in the battle royale against “Charter School Lover” President Obama, soon to be departed “Dunkin’ your profession” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his boy, Mad Scientist “Your schools are my guinea pigs” Bill Gates.

Hopefully UTD Presidents doing charity wrestling events will become an annual tradition and next year we can attend a lady mud wrestling event with “All smiles, all the time” Karla Mats taking on bad girl, “Duct tape your kids’ mouths” Michelle Rhee!

cluttered desk

A recent headline in The NY Post about a principal throwing out all of her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets has been making the rounds on Facebook http://nypost.com/2015/10/18/principal-forbid-teachers-to-sit-so-she-threw-out-their-desks/

According to the Principal, “It’s the 21st century — you don’t need desks,” Connelly said, sources told The Post.”

As the saying goes, “everything old is new again” and apparently this nutty administrator thinks it’s time to bring back the Neolithic Era when humans never sat and spent their days foraging for food instead. No doubt her teachers’ waistlines might benefit from being denied an opportunity to sit down on occasion to grade papers, plan, contact a parent, check their ever-exploding district email inbox, or just to eat their lunch. Chronic Homo Erectus-itis, however, would lead to worse health for their feet and backs as they would surely develop blisters and sciatica from standing up all day.

Principal Connelly not only views teacher desks as passé, but apparently filing cabinets have also gone the way of the dinosaur.

filing cabinets

As in true administrator fashion, when teachers inquired as to how they should do their jobs as a result of random and poorly thought out administrative decision-making, her response was typical of what teachers are left to do every single day in schools across America:

“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.

As to where teachers should grade papers, Connelly answered, “Use the lunch room,” sources said.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if one were to walk into the administrative offices of this particular school, there would still be desks and filing cabinets. As much as I am at times an obnoxious proponent of going paperless at my school, I still need a desk and a couple of filing cabinets dang it! In case Principal Connelly can’t possibly fathom why a teacher would still need a desk and a filing cabinet in the 21st century, here is my top ten list of why teachers still need desks and filing cabinets:

  1. There is still an inordinate amount of paperwork that comes with being a teacher (most of it inflicted upon us by our districts) and we need somewhere to store all of those papers. I have personally gone almost completely paperless but my desk still looks like an atomic bomb went off at Kinkos because of all the mountains of forms I get from my school: IEPs, tablet computer agreements, testing schedules, packets worth of information that could have been sent in an email or posted online, lesson plans, parent contact folders….you get the picture). Before I became a teacher I did stints as an administrative assistant in the office world, and I have more paperwork to deal with as a teacher than I ever had when I was paid to be a full time administrative assistant. Now on top of all of my administrative duties, I also have to teach and grade and plan.
  2. Even though I post all of my class materials online so that my students can access it with their tablet computers rather than me making copies, I still need to keep a few class sets of materials in case the school Wi-Fi is down. God forbid I’m left in a class of forty fourteen year olds for ninety minutes with no Internet access and no back up plan! Teachers need a place to store those materials, and since about the 18th century that place has been a filing cabinet.
  3. Most teachers sit at their desks to eat their lunch. Running off to the teachers’ lounge is time consuming. My school doesn’t even have a teachers’ lounge anymore. Plus, most teachers don’t have time to chit chat in the teachers’ lounge and are shoveling food in their mouths with one hand and grading papers or responding to emails with the other during their lunch.
  4. There are times during the school day when sitting at your desk is perfectly acceptable. If your students are engaged in responding to a writing prompt, there is no need for the teacher to be circulating the room and they will probably have to be grading some of those essays while the students are writing if they plan on being able to give the students any prompt feedback about their writing.
  5. Most teachers spend an enormous amount of time on the computer these days and walking around with a laptop in your hands all day would lead to some vicious carpal tunnel.
  6. Current educational trends expect teachers to be “guides on the sides,” not standing in front of the room giving a lecture. If your students are working independently on a student centered learning assignment, why shouldn’t we be able to sit down at a desk every now and then?
  7. Shoes are expensive. I have yet to find any pair of shoes that will make it through a year of teaching without some serious damage due to the amount of walking and standing already involved in teaching, even for those of us that are still permitted to keep a desk. I have had two shoes break right in the midst of teaching and I had to hobble around for the rest of the day wearing broken shoes. (Note to female teachers: always have a backup pair of shoes and a pair of flip flops or slippers you can put on your feet during planning. Your feet will thank you).
  8. Spider veins are painful and unattractive. Teachers don’t make enough money to afford the surgery to remove them.
  9. Would this Principal ever think to remove student desks and force them to stand all day with no readily available hard surface to do their work?
  10. Teachers are professionals. Teachers should be able to decide on their own when they need to be circulating the room and when they could use the time more productively at their desks.

Did I miss something? Leave a comment below if you have another reason Principal Connelly should immediately return her teachers’ desks and filing cabinets (if they haven’t already been stolen by other desperate New York teachers in need of an extra filing cabinet or more surface space to store papers).

erik fresen snake

(Image taken from https://thewitheringapple.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/ef2.png?w=860&h=280&crop=1)

In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Governor Rick Scott has denied a request on behalf of the Florida Educator’s Association to extend the Oct. 1st deadline for the Best and Brightest Scholarship. You can read the letter from FEA President Andy Ford here https://www.facebook.com/BrevardFederationofTeachers/photos/a.468695559883531.1073741829.337122859707469/897976140288802/?type=3&theater

Despite FEA pleas to extend the deadline for teachers still waiting to get their scores from the SAT and the ACT, the best the union was able to negotiate was allowing teachers to use their high school or college transcripts instead. For most teachers over the age of thirty who already hold Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees, high school transcripts are generally not what one chooses to retain in their office filing cabinet. Of course anyone with an ounce of cynicism and an GRE analytical score over 500 would know that petitioning Rick Scott to enable more veteran teachers to qualify for Best and Brightest scholarships would counteract the original purpose of the bill. This bill was not meant for veteran teachers. It was clearly meant as a signing bonus for Teach for America recruits, charter school teachers and any other cheap young blood who are stupid enough (despite having standardized test scores in the top 20th percentile) to sign up for teaching in a state that has shown nothing but disdain for educators and passes one humiliating law after the next.

While the blame and injustice of Best and Brightest lies mostly with Representative Erik Fresen for coming up with the hair-brained scheme and Governor Rick for signing it into law, neither our district nor our union in Miami did much to ensure that their highly qualified veteran teachers benefited from this inane giveaway of tax payer funds. Neither the district nor the union chose to send a district wide email clearly explaining the details of Best and Brightest and how to apply. The district chose to inform teachers the last week in August by putting it in the weekly briefing email that no teacher in the history of Dade County has ever bothered to read. The second least read publication for Dade County teachers would be the UTD “Activist” Newsletter that only gets mailed to union member homes. The newsletter sat unread in a pile of junk mail on my dining table for two weeks. Looking at photos of the union president smiling at one social event after the next is not one of my top priorities. If there were any two places where one could publish information that one could be assured that no teacher in Dade County would ever see, it would be the weekly briefing and the UTD Activist newsletter. This way both the district and union get to say they informed their teachers, while ensuring that the majority of them would remain uninformed so as to not dilute the $10,000 jackpot earnings.

Just this week UTD finally sent out an email only to qualifying union members. This email was sent out on September 21st, ten days before the deadline:

“The Florida’s Best and Brightest plan has been discussed.  Its flaws are numerous and self-evident. Nevertheless, it is now the law.

Even though it is not something we agree with, we recommend that if you qualify, you should apply. We have identified you as being potentially qualified, which is the reason you are receiving this e-mail.  You should use the links below to begin the process of applying for the funds.

Here is the link to get the application. (click here)

Here is a link to College Board to request your SAT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to request ACT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to the Percentile Rankings associated with the SAT and ACT. (click here)

This would have been an awesome email had it been sent out in early August, not one week before the deadline! If teachers hadn’t already known to request their test scores weeks earlier, there was no way they would qualify at this point. Which leaves one wondering, why send out an email one week before the deadline at all? Why did they wait so long to send this email? It’s not like UTD is shy about using the district email to flood both non-member and member Inboxes with useless information. Just last week I got an email to attend the Million Man March in Washington D.C. and another email wishing me a Happy Yom Kippur. Being neither an African American male nor Jewish, I found these emails to be rather unnecessary.

Then on a Friday afternoon, less than one week before the deadline, UTD sends out another email only to union members lamenting that Rick Scott is not extending the deadline but now teachers can look into ordering their high school or college transcripts instead. (By the way, I ordered my high school transcripts and my SAT scores were not even on them). The majority of Dade County union members (remember the other 50% have no access to this information), will probably not even see this email until the middle of the day on Monday. Giving them exactly 48 hours to procure their high school or college transcripts.

“From: United Teachers of Dade <United@UTD.org>
Date: September 25, 2015 at 2:05:34 PM EDT
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Best and Brightest Scholarships – Another Update

Neither the Governor nor FLDOE have provided for an extension to the October 1 deadline, but some relief has been provided based on the efforts of UTD and FEA (Florida Education Association).

In contradiction to a previous Technical Assistance Paper provided by FLDOE, M-DCPS will now be allowed to accept official transcripts that include SAT and/or ACT scores.  An email with details will be forthcoming from M-DCPS.

If you have not been able to acquire your official score report from SAT or ACT, you should look into getting a copy of your high school or college transcripts that may include your scores.  You can submit these documents in lieu of something from SAT or ACT.

The deadline for applying for this funding is still October 1, 2015.   Individual awards will be based on the number of qualifying individuals that complete the application divided by the amount appropriated.

Take Action

Best and Brightest “Scholarship” Program FEA Member Questionnaire

FEA is exploring the legal and organizational impact of the “Best and Brightest” program on our members. This is a one year program that provides scholarships to first year classroom teachers who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT and all other classroom teachers evaluated as “Highly Effective” and who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT.

To best assess this issue, and to determine the best course of action that FEA will need to take to protect our members’ interests, we need your input and contact information.

Answer the Questionnaire Now

If Dade teachers didn’t go to high school or college in South Florida, they are going to be SOL when it comes to getting a transcript with test scores in time as well. Which begs the question, why bother sending this email out at all? If UTD and the district really wanted to ensure all of their eligible teachers benefited from the Best and Brightest “Erik Fresen Makin’ it Rain on Florida New Hires” Scholarship, they would have sent these emails out months ago. The question of why they didn’t remains.

keep-calm-im-a-teacher-aint-nobody-got-time-for-that

The Miami-Dade school district and the state of Florida are apparently under the false impression that teachers have a massive amount of spare time on their hands. Instead of spending my planning period grading papers, I will be filling out a tedious form itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons I purchased in August so the district doesn’t deduct money from my paycheck next March because I didn’t properly document how I spent each penny of the $285 teacher lead money on classroom supplies. To make matters worse, this is the second time I am filling out this form because the first time I printed it out and hand wrote the items and only now am I finding out the form needs to be filled out online and then printed and submitted with receipts to my site administrator. Luckily, I seem to be one of the only teachers left in Dade County with a functioning printer and toner that my school actually purchased for me. Other Dade County teachers are not so lucky. See this unbelievable email exchange between a teacher just trying to do her job and a district bureaucrat:

Greetings,

It is imperative that your office send teachers a specified list of what constitutes EQUIPMENT. For example, I purchased a small laminator machine from Office Depot to laminate posters for my classroom. I also purchased an HP printer for my classroom this year after I was unable to receive a working printer in my class. I requested an HP printer via several HEAT tickets and administration because the Lexmark printer was not working and it needed a toner cartridge. Finally, after two weeks I was told there were no available HP printers in the building by the administration and the HEAT tech person at my school site. Additionally, I tried several times in past years to order ink cartridges for the school printers in my classroom via HEAT tickets and administration email. I was told several years ago that the school did not have money for ink for printers in the individual teachers classrooms and that I would have to use my Lead Teacher Classroom Supply money for that purpose. Therefore I have been purchasing ink for the school printer in my classroom each year. Also, I needed copies for my classes, along with many teachers in building, for our opening of school course syllabus and our school site copy machine has not been working since teacher OPT Days. So I have been going to Office Depot in the interim to have my copies made for my students.

As you can see, Equipment is a vague term because I do not know what items that refers to especially with what I have already purchased above-ink cartridges, small laminator machine, HP printer… this year and in previous years. Teachers need a list of what constitutes equipment from your office ASAP so they will know what not to enter on the Teacher Classroom Supply Documentation of Expenditures form.

The is the district’s response:
“Please recall your message, you just copied almost the entire District in your response. The District does not have a list, if we did we would have shared it with our teachers. Just yesterday, we were able to get from the State of Florida the definition of “equipment and supplies”, and thus, it was just provided to the Regions to share with the Principals. Your administration just got it, I’m sure that they will share it with staff shortly. Based on the definition, printers and laminators are considered equipment.”

It gets even more absurd ladies and gentleman. Read the state of Florida’s definition of “equipment and supplies” that was sent to administrators and forwarded to teachers. It reads more like a science textbook than anything that would actually help a teacher categorize what constitutes a supply and what constitutes equipment.

SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT CRITERIA

An ever-present challenge in financial accounting is that of distinguishing between supplies and equipment.This section provides criteria for classifying an item as either a supply or piece of equipment. Equipment builtin or fixed to the building or grounds is considered a part of the building or land improvement and shouldbe charged to those respective accounts.

CRITERIA FOR SUPPLY ITEMS

A supply item is any article or material that meets any one or more of the following conditions:

  1. It is consumed in use.
  1. It loses its original shape or appearance with use.
  1. It is expendable. That is, if the article is damaged or some of its parts are lost or worn out, it is usually more feasible to replace it with an entirely new unit than repair it.
  1. It is an inexpensive item, having characteristics of equipment but with a small unit cost that makes it inadvisable to capitalize the item.
  1. It loses its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.

CRITERIA FOR EQUIPMENT ITEMS

An equipment item is a material unit that meets all of the following conditions:

  1. It retains its original shape and appearance with use.
  1. It is nonexpendable.  That is, it is usually more feasible to repair it rather than replace it with an entirely new unit.
  1. It represents an investment of money that makes it feasible and advisable to capitalize the item.
  1. It does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.

All clear now? Probably not. You are probably more confused than ever about what constitutes a “supply” and what constitutes “equipment” and you may be questioning your own sanity at this point. I’m definitely questioning my own sanity for staying in a profession that treats me like a criminal for purchasing a set of wireless mice for the district tablets that only come with one USB port so you can’t work with a mouse and a keyboard at the same time. Charter schools are robbing this state blind, yet every year they come up with even more ridiculous hurdles for teachers to be able to be semi-reimbursed for all of the money they spend on items just to be able to do their job.

It’s unbelievable what teachers are being forced to purchase out of their own pockets these days. Last week at my daughter’s second grade Back to School Night, her teacher asked parents to donate money on Adopt a Classroom so she could purchase cardboard cubicles to prevent the kids from cheating during tests! WTF? Not only are teachers being treated like criminals, but so are second grade students! First of all, the district should be providing the cubicles to prevent cheating on these exams that they want to base teacher evaluations and pay on-not the teacher! Second of all, why are we putting 7 year olds in cardboard cubicles to take a high stakes test in the first place? Sorry teach, but I’m not giving you money to put my kid in a cardboard cubicle.

Once upon a time in a not so distant past, teachers were simply handed a check in September because the district knew that teachers spent a large sum of their own funds back in August to buy supplies, or equipment, or candy, or whatever they damn well needed to buy to do their job and no questions were ever asked. Then last year we were handed a debit card so they could track our expenses and told where we could spend the money. Only problem was that the debit card company was hacked on our personal information may have been compromised. Which leads us to where we are today, itemizing each 50 cent pack of crayons and being told we will not be reimbursed for hundreds of dollars worth of “equipment” because “it does not lose its identity through incorporation into a different or my complex substance.” At this point I’ve lost my identity as a classroom teacher and may as well be working for the IRS.

Many teachers will probably just throw their hands up at this point and not even bother filling out the form out of frustration, total confusion, or because they just don’t have the time for all that. And the great irony in all of this (of which there are many), if you don’t spend your $285 according to those incomprehensible instructions, the district get’s to keep the unused funds! Not only do they save money not purchasing basic supplies and equipment like paper, toner and printers, they get to make money off of the backs of the teachers who did!

On the subject of the criminalization of teachers and wasting teachers’ time, if you haven’t already attended a district PD recently and had to complete an evaluation using “My Learning Plan” you are in for yet another massive time suck. If it weren’t bad enough that there are now PD Gestapo that will turn you away if you show up 15 minutes late and force you to stay until 3:45 even if you finished all of your work two hours earlier, you now have to fill in a multi-stage evaluation. We had a perfectly good PD registration and evaluation system, but apparently the state of Florida audited us and found it just wasn’t good enough. (Funny how the state of Florida is happy to audit district professional development but has never audited districts over compliance with the class size amendment).

Just figuring out where to submit an evaluation on My Learning Plan is burdensome enough, but then you have about a thousand drop down menus worth of “Strongly Agreeing” about the value of your PD, uploading documentation, creating a Smart Goal (100% of will achieve mastery on blah, blah, blah..) and then you are supposed to remember to go back 14 days after your PD and describe how you achieved your goal. I took a PD at the beginning of the summer, and I was still expected to go back 14 days later while on vacation and describe how I achieved my goal even though I wouldn’t see any students for another two months! Basically, I was forced into a situation where I had to lie and this was all being done in the name of preventing PD fraud! I got news for you Tallahassee, ain’t no teacher got time for that!

wall-street-2-006

Education reformers have been arguing that schools should be run more like businesses for years. Policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top focused on competition between schools and teachers. State after state has ditched teacher tenure and replaced it with performance pay (actually, they got rid of the job security but most teachers have yet to be paid for performance). Now, with hair-brained policies like Florida’s Best and Brightest Scholarship we have entered a Brave New World of education reform and employee compensation, a world where only top test-takers are entitled to a bonus. Let’s apply the fundamentals of Erik Fresen’s Best and Brightest Scholarship program to the business world for a moment and see how that would work.

Setting: (shiny corporate office building in New York’s financial district)

CEO of Gordon Geiko Financial Services: “Gentlemen, I’ve brought you both into my office to discuss this year’s bonus payouts.”

Jeff and Jordon, both seasoned financial executives, exchange smiles.

CEO: “Times are tough in the financial world these days. I don’t have enough money to give you both bonuses so I’ve decided to only give a bonus to Jeff this year because his SAT scores were higher.”

Jordon: “But that’s crazy! I took my SAT 25 years ago and I was stoned at the time! I outperformed Jeff! I made $200,000 for this company last year and he only made $100,000. Why does Jeff get a bonus and I don’t? That’s crazy!”

CEO: “Sorry, Jordon. Life’s not fair. People with high SAT scores just have more potential to be a top earner one day.”

Jordon runs out of the room in a rage. Jeff runs after him. They’ve been drinking buddies for years. He doesn’t want the CEO’s decision to ruin their friendship.

Jordon punches the wall in the restroom. “I can’t believe this crap! Never in my life did I think my SAT scores would count for anything more than what college I got into. My parents couldn’t afford SAT tutoring or an expensive out of state college so I didn’t even try knowing I would end up at a state school anyway.”

Jeff: “I’m sorry man. This is crazy. Drinks on me.”

Chip, a young fresh-faced intern who started two days ago at the company, walks into the bathroom smiling.

Jordon: “What are you so happy about?”

Chip: “I just found out I’m going to make an extra $10,000 this year because my SAT scores were so high! Isn’t that awesome?”

Jordon and Jeff look at each other enraged. They immediately take Chip’s head and shove it in the toilet.

Jordon storms out of the bathroom, clears all of his belongings off of his desk, and tells the CEO he can stick his SAT scores where the sun the doesn’t shine.

Time will tell how the estrogen-laden teaching profession will react to Florida’s Best and Brightest Scholarship program, but it would certainly never work on Wall Street.

homer simpson

I tend to be a little obsessive when a topic really outrages me and seems to defy all forms of reason (see my 1,000 blog posts about VAM). Compared to Florida’s Best and Brightest scholarship program, VAM seems almost logical and fair. All Florida teachers have a chance at winning the VAM lottery and you have to teach at least one year to be entered to win. With Florida’s Best and Brightest scholarship, some teachers will never be able to score in the top 80th percentile of the SAT, especially English and Social Studies teachers (who may have near perfect scores on the reading portion) but are incapable of breaking 600 on math. Every year I try to be optimistic and think to myself, “It can’t possibly get any worse or more absurd,” and yet every year it does.

Last legislative session seemed to go pretty well. There were laws passed to curb high stakes testing, VAM was reduced to 33% of a teacher’s evaluation, and the Legislature ran home early before they could do further harm. Then special session hit and teachers were slapped in the face with the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program out of nowhere. This little piece of legislation has been keeping me up at night and has completely destroyed my summer’s digital detox program. Last night while worrying about what dreadful legislation might be coming our way next, I imagined a conversation between Governor Rick Scott, Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, and Representative Erik Fresen. It went something like this:

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Governor Scott, we are going to have to revise the Best and Brightest scholarship program. My TFA recruits are pissed. Apparently Florida teachers are smarter and better than we thought. Thousands more of them qualified for Best and Brightest than we anticipated. The $10,000 bonus ended up being a just little over $1,000.”

Erik Fresen: “Tell me about it. Half of the new hires at my brother in-law’s charter schools quit after they found out they would be making $9,000 less.”

Governor Rick Scott: “I can’t believe Florida teachers are that smart! How did they manage to even get their test scores? We knew that the College Board didn’t keep records prior to 1988. That should have excluded any teacher over the age of 45.”

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Governor Scott, you don’t know teachers like I know teachers. Remember, unlike Erik and yourself, I was a teacher for a few years. Those people are hoarders! They have class sets of copies that are ten years old! They have maps hanging on their walls where Russia is still called the Soviet Union!”

Erik Fresen: “And it’s only going to get worse next year. You should see these old teachers lining up on Saturdays to sit for four hours to take the SAT and ACT alongside their 17 year-old students. Pathetic. Makes me almost feel sorry for them.”

Governor Rick Scott: “Looks like we’re going to have to revise the “Best and Brightest” scholarship program to make sure only the youngest teachers benefit. I’m not going to budget any additional money for “Best and Brightest.” If it get’s too large it’s going to be harder for me to claim I overlooked it when you sneak it in the budget at the last minute.”

Erik Fresen: “OK. So what sort of ridiculous new hurdle can we come up with that will discriminate against older teachers?”

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “Hurdles….hurdles…hmm…Let’s make them run a marathon! Only teachers that finish in the top 20 of a marathon can qualify! That will surely give my TFA recruits an advantage. Studies show that runners are more likely to be highly successful people.”

Erik Fresen: “Speaking of studies Rebecca, you still haven’t given me any concrete research that shows your teachers with high SAT scores produce more learning gains than other teachers. Reporters are asking for it and me citing that one book I didn’t even read isn’t working anymore. There was actually one study done in Miami Dade County that showed TFA recruits did not achieve higher test scores in reading and math than their counterparts. What if journalists get a hold of that report? http://oer.dadeschools.net/EvaluationMatters/TransmittalofEvaluationMattersTeachForAmericaAnAnalysisOfPlacementAndImpact.pdf

Rebecca Fishman Lipsey: “That’s why we need to shift the focus to physical fitness. It’ll fit in nicely with Michelle Obama’s healthier school lunch and fit kids campaign. How can our students be physically fit if their teachers are fat? They are setting a bad example. The future of our nation is at risk if we continue to let fat people teach our children.”

Governor Rick Scott: “Sounds good to me! Look how skinny I am! We’ll call it “Florida’s Fastest and Fittest” scholarship.”

We’ll have to wait and see what ridiculousness the Florida Legislature dreams up next. But don’t be surprised next spring if they ask you to run a marathon or produce a potty training certificate to be eligible for a raise in Florida.

teach-for-america-life-card-819x1024

In my last blog post I lambasted Representative Erik Fresen and Governor Rick Scott for their lame brained “Best and Brightest” Scholarship program which gives $10,000 bonuses for teachers based on their college entrance exam scores. Considering that the College Board has told several teachers that there are no percentile rankings available for tests taken prior to 2004, most teachers over 30 are going to have a hard time qualifying for the bonus. Perhaps a better name for Fresen’s law would be Florida’s “Youngest and Least Experienced” Scholarship?

One parent of a Teach for America participant called me out for disparaging Teach for America in my last bog. I actually spent most of my blog disparaging Erik Fresen and Rick Scott, but after doing a little research on Teach for America when she asked for data backing up my claim that Teach for America recruits don’t last long in the classroom, I found so much dirt on Teach for America that it merited an entire blog of disparaging them. Thanks for the inspiration TFA mom!

Is it a coincidence that the same year that Governor Rick Scott appoints Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, a Teach For America executive, to the State Board of Education that a ridiculous law giving large bonuses to teachers with high SAT/ACT scores, even though they may have never even stepped foot in a classroom, gets signed into law completely bypassing the legislative process?

According to a report from the National Center for Teacher Quality,

“Since its inception, TFA has placed a lot of weight on academic credentials. For instance, most of its teachers have graduated from selective colleges and have an average SAT score of 1,300, 261 points higher than the average SAT score of other aspiring teachers who pass the Praxis I, a basic skills test required of new teacher in most states.”

http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Increasing_the_Odds_How_Good_Policies_Can_Yield_Better_Teachers_NCTQ_Report

Clearly, young Teach for America recruits are more likely to have SAT scores high enough to qualify for the “scholarship” and they will also be able to easily access those scores with a few clicks of a mouse on the College Board website. Meanwhile, the veteran old timers will have to pay the College Board $40 just for the hope that their archaic scores can be located. The College Board gives no guarantee that scores can be found and they would not even offer a time frame for locating them. I ordered mine a month ago and so far nothing.

If this were just about the “Best and Brightest” and rewarding teachers with high test scores, why were GRE scores not an option? Because Teach for America recruits don’t have any GRE scores. Teach for America is what you do to enhance your resume to get into graduate school and to help pay for graduate school once your two years of servitude are over. Teach for America recruits will be able to count on making an extra $10,000 for the duration of their service because A) they automatically get the bonus as a new hire B) they won’t have an evaluation to base the bonus on once they have served the first year. There is a nine month lag time in finalizing teacher evaluations because of VAM. So the Teach for America recruit can make an easy extra $20,000 before they run off to law school, become a TFA lobbyist in DC, or become principal of a charter school before they ever receive a finalized evaluation. A recent study by Mathematica concluded:

“More than 87 percent of TFA teachers say they don’t plan on remaining teachers throughout their careers, compared with 26.3 percent of non-TFA teachers working in the same subjects, grades, and schools, according to an analysis released last week by Mathematica Policy Research (PDF).”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-09/most-teach-for-america-instructors-plan-to-flee-teaching

The National Center for Teacher Quality (an organization who’s advisory board is filled with the likes of Michelle Rhee, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and charter school/hedge fund donation “no excuses” queen Eva Moscowitz) concludes that districts that seek to employ the high IQ master race teacher need to prepare for high teacher turnover:

“The findings on college selectivity lend further support to what is already a robust body of evidence indicating that teachers with strong academic credentials are more likely to produce greater student learning gains. However, districts which purposely recruit candidates with higher academic credentials may need to prepare for higher turnover rates, unless they also address those factors that cause those teachers who have the most other options to leave the classroom. http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Increasing_the_Odds_How_Good_Policies_Can_Yield_Better_Teachers_NCTQ_Report

The report goes on to state:

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, first- year teachers who scored in the top quartile on the SAT were twice as likely to leave teaching after five years as those who scored in the bottom quartile.

  • Similarly, Richard Murnane and others found that both beginning and experienced teachers with higher scores on a licensing examination were more likely to leave the profession. This was particularly true for white teachers. Murnane also found that teachers with higher IQ scores were more likely to leave teaching at the end of each year than those with low IQ scores.”

There seems to be very strong data to suggest that these high SAT score teachers are going to leave the profession in a very short amount of time. Which if you are the state of Florida doing everything possible to eradicate teacher pension plans, this a great human resource strategy! Bring in the brainiacs because we know they won’t last long enough to collect a pension! School districts will also enjoy the short teaching span of TFA recruits because they will have fewer health insurance costs, be young enough to have no children so they can devote hours to extra school activities and meetings, and think living with roommates is still cool!

So what about those amazing learning gains by the high IQ quick turnover TFA teacher types? Even the TFA/charter school advised National Center for Teacher Quality could not find very compelling data:

“A recent study from Mathematica Policy Research found that first and second year Teach For America teachers produced slightly higher math gains and equivalent reading gains as more experienced, traditionally certified teachers in the same schools.”

Wow! Slightly higher math scores and equivalent reading gains! Well that’s the sort of compelling data that should lead us to offer these master race teachers an extra $10,000!

Perhaps the real mastermind behind Florida’s “Best and Brightest” was Rebecca Fishman Lipsey? Erik Fresen may have been chosen to be the fall guy for the bill since he heads the Education Budget Committee and had the ability to sneak it in during special session. Charter schools also have a lot to gain from the Best and Brightest Scholarship program since they are hurting for teachers to work in their schools, which offer low salaries, no job security, and demanding hours. There is a strong link between TFA and the charter industry. If you watch this youtube video from a former TFA recruit trying to discourage other young people from joining TFA, she mentions that she received a ton of emails from charter schools asking her to come work in their schools once she finished her service because both TFA and charter schools shared a commitment to “excellence.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAKHHHDi8vE

We may never know whether Florida’s “Best and Brightest” Scholarship was designed primarily for Teach for America recruits or to assist in luring young grads to teach in Florida’s ever expanding charter school industry. We can conclude that you, veteran career teacher, be you “highly effective” or just “effective” were not the targeted recipient of this bill. The Florida legislature did not put any money in the 2014-15 budget to pay for the merit pay law it passed three years ago, back in the good ole’ days when all teachers needed was a “highly effective” evaluation to qualilfy.

baby money

In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to dedicate this blog post to all of the Dade County teachers who dared to reproduce. After a Teacher Appreciation week filled with token robo calls and mass emails expressing words of gratitude, I’m done with sentiment and I want to deal with some cold hard facts. The fact is, that if you choose to become a teacher breeder in Dade County, you are also choosing a path to poverty. This is especially true if you happen to be a single parent teacher (of which I know many) whether it be through circumstance, death or divorce.

According to the Miami curbed.com, the median rent for a two bedroom apartment in Miami is $2450, making Miami the 8th most expensive city for rent in the nation. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/median-rent-in-miami-for-a-two-bedroom-apartment-is-2-450-eighth-highest-in-nation-7602263

Miami rent

This becomes an even more depressing economic figure for the teacher breeder when you take into account that Miami ranks 57th out of 60 urban areas for teacher pay. http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/2014_Teacher_Pay_Report-NCPA_MacIver.pdf

You can check out this interactive map of teacher salaries from Mother Jones magazine if you would like to find a city somewhere in America where you might be able to continue your career as a teacher and still be able to afford to reproduce. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/map-teachers-salaries-by-city

Because I’m dealing with cold hard facts, I am going to attempt to illustrate how the teacher breeder living and working in Miami-Dade County is on the path to financial ruin using some basic math. Since we teach in the era of Common Core math, this will have to take the form of a word problem.

Teacher A is a young single teacher with no children. As a first year teacher in Miami Dade County their annual salary is $40,000. After taxes, their take home pay is $3200 over ten months. In order to survive over the summer they will have to save $500 a month. This leaves Teacher A with $2700 a month for expenses. Teacher A is renting a small studio apartment or possibly has a roommate and is paying $1200 a month for rent. Teacher A does not have to pay for health insurance since they have no dependents. Teacher A chooses to live near their school and rides a bike to work. Teacher A eats a lot of ramen noodles and spends $200 a month on food. Teacher A has a second job at a restaurant and makes an extra $500 a week. How much money does Teacher A have left over at the end of the month?

Answer: $1800

Teacher A, who is young enough to have no responsibilities and enough energy for a second job, is thinking “Woo-hoo! This teacher gig is pretty good!”

Fast forward ten years. Teacher A has now become Teacher B (B is for breeder). Teacher B reproduced with an Argentinian bus boy who has since been deported and pays no child support. After ten years of teaching, Teacher B is making an annual salary of $42,000. Their take home pay after taxes is $3400 a month over a ten month period. They have to set aside $700 a month to survive over the summer. This leaves Teacher B with $2700 for monthly expenses. Teacher B pays $2400 a month for a two bedroom apartment. Teacher B also has to pay $700 a month to insure their child. Oops! Teacher B is already in the hole and they haven’t even paid for food! Teacher B bought a used Honda civic in cash with the money they saved when working an extra job before they had children. They still have to pay $200 a month for car insurance, gas, and tolls. Teacher B’s child is young enough to be in day care at a cost of $800 a month. Teacher B’s child is still in diapers leading to a monthly grocery bill of $500 a month. How much is Teacher B in the hole at the end of every month?

Answer: -$1900

Teacher B is running a monthly deficit of $1900. Teacher B, who is now middle aged and doesn’t have the energy or the looks to make $500 a week waiting tables, is now contemplating a move to back to their parents’ home in Oklahoma.

Of course there are some teacher breeders who married well (you can tell who they are by the car they drive). In that case, $42,000 a year is a decent secondary income. The reality is that the majority of Miami Dade teacher breeders are not married to doctors or lawyers and some are even married to, God forbid, another teacher. Many teachers chose their profession because they love children. It is a sad irony that if these teachers want to continue to work in Miami Dade County Public Schools, they may have to make the economic decision to forgo having children of their own.

On a cheerier note, a very happy Mother’s Day to all of my teacher breeder readers! Our little bundles of joy are way better than those fancy European vacations some of our childless teacher colleagues get to take every summer.

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