'I am sick and tired of your constant whining about our overcrowded classroom, No.112!'

‘I am sick and tired of your constant whining about our overcrowded classroom, No.112!’

Most people are aware of the ALS ice bucket challenge as their Facebook newsfeed is periodically inundated with videos of their friends dumping buckets of ice water over their heads. What if we came up with a challenge to bring awareness to the general public about the importance of class size? The billionaire pundits get to jam media airwaves about how little class size matters, and tell American teachers that what they really need is access to reams of data about how their students are performing on nationally benchmarked exams instead. As if teachers with student loads of over 200 have any time to analyze data and then plan to differentiate instruction for 40 kids at a time in one room!

I would like to propose the following class size challenge to all of the media pundits, billionaires, corporate education reform types, congressmen, heads of Departments of Education, state legislators, school board members and district superintendents who like to argue that there is no research that shows class size matters. I invite them all to come into a public school classroom of 25 students and have themselves video-taped teaching the class. Then they would have to be video-taped teaching another class of 40 students at a time. Mind you they will not be allowed to teach in the old fashioned “sage on the stage” manner with students sitting in rows with only paper and pencil in hand. They will have to be the “guide on the side” as 40 fourteen year-olds sitting in collaborative groups try to decipher 2,000 year old Chinese documents and pull evidence to support their claim that Daoist teachings about the nature of yin/yang would not support the reunification the Zhou Dynasty during the Warring States period. The cherry on top would be that the kids are working off of tablet computers which they would have no ability to control and ten of the students would not be able to connect to the district Wi-Fi in order to complete the assignment so the teacher would also have to provide on site tech support in addition to monitoring and assisting 40 students at one time. Dare I say that they may seem a bit more flustered when there are 40 kids in a room rather than 25? Dare I say that after this experience, they might be more inclined to believe that class size does indeed matter? But I’m not holding my breath in anticipation that any of the people in charge of public education policy would actually step foot in a public school classroom and put themselves in a teacher’s shoes. They don’t even send their own kids to public schools.

So teachers, I propose a Class Size Challenge to you instead. We aren’t permitted to video-tape and publicize what goes on in our classrooms (but you could certainly suggest an extra credit project to one of your aspiring filmmakers to film a day in the life of a public school student and post it to youtube). I suggest teachers take the biggest bucket they can find and fill it with a week’s worth of papers to grade. Even with an average class size of 30, most high school teachers would have over 200 papers in their bucket. Then have someone film you as you take the Class Size Challenge and dump all the papers you normally grade over the weekend over your head instead. Post the video to Facebook with a comment like, “You think two months off in the summer is worth spending every weekend like this!”

teacher grading paper

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.


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:


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.


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.


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.


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!

UTD Contract Signing

By now, most Dade County teachers are aware that the RIP Steps contract was ratified by the 60% of the 50% of MDCPS teachers and support staff who bothered to vote at all. Despite many schools reporting resounding “No” votes, the contract somehow managed to pass by a 60% to 40% margin. Whether by fraud, relentless district email teacher dupefications from the UTD President, or by teacher desperation for an extra $80-$300 a month, the Dade County step system has gone the way of the dinosaurs thanks to the United Teachers of Dade. For many teachers, this contract was the last straw to what many teachers, including the dues paying variety, perceive to be a corrupt and inept leadership in bed with the district (google those last few words and a rather funny image that Kafkateach had nothing to do with should come up). On almost the one year anniversary of joining the union, I quit the union. Apparently, I am not alone in faxing in my UTD termination letter. This morning the UTD President felt the need to send out a conciliatory email trying to persuade teachers to remain in the union. In case you want to know why I quit, here are the main reasons ranked in order of importance:

  1. I can’t afford UTD dues. My rent was recently raised $160 a month. My raise is only $80 a month so I needed to make up the difference somehow. #12yearsTeachinginMiamiandICan’tAffordToPayMyRent
  1. I refuse to pay money to support leadership that acts more like a salesman for the district than a union boss. I still don’t see anything in the latest contract that was “bargained” for. I joined the union to be able to give input to UTD and hopefully have them take me seriously since I was a dues paying member. Many of us suggested class size caps and maximum student loads be written into the contract. We were repeatedly ignored and told to file a grievance if we had a problem. I have no legal grounds to file a grievance since my overcrowded classrooms are AP and now exempt from the class size amendment. That’s why I wanted something written into the contract! Furthermore, how many teachers are going to be eager to file a grievance against their administrators now that they control the amount of their salary adjustment and whether they get a salary adjustment at all? Remember, if you are rated ineffective you do not receive a raise.
  1. Now that there is no contract language to base our future pay increases on, and everything is dependent upon Tallahassee, why do we need a union at all?

Would I ever go back to the union? Sure. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Make union dues a standard percentage of one’s base salary not to exceed 1%. Since UTD thinks standard across the board percentages are such a good idea, I think they need to tie membership dues to a standard percentage as well. Membership dues should be at most 1% of a teacher’s salary. That way, UTD will have more at stake and they will want to see teachers’ salaries increase because it will mean more money for them. It’s ridiculous that a teacher making $42,000 is expected to pay 2% of their salary for union dues. ‪#‎performancepayforUTD You can afford to reduce member dues by getting rid of that glossy oxymoronic publication called “The UTD Activist.” No offense, but I’m sure more people read this blog than that newsletter and it doesn’t cost a cent. You can also cut back on your party planning activities. I don’t need happy hours, multicultural picnics, or teacher proms. Dare I suggest UTD leaders take a paycut until they recruit enough members with their reduced fees to make up the difference?
  1. I’m sick of all the smiling photo ops with the district. The UTD President and soon- to-be President both have great smiles (see photo above), but I prefer my union boss to suffer from “Resting Bitch Face Syndrome.”
  1. Learn how to make a speech. There are so many issues facing educators in Miami. Why not use the School Board meetings to address some of them in a public forum? It’s embarrassing that every time our very well compensated union leadership is called at School Board meetings, there is deafening silence. I know sitting through School Board meetings is the modern day equivalent of a Medieval Spanish torture session, but if I were paid six figures, I would have the decency to show up and say a few words on behalf of Dade County teachers.

If the union leaders would like a few tutorials on how to make a speech, here are some examples from last week’s School Board meeting by three individuals who have repeatedly shown up to speak at School Board meetings on behalf of Dade County teachers without any compensation and with very little support from the other 20,000 MDCPS employees.

First on the list, Shawn Beightol. Mr. Beightol has developed quite a reputation in the district based on his outspoken blogs and School Board speeches. He even took half a day off of work to be able to speak before the contract was ratified only to have the democratic process thrown out when they skipped ahead and ratified the contract before he was allowed to speak. For his outspokenness, the district has tried to brand him as some sort of conspiracy nut. You can watch Shawn’s speech here https://plus.google.com/100847789170331858146/posts/eFxLaa68jF4?pid=6192670394424583746&oid=1008477891

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think he sounded crazy or even particularly radical in his speech. The guy just wants to know how teachers will be paid going forward since there was nothing in the contract. That’s not a conspiracy, even though the Superintendent’s response used the word “conspiracy” over and over again. He argued that since the range of teacher salaries in Florida was close, that there must not be a conspiracy by Superintendents to keep wages low. He boasted that average teacher pay at $48,000 was above the state average and only 15 districts in the state paid above the average. Our Superintendent loves averages! He loves calculating class size by school wide averages! He loves calculating teacher pay by averages (which actually says more about the age of your workforce than the decency of your salaries). I explained to him face to face after I spoke at the School Board meeting about the School of Choice loophole that averages mask reality. He didn’t really seem to get the point I was trying to make about averages and accused me of not understanding basic math instead. Calculus may not be my cup of tea, but I have a thing for statistics. One statistic the Superintendent did not bring up when bragging about our teacher pay being above average in Florida is that our cost of living in Miami is WAY above average, like top 8 in the nation! How about the fact that according to the Miami New Times, one would need to make a salary of $52,000 to afford the median rent for a one bedroom apartment? I realize it’s not the Superintendent’s fault that Miami is one expensive town to be a teacher in, but he can’t bemoan lower property tax values in Miami and in the very same meeting vote to lower the property tax millage rate, thus cutting his own funding that could be used to increase teacher pay. But, hey, he get’s to brag that he saved the average homeowner $7 a year even though nobody was speaking at School Board meetings demanding tax relief. If the voters were so eager to increase their taxes to pass a technology bond, perhaps they would also be willing to pass a bond to increase teacher pay in Dade as well?

Speaking of the technology bond, the School Board member running for Mayor seemed to want to blame Tallahassee for everything and reminded everyone that we were forced to pass a bond to comply with the state mandate to improve technology in our schools. Funny how the School Board completely ignores that other twice voter approved state mandate called “the Class Size Amendment.” As Thais Alvarez, another great teacher speaker who also frequents School Board meetings pointed out, “Why do we need the School Board if you don’t have the power to do anything and blame everything on Tallahassee?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E39sVzhFEk&feature=youtu.be

It’s worth watching Thais’s speech until the end when she throws in a dig about the fructose laden free breakfasts that students dump in the trash and how all the teachers hate the technology because it’s, “A big time killer.” There are other Thais Alavarez School Board youtube videos out there if you want to search for the one where she reminds the Superintendent that he works for her, “You work for me Sir.” How many teachers in Dade County would have the balls to say that?

The Audacious Lady, Natasha Alvarez, also made an appearance at last week’s Board meeting missing Open House at her school to be speak about the contract. I don’t believe there is a video link to Natasha Alvarez’s speech at the last School Board meeting so I will do my best to paraphrase her speech below.

Natasha Alavarez: “When I come here, it is totally professional, it’s not personal. It is also professional on my Facebook page. No nasty remarks. I had nothing to do about the article about the Superintendent being in bed with UTD. I never wanted to be disrespected the same way I saw Shawn Beightol be disrespected. I should be at Open House but I’m here today. This should have never happened. That’s a big error in scheduling. On twitter we had #mdcpsvaluesmatter. I matter too. When I send emails I don’t get a reply. It shows it hasn’t even been read.

All of MAST voted “No” to the contract. (There was a big hoopty-doo over MAST’s amazing SAT scores prior to Natasha’s speech). It’s not about whether I got a raise. I said “No” because of the statute. Nowhere does it say “Go to this section in order to override the grandfathered contract. That part irked me. The blatant disregard for Florida law. How far are we going to go? If we are frozen at our steps, so should everybody else. I work three side jobs just to survive. At this point, I’m about to sell my shoes just so I can live comfortably!

At which point the annoyed moderator, possibly late for her next Botox appointment, told Natasha to “Wrap it up.”

Natasha Alvarez is another teacher leader who frequently speaks on behalf of teachers at School Board meetings. If you recently dropped the union and now have a few extra bucks in your wallet, please show Natasha some love and support one of her three side businesses:

Origamie Owl, Younique lashes, and NYR Organics

You can also follow her on Twitter. As far as I know, she has yet to start a fourth business selling her shoes but she did create one of the greatest possible Miami-Dade teacher Twitter hashtags ever-#ImAboutToSellMyShoes

Shoe sale sign



If you are a Miami Dade County teacher, you received a deluge of emails from the UTD President over the past week trying to sell you on the merits of a contract that, if passed, will undermine your economic security for the rest of your career. In honor of Labor Day, the UTD President sent out one final email extolling the merits of a contract that will ensure Miami Dade County teachers have zero rights in terms of future salary growth. Happy Labor Day! Here is just one quote from the email:

“Negotiations obviously take two parties to reach an agreement.  It is only human to want to get everything possible at one time, but we know there must be some give and take in order to reach an agreement.  We must also have our eye on a long-term strategy if we hope to improve our working conditions and our schools.  I sincerely believe that this contract sets the stage for a positive and long-term outcome for the employees we represent.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t see one aspect of the latest contract that didn’t read like a district wish list. I’m not sure what part of this contract was “negotiated.” It seems more like the district handed UTD a contract filled with the vaguest language possible regarding future salary schedules and told the union leaders to go sell it to their teachers. The only thing that is guaranteed by that contract is that the step schedule will be eliminated and years of experience won’t matter in future “salary adjustments.” Everything else will be dependent on funding from Tallahassee. There will be a minimum salary, $41,000 and a maximum salary, $71,000. Inshallah (this is a saying in Arabic that means “God willing”) you may one day reach the top. But as UTD stated numerous times this week, NOTHING IS GAURANTEED! UTD projects that we can expect future salary adjustments between 1% and 3%, however, given that we have a Tea Party Governor, a legislature filled with teacher-hating Republicans, a crashing stock market and a looming real estate bubble, we may spend years without a raise and never be able to say, “I have 15 years in the system, I’m only on step 12, you owe me three steps.” Steps will disappear from the portal soon after the contract is ratified.

I joined UTD because I felt that as a non-dues paying member of the bargaining unit, I didn’t have the right to complain and they had no reason to address my concerns. After almost one year as a UTD member, I feel just as ignored as when I wasn’t a UTD member. Myself, and others, proposed numerous requests for class size limitation language to be put into the contract. Every year the scumbags in Tallahassee seek to water down the already watered down class size amendment even further. If we had class size caps and student load maximums as part of our local contract, it wouldn’t matter what new loophole or exemption Tallahassee conceived to undermine the class size amendment. Maybe the district can’t afford a 25 student maximum for every course, but the district and union could certainly negotiate reasonable class size caps for all Dade County teachers and students. Many other districts have class size limitations as part of their local contract, there is no reason this could not have been done in Dade as well. UTD will claim the union is a democracy and not enough teachers expressed concern over class size. But I am positive more teachers demanded class size limits, than demanded the right to leave work one hour early to go vote, and somehow that ended up in the contract.

So as far as negotiating a strong contract that protects teachers from exploitation (outrageous student loads without any additional compensation) and provides some standard expectation of future salary growth in writing, UTD has proven itself useless. Perhaps, even more insidious, is their active role in duping the teachers who pay them to watch out for their best interests. Here are some examples of UTD teacher dupefications in their emails over the past week:

Teacher dupefication #1:

“The law requires the creation of a performance pay system based on teacher evaluations, and originally containing at least 50% of that evaluation based on student test data.  This was bad enough, but more insidious was the language in the law that made step systems with large increments like ours impossible to fund along with the performance pay system that was mandated.”

OK, so you had four years to do something about your whacked out step schedule to ensure that it would be compatible with the upcoming performance pay system. Instead of gradually making the steps more equal, which would have allowed a grandfathered step system to coexist with merit pay without bankrupting the district (see Palm Beach County’s grandfathered step schedule http://www.palmbeachschools.org/compensation/CTA/PDFs.CTA/CTA_SalarySchedule_FY15_Grandfathered_03022015.pdf ), you kicked the can down the road for so long that you ended up having to kick your grandfathered teachers out of a step schedule they were entitled to keep under the law.

Teacher dupefication #2:

“We have negotiated an agreement that contains a Minimum/Maximum Model that we think is the best one possible to solve the legal and budgetary problems created by the legislature.  This model allows for increases every year to be made in a more equitable fashion for all employees.  However due to changes in the law, no one group can expect a $7,511 increase.”

There have not been any changes made to SB736 since it was passed, other than the student growth portion being reduced to one third.

Teacher dupefication #3:

“For a teacher in the middle of their career, this contract will allow you to make salary increases without surrendering your Professional Service Contract (PSC), if you have one.  This would alleviate the requirement to revert to Annual Contract (AC) status.”

Say what? There is no requirement in the law that would make PSC teachers revert to Annual Contract unless they voluntarily chose to opt into the performance pay schedule. That was the best UTD could offer mid-career teachers? We get to stay on PSC? UTD “negotiated” away my right to remain on a step schedule and now they are taking credit for me being able to keep my PSC? WTF!

I’d like to post one union steward’s eye witness account of the meetings that took place this week. His account was as follows:

“The good news is that colonoscopies are free, but it is not because of the union, it is because of the Affordable Care Act. I THIINK I HAD ONE LAST NIGHT.










All of this will be said and done come Tuesday evening. Conveniently, the next School Board meeting takes place on September 9th, one day after the vote and the same night as elementary school open houses. I’m sure the UTD President, the Superintendent, and our School Board will be patting each other on the back and giving each other endless kudos over this “historic” contract at the next board meeting. I know a few teachers will be taking the time to speak at the next board meeting to offer a counter-narrative in the most public way possible. Maybe some of you would like to join them?


I think I may have just cracked the Rosetta Stone of Dade County’s future performance pay salary schedule. A few weeks back I wrote a blog about Miami Dade public school teachers facing a future of 1% pay increases https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/mdcps-employees-welcome-to-the-one-percent/based on a performance pay schedule presented by the district.

To most people, the alphabetical based pay schedule looked like nothing more than alphabet soup and no one could make any sense out of it. Some were able to do basic math and realized there were now 56 steps to reach the top of the pay schedule, which barring a massive increase in Dade County teacher life expectancy, no one would ever reach the top of the salary schedule again. Then last week the “historic” contract presented an average 2% raise for most employees with only 19 steps to reach the top. Many teachers will receive a raise larger than their step increase was slated to be, but some teachers, especially the misfortunate crew of Les Miserable teachers on step 22 would be receiving half of a $7,000 pay step they had already waited three years to get (insert crying emoticon).

The catch, which no one seems to be paying much attention to (especially UTD stewards) is that the words “step” and “experience” have been crossed out on the contract. So Kafkateach got to wondering how these two pay schedules were related and somehow my bottom of the top 20th percentile SAT math challenged brain may have figured it out.

The district came up with an alphabet based schedule because years of experience would no longer be considered as a basis for pay under the new contract. The union will say this is in order to be compliant with SB736. That is a half-truth at best. SB736 allows for a step schedule based on years of experience that veteran teachers are grandfathered into, and then a separate performance based pay schedule had to be created for new hires. Under the law, veteran teachers could opt into the performance pay schedule but they would have to relinquish professional contract status. By forcing veteran teachers onto a pay for performance schedule which eliminates steps altogether and bases even veteran teachers’ pay off of their evaluations, Dade County and UTD are actually breaking the law (see also http://shawnbeightol.com/blog/2015/08/28/recent-salary-proposal-from-utd-and-mdcps-is-illegal-and-is-set-to-defraud-you-of-your-statutorily-established-step-system/) But that’s how we do it in Dade. We tend to manipulate the law (see also “School of Choice” loophole) and do what is most financially and logistically expedient. But I digress, back to Kafkateach Math 101.

The district basically looked at the top of the pay scale ($70,000) and created a new pay schedule based on what a typical salary negotiation budget might look like at 1%. That explains the largest “salary adjustment” being $700 on the alphabet soup schedule. SB736 mandates that highly effective teachers must be paid more than the highest step, and effective teachers could be paid anywhere from 50-75% of the “salary adjustment” given to highly effective teachers. That explains where the other $400 “salary adjustments” on the alphabet soup schedule came from. So now you have a workable blended performance pay schedule for Dade County teachers based on a 1% budget.

So why the need for 56 steps on the alphabet soup schedule and how does this relate to the current 19 step schedule being voted on by teachers on September 8th? Let’s say in a very good year the state budget allows for a 3% “salary adjustment” rather than 1%. If you multiply 19 x 3 you get 57, which is almost the same as the 56 steps on the alphabet soup schedule. This year there was no need for the district and UTD to present the performance pay schedule in the contract because teachers hired this year will not have evaluations until January of 2017 at the earliest. Next year both new hires and veteran teachers will have their pay based off of their evaluations, so I imagine we will see the alphabet soup schedule reappear then. Which got me to wondering if future “salary adjustments” would be retroactive given the long delay in our evaluations. When I asked UTD if future “salary adjustments” would be retroactive, this was their response.

“Retroactive salary adjustments are more dependent on the budget then they are on the evaluations. We cannot predict how that will be affected at this time.”

That answer leads me to conclude that this year’s contract is indeed very “historic” because we will never see another contract with retroactive pay again. It saves the district approximately $20,000,000 a year when they delay the contract ratification and give teachers half of what they should have been paid if the contract had gone into effect at the beginning of the school year.

So there you have it folks, Kafkateach’s attempt at solving the Rosetta Stone of Dade County’s future pay for performance schedule and Kafkateach’s attempt at doing basic math early on a Saturday morning. ***FULL DISCLAIMER: I MAY BE TOTALLY WRONG*** Call me a conspiracy theory nut if you like, but conspiracies arise because of the lack of information and truth from people in power. I asked some of the UTD stewards at my school to forward this Q & A with UTD about the contract from another UTD steward to my staff because I found the information to be helpful and neutral in tone. My request was ignored. This leads me to believe there was just a little too much truthiness to these responses. I have posted the Q & A below, feel free to distribute to other confused MDCPS employees as you wish.

  1. Q: Even though the A0 Salary schedule includes both Grandfather and Performance salary schedules, will there be a distinction in salary adjustments for those that are “Grandfathered” (professional/continuingcontract) and those that are “Performance”(annual contract)?

A: Not this year.  A distinction will be made in future negotiations as required by law.

  1. Q:  Is there any monetary incentive for professional/continuing contract teachers to become annual contract teachers?


A: No.  This year absolutely not.  In the future, the goal is to keep the “salary adjustments” very similar in order to eliminate any real   reason to surrender your PSC.

  1. Q: Will a highly effective teacher on the same step receive more money than an effective teacher?

A: Not this year.  A distinction will be made in future negotiations as required by law.

  1. Q: Will priority for salary adjustment “budgeted” money be given to teachers rated highly effective regardless of their years of service?

A: No.  Our plan is to negotiate simultaneously for both.  The law says that you cannot disadvantage the Performance Schedule.  The plan is

to not disadvantage either schedule.

  1.  Q: “All employees will remain on their current step.”  Does this mean employees will never move up a step and that any adjustments to salary

depend on maintaining a highly effective or effective rating?

A: Employees will actually move up a step in the portal.  Most employees are getting more $ than the step indicates.  A few weeks after the

raise is effective (depending on how long it take to change SAP) all references to steps will be removed from the portal and replaced with

“Annual Salary.”

  1. Q: In a subsequent year, will teachers lose a salary adjustment if they fall from highly effective to effective, or are all salary adjustments

permanent increases?

A: No.  All salary adjustments are permanent regardless of whether the employee is on grandfathered or performance schedule.  This was

one area where SB 736 was slightly improved over SB 6 that Crist vetoed the prior year.

  1. Q: What is implicated by the “minimum “and “maximum,’ as the scratched out wording indicates that years of experience will no longer be a

factor in determining salary even though the categories “grandfather” and “performance” continue to exist?

A: Min and Max indicate the range of pay that teachers earn.  The range is exactly the same at the current lowest step and the new highest

step.  As we move forward, salary adjustments may vary based on schedule and performance and therefore employees will not be all paid   the same based on their years in the system.  Our goal is to limit the variance, but a variance will occur.  The minimum and maximum will

also continue to be an issue that is negotiable each year.

  1. Q:  For employees required to wear uniforms, what are the implications for a taxable allowance as opposed to reimbursement that does not

exceed $250.00?

A: This is an IRS Compliance Issue.  Instead of receipts going to MDCPS, employees keep the receipts and deduct it from their taxes.

  1. Q:  Does the elimination of the word “waiver” in regards to the eight period day indicate that no longer can conditions be attached to the vote

by the staff?

A: No.  The vote is still in place and the vote language is strengthened regarding who conducts the vote and how the vote is conducted.

Anytime a 60% or 66% vote is needed, employees have leverage.  If employees are willing to vote No if they do not get “x” (regardless of

what “x” is) you can attach whatever condition you want to the discussion with administration.  If employees are going to vote Yes

regardless of whether the administration provides “x” then you never had any leverage to begin with.  The change to this provision just

removes EESAC from the formula.  Teachers will determine by a super-majority whether or not they want block scheduling or the 4×4


  1. Q: Will the committee composed of UTD and MDCPS representatives result in a MOU or LOU that mandates set practices in regards to

planning, collaborative planning, lesson study, and enhanced professional development that could possibly demand more work without

more compensation and or supersede  contractual academic freedom?

A: Possibly.  The contract allows for MOUs between contract ratifications.  It is also important to note that neither Committee must agree to

anything.  The agreement is that we will continue to discuss these issues as they could not be fully discussed/debated in time to finish a

contract by the beginning of school.  UTD continues to support Academic Freedom and remains skeptical about some of the practices from

ETO etc.  The Committee is tasked with issues related to a number of topics, some that members would find desirable.  UTD is not going to

agree to something that is not supported by the membership.  Unlike some other issues in the past, we are under no legal obligation to

make these changes.  If something is a good deal for both, you may see it.  If no good deal is available, I suspect nothing will come of the


  1. Q:  Will a highly effective teacher in the “Performance Salary” pool receive a higher increase than the same teacher in the “Grandfathered”


A: No.  Not this year.

  1. Q: You state that it is “your plan” and “your goal” to negotiate similar increases in both the “grandfathered” pool and the “performance”

pool. How can you guarantee that those who choose to maintain their PSC and who continue to be ranked as Highly Effective or Effective

will not be disadvantaged versus those who forego their PSC?

A: No guarantees.  Each year employees will see the raises for various schedules and performance levels and they can decide for

themselves.  I can only tell you our goal as of now and let you know that MDCPS is not opposed to our goal as of now.  Laws change,

funding changes, decision makers on both sides change.  The current goal is the current goal.

  1. Q: While it was previously clear how many years it would take a teacher to reach the top of the pay scale, assuming that the Union

Effectively negotiated a step move each year, it seems less clear how (or if) any teacher will make it to the top of the pay scale. Can you

Provide an example of a case showing the Union’s “plan” or “goal” as to how a teacher presently at each given step would see salary

increases each year that would result in reaching the current Step 23 level while retaining their PSC?

A:  The schedule has changed multiple times and will continue to change.  When some teachers started, 3 columns existed.  Those columns

were moved into one and people were reset on steps.  Steps have been added to schedule, primarily at the top many times over the year and recently some have been added just under the top pay.  Steps were removed 14, 16 and 18 so that people would move up faster.  The

contention that the step schedule has never changed is untrue.  Multiple times step advancements did not take place.  Recently we lost

steps in bad economic times.  This happened in the early 90s and around 2003-04 as well.  Salary negotiations have always been subject to

annual budgets and annual negotiations.  The clearest evidence of this is when we agreed to the 2006-09 contract, we included very detailed

raises for all three years, but the raises in year 3 never materialized because the money was not there. Salary Adjustments going forward

will be negotiated within the parameters of the law.  The adjustments will be more equitable top to bottom whether they are percentage

based or based on a dollar amount as opposed to the current model which has steps of .4% to steps of 11.96%.  Employee thoughts about

the salary schedule vary widely depending on their current step and personal experience moving up in salary.

  1. Q:  In this chart, if I am in step 7 I will earn $844 more than I did before?

A: Yes.  An increase of $844(2%) instead of the base step increase of $169 (.4%).  The entire raise is applied to base pay/daily rate and is retro

to July 1, 2015.

  1. Q:   Is this raise however the TOP amount I can get if I am “highly effective”, or is it the raise I will receive regardless of my teacher evaluation?

A: The raise is based on your current schedule placement and is not impacted by your evaluation.

  1. Q:  Also, if I was on Step 13 last year, will I be on Step 15 this year and earn $48,425?

A: No.  If you were on step 13 last year (43,847) you will be on step 15 ($45,897).  Your raise is $2,050 instead of the $1,853 you would have

received with a base step increase.  You insert $48,425 which is the new step 17.  All references to step in this answer will be irrelevant

after the raises are implemented and steps are removed from the portal replaced simply by your annual salary.  You see your raise and

new salary by moving across the page.  Do not go down a line.  This is why arrows are included on the sheet.

  1.   Q: If they are doing away with the Steps, what is the scale they will use every year?

A: No scale.  Employees each have a salary.  Employees will receive a raise/salary adjustment based upon their prior year salary, which

schedule they are on (grandfathered/performance), and their evaluation of Effective of Highly Effective (If on Performance).  The salary

adjustments will be negotiated each year in compliance with state law.

  1. Q: And, will they ever give us back the Steps they froze a couple of years ago?

A: No.  The legislature did not provide funding to make up steps that were missed in the recession.  The salary schedule is required to

change by law and therefore “steps”” will no longer exist.  If additional funds are provided in the future to make up for the lean years,

they will be applied to all employee salaries as negotiated at that time.  The step schedule will not be used to determine raises after this


  1. Q: So, in a way are they sneaking a step increase in this year???

A: Yes, but we do not want to say step as we are not using that term going forward.  We also have a group (14.13% of teachers) that receive

less than the step.  These are the teachers currently on steps 15  (they get $2725 instead of $3300), step 17 (they get $ 2900 instead of

$3000), step 21 (they get $3425 instead of $5464) and step 22 (they get $3761 instead of $7511).  Each of these groups is getting roughly a 6%

raise (highest MDCPS would go) which is higher than all other employees who mostly get around 2% (but some get less than 2%).  All teachers

are getting a raise.  85.87% of teachers are getting a raise that provides them with more $ than a simple step on the old/current schedule.  We

are dropping the term step and moving to base/annual salary in order to allow for negotiations with in the parameters of the law going


  1. Q: What about paraprofessionals? I’m in the step before last and for many years we haven’t advanced a step which in my case is like $8,000. Will I ever get there?  It’s so unfair that I’ve been stuck there for so many years.

A: Cannot say if it will happen or when.  They have received a raise every year which has been across the board %.  The % is better for many,

but those on the next to last step are clearly the exception.  We have pressed this issue many times, but MDCPS has an issue with steps for

ESPs.  The huge raise that some would get is a major part of their objection.  We also often get pushback based on the fact that MDCPS must

negotiate with other employee groups after UTD.  If they give steps to ESPS (about 4% because of those huge jumps) they would need to

give other employees 4% as they have “me too” clauses.  MDCPS does not have the funds to provide 4% to all.  Actually, they have offered to

raise healthcare costs significantly and give everyone 4% in salary.  That has always been a non-starter for us.  We cannot increase healthcare

costs to even higher rates in order to provide a little better raise.  The two must work in tandem for all.  At least that is what we hear from the

membership when we survey and what we see in ratification votes.  The last contract to get voted down imposed a cost share on all

employees for health insurance (No free option).  That was not seen favorably by the membership and the group sentiment has not


  1. Q: Joe, another concern among teachers is caps on the number of teachers who will be rated highly effective. It seems Broward has deliberately kept the number of highly effective teachers at a minimum.  Read the comment I received:

“I imagine Runcie will go to Tally this spring to make sure that the state creates a bell curve for each district since there is such a variance across districts as to the number of highly effective teachers. Last year it was 39% highly effective for Dade but only 5% in Broward.  They didn’t have to pay us anything so they didn’t care. As soon as they have to pay us more for being highly effective, I imagine some sort of quota will have to be developed. They will also save money by not having to give money to any teachers rated ineffective.”

I know UTD has nothing to do with that, but can we expect that here in our district?

A: We negotiate this issue with MDCPS annually.  The issue will change a bit as the FLDOE passed rules about test scores and ratings.  We will find a way to implement those rules in the best interest of teachers, like we did with the rest of SB 736.  We have to follow the letter of the law, but we have some latitude in how we do it.  It is also important to note that the new model we have proposed (which will keep the value of HE Perf fairly close to the GF Salary Adjustment) should reduce outside pressure to cap the number of HE teachers.  Most districts are capping the number because of the economic pressures of the two competing schedules.  We believe that we have significantly reduced any basis for that pressure with this model.  We had 35% HE last year and 38% the prior year.

rick scott cartoon

This past week was filled with big announcements for Miami Dade County Public School teachers. Only these big announcements were made in such a stealth manner that many teachers are probably still completely unaware of them. Normally my school UTD steward is a man in love with the microphone. Give the man a mic and he can go on and on and on. At this week’s back to school meetings, our steward stood up and spoke for a combined total of fifty seconds. His ten words consisted of, “We want 100% UTD membership,” and “We have a great administration” (which we do, but we know that and you probably should have used your time to discuss Best and Brightest and ongoing contract negotiations). The usually rambling steward’s brevity was the first red flag. He probably wanted to sit down as soon as possible before any hardball questions or rotten tomatoes could be thrown at him.

MDCPS had yet to inform teachers of the Florida Best and Brightest Scholarships and I was beginning to think the district had put some sort of gag order on UTD when the UTD President only briefly referenced Best and Brightest as a “strange program” passed at the last second in Tallhassee. So given my obsessive nature when something just doesn’t seem to pass the smell test, I emailed the head of human resources who informed me that the district had just sent out the guidelines for Best and Brightest Scholarships in the “weekly briefing.” If there was ever a place to put information where you knew no teacher would ever look at it, it’s in the district’s weekly briefing email. That’s an auto delete for most teachers. Unless you had a particularly proactive principal who actually read the briefing and forwarded it to their staff, you would have no idea what Best and Brightest was and how to apply. So in case you accidentally deleted your MDCPS Weekly Briefing email without ever opening it, here is the link to apply for a Best and Brightest Scholarship http://www.formpl.us/form/0B5urFLjA2A_rV19ZTF9aSk5rWUE/

Of note, they are using your 2013-14 evaluation and you have to take a picture of your test score report and upload it with your application. I think everyone should apply and let the district sort through 20,000 blurry smartphone shots of archived SAT scores. Let them figure out who is qualified and who is not. But please don’t tell a particular UTD steward who was bashing me on Facebook the other day for trying to provide information for how other teachers can apply for Best and Brightest. According to said steward, I was ruining his and other teachers’ chances of getting the full $10,000 and I should be afraid of the high scoring, highly effective uniformed teachers at my school who might come after me for helping other teachers net some easy cash.

Now let’s move on to the REALLY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that was made when we were all held captive at our opening of schools meeting and being read the twenty page packet word for word. As we were going over the lunch schedule for day 3, it was announced that UTD and the district had managed the impossible by coming to an agreement prior to Labor Day.


They also managed the impossible by giving teachers a 3% RETROACTIVE raise!  The usual downtrodden masses beneath step 12 only got 1.8%, (which is actually better than the 0.75% we normally receive). District health insurance costs were also cut for many employees. That was the good news. Now on to the bad news (you knew it was coming).

Many of us who tend to be slightly skeptical of anything agreed upon by both the union and the district thought the timing to be a bit rushed. Announcement on the Friday of the most stressful weekend of the year for teachers? Vote to be held the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend when most teachers are off getting plastered in the Keys because they finally have a paycheck again and they survived the first week of school? The vote will also be cast the day before the next School Board meeting when teachers would have had time to address the new contract in front of the School Board and in a public forum.  Alarm bells were ringing in my head and I woke up at 3 a.m. to read the contract. TEACHERS PLEASE READ THE CONTRACT BEFORE YOU VOTE! At least read the part about future salaries. Some key words were crossed out, “steps” and “experience.” They were replaced by something called a “salary adjustment.” I guess it’s better than last year’s “annualized stipend” language but it is still unchartered territory and terminating the use of the words “steps” and “experience” is very scary for those of us who were hoping to remain on a grandfathered step schedule. When I read UTD’s “What a Yes Vote Means” memo, I was a little surprised to see that there was no mention that a yes vote meant an end to steps and an end to being paid for years of experience. When I pointed this out on UTD’s Facebook page, I received a quick response of “look at bullet point 5.” So I went and looked at bullet point 5, which states:

  • “The new Minimum/Maximum Salary Schedule is sustainable and in compliance with current Florida Statute mandates as modified by Senate Bill 736 (The current step model is not in compliance and is not sustainable).”

I think many employees realized that the larger steps had to be reduced because the pay for “highly effective” had to be greater than the largest step and there was no way the district was going to pay an extra $7,000 to every highly effective teacher. What I think most teachers would be totally ignorant of if they just read UTD’s talking points is that steps would be gone completely and experience would not be a factor in any future “salary adjustments.” That is a “historic contract” to parrot the words of the Superintendent and UTD’s President select (not a typo).

I know many teachers will get excited about a raise of $2,000 or $3000, probably any teacher above step 12 and support personnel will be happy with a 2.75% raise and reduction in health insurance costs. If you are thinking long-term, or a teacher who got the usual three digit shaft raise, there are very important implications in this contract that have not been adequately addressed by UTD.

What is clear:

  • There will be no more steps and experience will not be a consideration for future salary adjustments.
  • The largest salary adjustment will be approximately $3700 for both performance pay annual contract teachers and grandfathered continuing contract teachers.
  • If Tallahassee doesn’t send the money, or the district claims that Tallahassee didn’t send enough money, you are not entitled to any increase in pay even if you were rated “highly effective.”
  • For veteran teachers, it looks like you will remain on whatever step you are currently on plus the salary adjustment. It looks like future salary adjustments will be calculated by a standard percentage, so all grandfathered employees might get a 3% adjustment in good years and a 1% or 0% adjustment in bad years.
  • If you are on performance pay, the most you will get will likely be approximately $3700 for highly effective and $1350 for effective. (I believe this is actually going to be lower and be based of the alphabet 1% schedule that the district proposed. Which would more likely be $1400- $700 for highly effective and $700-$400 for effective).
  • There is no guarantee that anybody will ever make it to the top of the salary schedule no matter how many years they work.

UTD seems to be under the impression that many younger teachers will do better under a merit pay system instead of our current step schedule. I can’t argue with that logic considering teachers with less than 20 years seem to have gotten raises from 0-$400 over the last decade and starting salary has stagnated at $40,000. But I’m an eternal skeptic, so I have a hard time believing that either the state or the district actually wants to spend more money on teacher salaries. I like to be an informed voter, so I asked UTD on Facebook to provide a sample of what a future salary schedule would like with an explanation of how it would work. So far I have received no response. But if you believe the district is not going to drastically decrease the number of highly effective teachers in the district now that they actually have to pay you more, I have a one bedroom condo in Brickell overlooking the parking garage and dumpster for $2 million to sell you.

Pay attention to the words of Broward’s Superintendent very closely regarding why only 5% of Broward teachers rated “highly effective.” I would anticipate the state follows his lead with a standard percentage of highly effective teachers for every district.

“He said in any large work population, about 10 to 15 percent will be outstanding, 10 to 15 percent need improvement and everyone else falls in between. Runcie said he expects state lawmakers will put more scrutiny on districts with large numbers of high evaluations.

“When you see a district with 40 or 50 percent highly effective, that defies the laws of statistics,” Runcie said. “We could lower the bar to make everyone feel good. But we’re trying to run a system to help people develop.”


Most teachers will be too busy preparing for the first week of school to ever read this blog or the contract they are being asked to vote on September 8th. But I leave you with one final thought, imagine if on the first day of school we told our students that only 10% of them will receive As and 10% of them must receive Fs no matter how hard they work. I don’t think that would go over very well with parents or administrators, but for some reason no one seems to have a problem with this stack ranking system being applied to teachers.

Happy opening of schools! Try to stay informed and upbeat next week. At least the kids still love and value us.


poor rich man

During recent contract negotiations between MDCPS and UTD, it looks likely that MDCPS employees will be joining the ranks of the one percent! No, not the kind of one percenters who work in Silicon Valley and bid $100,000 over asking price on $3 million 1500 square foot condos in San Francisco’s trendy Mission district. I’m talking about the kind one percenters who can look forward to earning a 1% raise for the duration of their careers. At a time when our Superintendent has declared ,“the recession is over,” our budget stands at $4.8 billion, we are rolling around so deeply in excess property tax funds that the board once again voted to cut the millage rate, and Daddy Warbucks has so much cash to throw around that he’s blinging out school buses with Wi-Fi, the district’s negotiating team pegs your commitment and experience to a perpetual value of 1%. (Click this link to see the proposed salary chart brought forth by MDCPS http://www.utd.org/file_download/1963/Salary+Schedule++differential+Equalization.pdf

No one who has seen this chart has been able to make much sense out of it, but it is clear that MDCPS views your worth as 1% for the entirety of your career. And what a long career that is going to be if you plan on ever hitting the top of the pay scale! For some reason, MDCPS has replaced numeric steps with the alphabet. One would have to go through the alphabet over two times in order to reach the top of the pay scale! Perhaps MDCPS views its teachers’ intelligence as highly as it does their economic worth. Did they think replacing numbers with letters would trick teachers into not realizing it would take multiple lifetimes to reach the top of the pay scale? I may have only scored in the 75 percentile on my SAT math (clearly unworthy of the $10,000 Best and Brightest scholarship) but even I can solve this equation: 26 x 2 + 4 = 56 years!

When it comes to addressing the media our Superintendent paints a rosy picture of the MDCPS budget, but when it comes to the negotiating table, we hear the same tired excuses: the property appraiser’s failure to collect $38.1 million, Tallahassee underfunded the district by $13 million, and the most played out excuse of all time “increasing health insurance costs.” And for some reason, you dear teachers, are the only part of the budget that needs to suffer as a consequence of a failure to collect property taxes, a failure to accurately project student enrollment, and a failed health care contract that promised to save teachers money but has only given them mandatory annual physicals which involve fasting, mail order prescriptions, and ever increasing co-pays. But don’t forget last year’s contract highlight- free prostate exams for all!

Despite the ever-increasing cost of living in Miami, your hopes of a decent salary increase seem to be ever-decreasing. According to a recent article in the Miami New Times:

“Rent prices in Miami are out of control, but not all neighborhoods are as bad as others. You can still find affordable rents in places like Liberty City and Gladeview. Looking anywhere else? Well, you better be making at least $55,000 a year. “ http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/heres-a-map-of-the-median-rents-in-each-miami-neighborhood-7753207

I guess 15,000 MDCPS employees are SOL then. According to figures presented by MDCPS at the latest round of contract negotiations, 15,000 teachers are making between $40,000-$54,999. According to Zumper, it looks likes it’s only going to get worse.

“By the way, Zumper found that rents jumped in Miami 1.6 percent in the past month alone and 7.4 percent in the past quarter. The median price for a one-bedroom apartment throughout the city is now $1,880, which ties Miami with Chicago as the sixth most expensive market in the nation.

Using the old rule of thumb that your housing cost should represent about a third of your monthly income, that would mean you’d have to make at least $67,680 a year to afford the median rent for a one-bedroom in Miami.”


But not to worry MDCPS employees, the mayor of Aventura, who negotiates on behalf of the district during her spare time, declared that there has been 0% inflation over the past few years at the latest round of negotiations (according to individuals who were present in the room). Despite having a husband who works in real estate, the mayor seems keenly unaware that property values and rents in Miami Dade have skyrocketed in the last three years. I hope she doesn’t make such blind blanket statements during city commissioner meetings, “Aventura has no traffic. What are people complaining about?” Hopefully, UTD does not mistake the mayor of Aventura for Alan Greenspan and can counter with some actual government statistics.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a teacher making $40,000 in 2007 would need to be making at least $46,000 just to keep up with the rate of inflation. http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm. Keep in mind that the federal government purposely projects a lower rate of inflation than actually exits so they don’t have to raise social security payments http://www.forbes.com/fdc/welcome_mjx.shtml Because unlike MDCPS, the federal government still believes in something known as a COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment).

Now let’s compound the rate of inflation with the rapidly increasing cost of living in Miami compared to teacher salaries in another major city also located in a right to work state with a Republican legislature. In Atlanta, beginning teachers make almost $45,000. If you factor in cost of living, beginning teachers in Miami should be making at least $50,000. http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/

Most teachers have lost faith in UTD’s ability to negotiate much of anything. Rank and file UTD members have joined together and hand-submitted pages of reasonable proposals to UTD and have thus far been completely ignored. Some of their proposals include:

  1. Salary
    1. Make Permanent and Automatic: Cost-of-Living Adjustment, Annual Step Increases and Negotiation Agreements Retroactive to the End of Previous Contract Negotiated
      1. A Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA adjustment) is not a raise.  It is a common tool used in the post-WWII era to recognize that if wages don’t keep up with inflation, then they are actually decreasing in real terms.
      2. Annual Step Increases for all M-DCPS teachers should be made permanent and automatic according to a published scale. No more “annualized stipend” language and random bonuses. Both can be taken away if the district claims lack of funding and both do not lead to an accruing salary which impacts retirement as well as a teacher’s ability to purchase a home.
      3. Provide that all contract negotiations are retroactive to end of the previous contract.         Without retroactive pay, the district uses stall tactics as a cost savings strategy. Every year we wait until December to finalize a contract without retroactive pay saves the district $15 million since they are only paying half a step increase. Even Broward managed to negotiate retroactive pay in their last contract.

2) Benefits

  1.  Maintain No-Cost Option and Lower Current Healthcare Costs for M-DCPS Employees with Dependents and Adjust Healthcare Bands to Avoid Salary Regression
  2.  Maintain No-Cost Option and Lower Current Healthcare Costs for M-DCPS Employees with Dependents.  Miami-Dade County has over 40,000 employees.  Around 30,000 of those employees are within the UTD bargaining unit.  We have the numbers and leverage to have the most cost-effective health insurance in the State.  Despite constant claims of the effect of medical insurance fraud and rising healthcare costs, the size of our bargaining unit should be enough to maintain the no-cost option and to reduce dependent coverage premiums and fees.
  3.  Due to a poor design in healthcare bands, some employees with dependents actually make less than their counterparts at lower salary steps with the same dependent coverage due to jumps in cost between bands.  This needs to be fixed to avoid compensation regression over time.

3) Class Size-

  1. a) District-Level Negotiations on Overall Class Size to 130 Students Per Teacher at the Start of the Year and No more than 150 Throughout the Year.
  2. b) District Level Negotiation for Core Level Classes to Three Students under the Florida State Maximum at the Beginning of the year and Never Exceeding the Cap Through the Year/ For Non-Core Classes Set District Level Max of only 5 Students Higher than Core Classes for Beginning and Throughout
  3. c) Close the Loophole Which Allows Inclusion Teachers to be Double-Coded as Inclusion and Co-teachers.

Many districts negotiate class size caps as part of their contract language. This is common practice and had it been done across Florida, there would have been no need for the Class Size Amendment. If we add class size caps to our contract language, it won’t matter what nefarious adjustments Tallahassee makes to undermine the class size amendment. Maybe the district can’t afford to keep all classes at 25 students, but they can surely afford to set reasonable limits for both academic and elective courses. Right now it’s a class size free-for-all and there is nothing to protect individual classroom teachers from having 50 students in a room or a student load of over 200 students. We must impose some sort of class size caps as part of our contract language in order to protect our teachers and students against outrageous classroom conditions and student loads.

We’ll see if any of the Rank and File’s proposals make it into the final contract, but it’s going to take a mass movement of MDCPS employees to make it happen. If complacency persists, MDCPS employees can look forward to being one percenters for the duration of their careers. Welcome to back to school MDCPS employees and welcome to the one percent!


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.


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