As subtropical storm Alberto washes away Miamians Memorial Day weekend plans, it seems fitting to pause and reflect on how superintendent Alberto has washed away Miami teacher pay during his ten year tenure. The first step to permanent teacher salary suppression took place during the Great Recession when step advancements were withheld for three years and teachers were never advanced accordingly on the step schedule when the economy recovered, thus delaying the ever evasive lifetime journey to the top of the pay scale.

Fed-and-AC

After negotiating away the steps entirely in September of 2015 with the assistance of current FEA Vice President/FEA Presidential candidate and former UTD President Fed Ingram, the current maximum teacher pay of $72,750 has become an unattainable Promised Land for all but a few thousand teachers who through dumb luck reached the top of the pay scale before steps were abolished. The withholding of steps for three years followed by the removal of the step schedule altogether, has permanently suppressed the salaries of mid to late career teachers in Miami Dade and the result has been a massive savings for the district.

In a rare moment of transparency for both the district and UTD, there was mention of a mysterious $50 million that was transferred into the general fund that could be used for salaries in December of 2017 just weeks after teachers voted yes to a 2-2.67% raise.

$50 million

There was no mention of where this $50 million dollars that could be used for salaries suddenly appeared from, why it wasn’t used for 2017-18 teacher salaries, and where it went after December 2017. It’s kind of like if you and your spouse went to buy a house, he insists that there is no way you can afford the house you really want, so you settle for a smaller house, sign the contract, and the next week your husband transfers $50 million into your checking account. You might be like, “WTF? Why didn’t you tell me we had an extra $50 million lying around before we signed the contract for the smaller house?”

Some are wondering exactly where this extra $50 million came from, and my wild theory (which may be totally off base), is that it is a reflection of how much money the district is saving on teacher salaries since they delayed step advancements for three years and then transitioned to a percentage based salary advancement. The former step schedule was based on an average step increase of around 3%. But the steps were so unequal in Miami Dade that some teachers at the bottom of the pay scale received 0-0.75% for the first 13 years with the promise of receiving 5-18% step increases in their mid to late career. Only now that the steps were thrown out, they are looking at a future of 2-3% increases in a booming economy thus ensuring they will never reach the advertised $72,750 maximum pay.

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After running the math on this rainy Memorial Day weekend regarding the salary savings to the district on mid to late career teacher pay using first hand statements of 2017 salary, the 2013 step schedule, and a public records release of how many teachers were at each step as of 2014 before steps disappeared from the system, I compiled the following chart.

Miami Dade Teacher Salary Savings After Removal of Steps 

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These numbers are neither perfect nor exact, but the savings are significant and the number coincides with the mysterious $50 million that appeared only after teachers agreed to a 2-2.67% raise. It makes one wonder, what if UTD hadn’t presented a 2-2.67% offer (worth approximately $30 million) to the bargaining unit? What if they had demanded more? What if teachers had voted down the contract and forced the district and union back to the bargaining table? Would the mysterious $50 million suddenly have appeared and been used to increase salaries for the 2017-18 school year?

As we enter the 2018-19 bargaining season, let the mysterious $50 million be a lesson for both the union and MDCPS employees, when the district says they have no new money for salary increases, there’s probably $50 million worth of old money in a secret vault somewhere on N.E. Second Avenue just waiting for you to demand that it be used.

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worst paid

As collective bargaining begins for the 2018-19 school year and the teacher compensation task force is set to hold its first meeting, Kafkateach decided to spend five minutes creating a revised step schedule that could conform to the mandates of SB 736 and allow the grandfathered veteran teachers to have some semblance of a financial future working for the MDCPS.  Because union leadership has apparently caught Royal wedding fever and is too busy on Facebook posting irrelevant nonsense like this

Royal Wedding

Kafkateach has taken it upon herself to find a financially feasible solution to the quagmire of how to solve the abysmally low mid to late career teacher compensation in Miami Dade County Public Schools. Upon careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to fairly compensate mid to late career teachers for the financial injustices forced upon them through a career’s worth of being undermined through UTD’s collective bargaining, would be to bring back steps. It couldn’t and shouldn’t be in the form of the whacked out South Florida version of steps where teachers spent the first half of their career earning $0-$300 salary increases only to be rewarded with an $8,000 step at the end of their career.

2006

That schedule was a collective bargaining abomination and would be financially impossible to implement according to SB 736 which mandates that the highly effective salary adjustment be higher than the largest step increase and the effective salary adjustment be 50-75% of the highly effective adjustment.

Salary adjustments.—Salary adjustments for highly
  627  effective or effective performance shall be established as
  628  follows:
  629         (I) The annual salary adjustment under the performance
  630  salary schedule for an employee rated as highly effective must
  631  be greater than the highest annual salary adjustment available
  632  to an employee of the same classification through any other
  633  salary schedule adopted by the district.
  634         (II) The annual salary adjustment under the performance
  635  salary schedule for an employee rated as effective must be equal
  636  to at least 50 percent and no more than 75 percent of the annual
  637  adjustment provided for a highly effective employee of the same
  638  classification.

Contrary to what South Florida union leadership repeatedly told their members, SB736 DID NOT MAKE STEPS ILLEGAL! Quite the opposite, the law states that grandfathered teachers were to remain on the grandfathered step schedule and they could only choose to opt into performance pay by relinquishing their continuing contract status.

Instructional
  576  personnel on annual contract as of July 1, 2014, shall be placed
  577  on the performance salary schedule adopted under subparagraph 5.
  578  Instructional personnel on continuing contract or professional
  579  service contract may opt into the performance salary schedule if
  580  the employee relinquishes such contract and agrees to be
  581  employed on an annual contract under s. 1012.335. Such an
  582  employee shall be placed on the performance salary schedule and
  583  may not return to continuing contract or professional service
  584  contract status. Any employee who opts into the performance
  585  salary schedule may not return to the grandfathered salary
  586  schedule.

Many Florida districts continue to use a step schedules and developed step schedules that could comply with the performance pay law without bankrupting districts. Somehow South Florida districts have implemented their own versions of SB 736 by doing away with steps altogether and using a maximum flexibility percentage based salary adjustment “schedule” that can be used by districts to bankrupt their teaching workforce instead.

For teachers that spent their entire teaching career earning 0-0.75% salary adjustments in anticipation of earning 5-15% salary increases in the second half of their careers, 2% salary increases for the foreseeable future is not going to cut it. A $750 retention supplement is not going to cut it either. Mid to late career teachers in Miami need to see major gains to compensate them for the financial losses they have already incurred. The only way to do that, is to bring back a step schedule that can comply with mandates of SB 736 while honoring the work of their veteran teachers by placing them on a new step that would better mirror what they should be making at this point in their career had they started in a normal district with equal step increments or started under the current performance based pay.

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For the purposes of being too lazy to bust out a calculator and bad at math with a readership that is also pretty bad at math, Kafkateach used a uniform step adjustment of $1,000 to show that steps are not incongruent with performance pay.  Some late careers might moan, “I should have been at the top of the pay scale four years ago!” but the steps could be adjusted to be a little higher overall or a little higher at the end of the pay scale to reduce the number of years it takes to get to top pay. Teachers’ years of experience would be honored and mid career teachers would be placed half way up the pay scale instead of stuck at the bottom after 15-18 years. Keep in mind that a current 15 year veteran makes $46,000, a current 22 year veteran makes $55,000 and a 25 year veteran makes $61,000. This pay scale would be a vast improvement over what they currently make and would provide them with a pathway to the top of the pay scale.

Example of a SB 736 Compliant Step Schedule

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Of course critics will say that the law mandates that districts use their 2014 grandfathered schedules. But the law also states that teachers were supposed to remain on the grandfathered step schedule and only voluntarily opt into performance pay.  South Florida districts haven’t been following the law for the past three years and the state doesn’t seem to be cracking down on them. So why not bring back a kinder gentler version of steps and honor the years of service of your veteran teachers by placing them where they should have been all along?

 

 

 

 

merit pay Fl

Hard to believe it’s been seven years since Florida passed SB 736, a law which was meant to boost student achievement by financially rewarding highly effective educators while ridding the system of ineffective teachers. That’s if you were actually naive enough to believe the publicly stated aims of Florida legislators, in which case I have a Miami bridge to sell you.

Florida politicians love to create evaluation systems for teachers, so I think it’s only fair to evaluate the performance of Florida’s performance pay law.

Strand 1  End Tenure

Stated Goal: Boost student achievement by ending job security for teachers.

Performance rating: Unsatisfactory

According to a recently released study by the Brookings Institute on the effect of ending tenure in Florida on student achievement, the authors concluded, “We find limited and circumstantial evidence that Florida’s tenure reform slightly increased student test achievement in math and reading.”

You can read the full Brookings report on teacher tenure here

Actual Goal: Strip teachers of job security rendering them too scared to criticize the privatization of public eduction or protest low salaries. Create an equal playing field between charters and public schools so no Florida educator would ever have job security again.

Performance rating: Highly Effective

As educators from West Virginia, to Oklahoma, to Arizona hold mass rallies and walk outs to protest low funding and low pay, Florida teachers have yet to hold any mass rallies against chronically low salaries and education funding from the state.

 

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Strand 2:  Teacher quality and recruitment

Stated goal: Raise student achievement by improving the quality of instructional services in the public schools by recruitment and retention.

Performance rating: Unsatisfactory

According to a Huffington Post article published last fall, “Almost three months into the school year, thousands of public school students in South Florida still don’t have a permanent teacher —a problem expected to get worse as more educators flee the classroom and the number of those seeking teaching degrees plummets.”

Actual goal: Make sure Florida schools are staffed by a cheap and temporary workforce that has no interest or ability in pursuing a lifelong career in education.

Performance rating: Highly Effective

The use of temporary J-1 visa holders as teachers has doubled over the past seven years: “Because the foreign teacher is working on a visa considered a “cultural exchange,” the district does not have to offer them the perks and benefits a regular teacher would get. States increasingly using the program to hire teachers include Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Nevada.

There were 2,867 J-1 visa holders placed in U.S. schools in 2017, up from about 1,197 in 2010, according to the U.S. State Department. The J-1 visa is temporary, lasting about two to three years.

Critics say the foreign teachers don’t hold the same credentials as local educators and are a legal loophole for districts to pay even lower teacher salaries. Plus, critics say, it’s not solving the overall issue – teacher shortages.” http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/05/14/school-districts-increasingly-hiring-foreign-teachers-to-fill-shortages.html

Strand 3: End seniority based layoffs

Stated Goal: Retain teachers based on educational program needs and the teachers’ performance evaluations

Performance Rating: Unsatisfactory

Florida teachers may be surprised to find out that next year who gets surplussed at an individual school will not be based on seniority but on their VAM score. This means that a well regarded teacher who received a perfect score on their observational performance measures by their administrator, may be involuntarily transferred because they received a low VAM score based on a very arbitrary measure of their effectiveness. See video below for further explanation.

 

Actual Goal: Encourage even further attrition of senior teachers who may have higher salaries and some degree of job security.

Performance Rating: Highly Effective

If a teacher who is very happy with their school position gets involuntarily transferred to a worse school or a school a great distance from their home, they are more likely to quit the profession altogether or retire early.

Strand 4: Performance Pay

Stated Goal:  Change how Florida teachers are paid, shifting from a traditional “step-and-lane” pay scale that rewards experience and advanced degrees to a performance-based scale with bonuses based on the new evaluation system. Hard-to-staff subjects like math and science pay more. Teachers hired before July 1, 2011 could remain under the old contract system, or they could switch to a performance-based pay system with renewable annual contracts.

Performance Rating: Unsatisfactory

Florida continues to underfund education and this year most districts have already stated that there will be no new money for raises due to a 47 cent increase in general operational funds. According to SB 736, Florida highly effective teachers were supposed to receive salary adjustments higher than the largest step increase. This would have meant $6,000 salary adjustments for many highly effective annual contract teachers. Instead, South Florida districts bargained away the grandfathered step schedules, ignoring state law, and the largest salary adjustment to date for highly effective annual contract teachers has been approximately $1,500 and it has decreased every year since. With districts crying poor and the state refusing to fund merit pay, Florida has implemented a performance pay system without the pay. Instead of paying all highly effective teachers a permanent large salary increase, the state has instead decided to reward only 5% of teachers with a $6,000 Best and Brightest bonus based on teachers’ SAT scores.

 

Actual Goal:  Reduce Florida teacher salaries to lower future pension payouts and make sure Florida charter schools could attract teachers without reducing their profit margins.

Performance Rating: Highly Effective

The only forms of performance pay funded by the state since the law was implemented back in 2011 have been in the form of one time bonuses which will not count for pension calculations or permanently increase a teacher’s salary leading to much lower pension obligations as the Florida teacher will be relegated to a career salary maxing out in the low fifties instead of the low seventies. With the elimination of a step schedule, there is no projected or guaranteed growth in a Florida teacher’s salary.

Florida politicians must be extremely proud of their complete decimation of the teaching profession under the guise of raising student achievement and teacher recruitment through performance pay. In 2017 Florida was rated as having the lowest salaries in the nation when adjusted for cost of living. Mission accomplished.

Florida lowest

 

 

how-to-stop-spending-so-much-money-on-classroom-supplies

I should preface this blog post by saying not ALL teachers hate Class Wallet. Miami Dade County’s implementation of the Class Wallet platform, however, will pretty much ensure that all Miami Dade County teachers hate Class Wallet by next fall. In case teachers missed the weekly briefing in your district email, (I’m guessing that would be about 90% of teachers), they may not be aware that ALL teacher supply purchases using state funds from the classroom supply assistance program next year must be made ONLY through the vendors listed on the Class Wallet platform. Consider forwarding this post to your clueless coworkers who may go out over the summer and spend $280 on classroom supplies thinking they will be reimbursed in September. They won’t!

So why is it a problem to force Miami Dade teachers to only use Class Wallet vendors? The main issues are threefold:

  1. Class Wallet vendors products are much more expensive than teachers could purchase at other places and allows private businesses to profit off of the little money we are given for supplies at the taxpayers’ and teachers’ expense.
  2. Class Wallet offers extremely limited items for purchase. If you want anything besides basic office supplies which most teachers already have available to them, you’ll be hard pressed to find $280 worth of products you want. Meanwhile, you will have to use your own money to purchase what you actually need for your classroom.
  3. Teachers will not be able to purchase any supplies until after the start of the school year! HUGE problem! Traditionally, teachers have not been reimbursed for their purchases until September 20th because the county wants new hires to have access to the supply funds. This would not be a problem IF we could still upload receipts and do our back to school shopping in August in order to get our classrooms ready. But without the ability to do any supply shopping until September, everything you need for the first month of school is going to come out of your own wallet.

Let me provide an illustrative example of the Class Wallet conundrum as implemented in Miami Dade County. Keep in mind that Miami Dade County is the only county in Florida forcing their teachers to only use Class Wallet vendors. Even other counties that use the Class Wallet platform continue to allow their teachers to upload receipts for reimbursements.

I do not use a lot of paper products or office supplies in my classroom. I have spent great time and effort to put my materials and assessments online.  This saves my school and district a lot of money on copies and scantrons. The only paper product I purchase using my teacher classroom assistance funds, are large poster size sticky notes for student presentations. If you’ve never purchased these large sticky note pads and have only seen them used in school site or district PDs you would think the stuff was so cheap it grew on trees. If you have purchased those large sticky note pads for your classroom, however, you realize those things are so expensive they must be made from gold trees! Because of the cost, I limit my lessons involving the large sticky notes to once a year. At the very beginning of the year! This year, because I won’t be able to purchase the sticky note pads until September, I just won’t do the lesson. Note to self: do your back to school shopping one year in advance so you will have the supplies you need the following August!

The thrifty teacher shopper in me will comparison shop in order to stretch my teacher supply money for maximum purchasing power. Most office supplies are available much cheaper on Amazon than Office Depot. I can purchase a four pack of the 25 x 30 post it pads on Amazon for under $80.

IMG_0816

 

On the regular Office Depot site, a four pack of the 25 x 30 Post-it pads will cost me almost $120! I may as well take $40 out of my own pocket and flush it down the toilet right now! Make a video of it and say “Your Florida tax dollars at work.”

IMG_0817

Keep in mind that the Class Wallet Office Depot site usually will add another 20-30% mark up from the regular Office Depot site. That is, if Office Depot is even a listed vendor anymore. This morning, when I went to do a little comparison shopping on Class Wallet, Office Depot was no longer even listed as a vendor even though it was there earlier in the week. This may have to do with my comments on social media about taking screen shots of the marked up prices on Class Wallet and tweeting them to School Board members.

I’m not a huge fan of Twitter, and I think most people’s pets have more followers on Twitter than myself, but I will use it every now and then. This week I used it in the Superintendent’s Twitter Town Hall and to my surprise I hadn’t been blocked (yet) and he even responded to my Tweet!  Thanks for your response Supe!

IMG_0815

It’s worth noting that the only person to like this Tweet was the marketing director of Class Wallet. This photo posted by a disgruntled teacher who’s $110 worth of Class Wallet copy paper delivered in shambles doesn’t really look like “facilitation of delivery” to me.

IMG_0812

 

This response makes it seem like the district really does not trust its teachers to actually spend their $280 on classroom supplies. They think we’re out their buying all sorts of bling with our $280 teacher supply assistance funds! I guess this response might make sense (can’t trust those corrupt and greedy Dade County teachers to purchase supplies for their classrooms) except that Best Buy is listed as a Class Wallet vendor. What exactly are we supposed to purchase at Best Buy that would not be classified as technology or “equipment”?

Speaking of which, it should be noted that there is nothing in the state statute that specifies that we can only buy consumables and are not allowed to purchase food. It only states we can’t buy equipment. You can read the state statute here

The classroom supply assistance funds are not subject to collective bargaining, so other than bringing teacher complaints to the district’s attention, I’m not sure there is much more UTD can do about this. Special shout out to UTD’s Mindy Grimes-Festge who took the time to tweet to the Supe about the district’s Class Wallet policy.

IMG_0811

I realize that $280 worth of classroom supply assistance funds is a rather small issue in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just disgusting to think that private businesses and the district are profiting off of funds coming straight out of teachers’ wallets. Any unused funds will be returned to the district, which really adds up when you have 20,000 teachers! In a year when we are hearing that no funds are available for teacher raises, to further debilitate our income by unnecessarily restricting when and where we spend our classroom assistance funds is demoralizing. Until we can upload receipts on Class Wallet or Amazon is listed as a vendor, I will see this as a $280 pay cut.

So what can teachers do? I’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do. DO NOT GO OUT AND SPEND YOUR OWN MONEY GETTING YOUR ROOMS READY FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! Let administration get angry enough over your sad looking walls to complain to the district. Let parents see your cold empty classrooms and long supply list on Back to School night and explain why your rooms look that way. Don’t be like these big hearted well meaning teachers who undermine their own cause and financial well being by spending thousands of dollars of their own money every year on their classrooms. Demand the system fully fund you and your classroom!

 

If they really don’t trust teachers to spend at least $280 on their own classrooms every year, just get rid of the program and put the money towards teacher salaries instead. I’d rather have the freedom to spend my own money where I want, on whatever I want, and whenever I want than to have the funds micromanaged to the point of uselessness.

 

If you are so irate about the district’s restriction of teacher supply funds, consider signing up to speak at the May 16th School Board meeting. You have until Monday afternoon to fax in the form. Hopefully, you will be in good company! Since this blog post is mostly geared towards Dade County teachers, I’m going to make one final plug to attend the rally for salaries at next week’s School Board meeting.

Red for ED flyer

So far Florida teacher protests have been MIA, let the 305 lead the way!

 

 

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I’d like to showcase some of the most bizarre gifts bestowed upon teachers in the name of “Teacher Appreciation” and offer a critique as to why these were perhaps not the most appropriate way to thank a teacher.

#1 Ramen Noodles

ramen noodles

I realize school budgets have been slashed over the past decade in many states, but Ramen noodles should never be given by administration to teachers as a token of their appreciation.  Food items that scream “impoverished college student” and “you don’t have time to have a real lunch” only serve as a reminder that teachers have chosen a profession that ensures them a lifetime of cheap, hurried, and not particularly nutritious or delicious lunches.

#2 Kisses with Barnyard Animals

pig kissing

Let me preface this by saying, I love pigs. I think they’re cute and they taste good too, however, some teachers might find the thought of sucking face with swine on Teacher Appreciation Day a little offensive and unhygienic.

#3 Undergarments 

teacher thong

Apparently, underwear (and in the thong form) is a much more common gift to teachers than one would have thought. There is even an entire line of teacher themed thong underwear available on Amazon. They really do sell EVERYTHING on Amazon! Whether it be from an administrator, a parent, or a student, giving a teacher a thong is just plain wrong! You don’t want your teacher to end up as a meme like this on Instagram.

thong 50.jpg

OR

teacher thong 2.jpg

There is actually an entire “saw my teacher’s thong” genre of memes if you do a google image search. These are the most PG rated ones I could find. Teachers, do yourselves a favor, and save the thongs for the weekends!

So what is a good way to thank a teacher this Teacher Appreciation Day? If your school has the means, many PTAs have started offering Spa Days for school staff.

spa day

Unless they married well, trips to the spa are few and far between for most teachers. Treating your teachers to a mani-pedi or midday massage is a great way to show your teacher appreciation. If your school doesn’t have the budget for such pampering, having the students write a thank you note to their favorite teacher and putting those notes in their mailbox on Teacher Appreciation Day will surely bring a smile to even the grumpiest of educators.  If you live in state that suffers from chronic underfunding of public education and low teacher salaries, wear Red for Ed during Teacher Appreciation Week May 7-11, take a selfie holding sign stating why you appreciate your child’s teacher and post to your preferred social media platform. Or, as one Miami teacher and public school parent pleaded in a recent Sun-Sentinel article,

“I ask that if you value teachers that you write letters, make phone calls, and/or write emails demanding that our public schools be funded adequately, that our teachers and school employees be compensated with a fair and adequate living wage and that our taxpayer dollars stop funding private for-profit charter schools. This would be the greatest gift you could give me or any public school teacher.”

And don’t forget the best teacher appreciation gift of all,  remember to vote for an education friendly candidate next November!

 

FEA wear red for Ed

If you have a received a particularly interesting, funny, or fantastic token of Teacher Appreciation, feel free to tell us about it in the commenting section below.

 

 

 

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The Florida State Legislature is considering going back to a Special Session.  The Florida Education Association is calling for an increase in education funding to be put on the agenda at this Special Session. But nothing will be discussed on education funding unless we demand it.  They will decide by early next week; so we need to move quickly. See the Tampa Bay Times article discussing this here.

We are also asking educators, parents, students and supporters of public education statewide to wear red on Monday, as well as to contact your state representatives and hold local rallies to demand Governor Rick Scott reconvene the Florida legislature be to fully fund Florida education and teacher salaries for the 2018-19 school year. You can get your representatives contact information here and send Governor Rick Scott an email here .
Miami Beach Action Alert! This coming Monday April 23rd at 4:00 pm we will be holding a rally to demand Governor Rick Scott reconvene the legislature for education funding at the North Beach Bandshell (7275 Collins Avenue).  All supporters of public education are welcome to attend (teachers, parents, students, local politicians…).
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We have all heard by now that teachers in Florida cannot go on strike for fear of being strung up on a lamp post by their toe nails and publicly flogged as they watch some Tallahassee bureaucrat from the FLDOE light up their hard earned teaching certificate and incinerate their careers. So what can Florida teachers do to let the public and politicians know their salaries have stagnated and their morale has declined with each  punitive piece of legislation passed each session?
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Consider taking a selfie wearing red or this awesome t-shirt made in Miami.
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You too can look this beautiful in this flattering red v-neck or crew neck as you demand to be paid for your labor.
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And your back side will look just as good and also make a statement!
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Can’t get the shirt? No problem. Wear red and hold a statement sign letting the public know how this state treats their teachers. If you aren’t a teacher, wear red and let the public know you support fully funded public schools and fairly compensated professional teachers. Make it your profile picture on Facebook through the month of May. Here are two examples:
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Are you a South Florida teacher who was illegally removed from the grandfathered step schedule? Want to know how much you should have been making 15 years ago compared to your actual salary in 2018? You can find the Palm Beach County and Miami Dade County 2006 step schedules below.
Palm Beach County’s 2006 Pay Schedule 
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Miami Dade County’s 2006 Pay Schedule
2006 mdcps
Feeling camera shy? Want to keep your Facebook anonymity? Consider making this your profile picture for the next few weeks.
Fund-Education-Now
Are you so inspired by your fellow protesting pedagogues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona that you want to hold your own rally? Go for it! Look at what these motivated educators were able to pull off last week in Miami!
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Miami Action Alerts! Would you like to let your superintendent and School Board know that you will not accept another year without a substantial raise and that blaming Tallahassee is not good enough? That teachers deserve homes, not housing? Would you like to express your appreciation to School Board member Lubby Navarro and the United Teachers of Dade for their petition to put a referendum on November’s ballot to fund teacher salaries locally? You can do so at the next School Board meeting this Wednesday, April 25th. The form to speak must be faxed in by Monday afternoon. Click here for the form. We are also planning a larger rally for the final School Board meeting of the school year on May 16th. The budget will be decided by July’s School Board meeting so the time to act is now! Have no fear, your leader is even jumping on the pay teachers more bandwagon!
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To stay informed about future Miami actions, follow and like the Miami Educator Facebook page
Have a story to tell about teaching in Florida? Want to hear stories about other teachers in Florida and podcasts featuring education leaders? Tune into the Teacher Voice podcast and offer to tell your story. You can listen to my story in last week’s podcast here

In case you missed Kafkateach’s debut into the vlogosphere, you can check out my YouTube channel to witness one woman’s guerilla PR campaign about the absurdities of teaching in Florida (or descent into madness). Considering making your own short videos exposing the truth bombs about being a teacher in Florida. You’ll get the most views by posting them on Facebook.

Join the Florida Educators United Facebook group to more actively engage and organize. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can share this blog by emailing your friends.
If you think of any other actions, feel free to post them in the commenting section below.
Whatever you decide to do, just do it! And do it now! The time to act is now, because now is the only time!

SRO

  1. You get paid dawg! Starting salary of $46,410? It only takes a Pinellas County teacher 13 years to break $46,000. Annual salary increases and you’ll break $50,000 by year 4. We have teachers in Miami who haven’t broken $50,000 after teaching 20 years!
  2. Signing bonuses? Relocation stipends? All they do to recruit teachers in Miami is offer to build them affordable housing projects at a school in one of the worst neighborhoods in Miami.
  3. You get a take home vehicle! I bet you don’t have to pay for gas or insurance either.
  4. No college degree required! No need to worry about hefty student loan debt that could saddle you for life.
  5. No papers to grade! After school hours your free to do whatever you want.
  6. No lesson planning. Enjoy every Sunday afternoon without the 4 p.m anxiety attack setting in when you realize you have nothing planned for Monday morning.
  7. You can retire after 25 years!
  8. No VAM! No undecipherable algorithm to rate your professional worth and determine your pay. No SAT scores required for bonuses either!
  9. No emails or parent teacher conferences with irate parents who will blame you for their child’s F even though little Johnny spent every class period playing Fortnight on their Macbook Air using tax payer funded district wi-fi instead of paying attention in class.
  10. Number of teachers and school personnel killed in Parkland, 3. Number of school resource officers killed, 0.

As the state of Florida prepares to spend $400 million on a school resource officers who so far have only been proven to hide behind walls when active shooters are present and who have fallen asleep in their squad cars at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school AFTER the shooting, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask school districts to at least match teacher starting pay to that of school resource officers.

While I’m at it, considering that most school personnel and teachers have multiple job responsibilities, maybe school resource officers could be asked to fill in as subs, proctor tests, make copies, answer the phone at the front desk, relieve teachers for bathroom breaks, or help enforce the school uniform and ID policy?

Considering the fact that the average American has a 0.0012% chance of dying in mass shooting according to the CDC, the Florida legislature might want to reconsider allocating  at least another $400 million of categorical funding for teacher salaries the next time they convene. We know the money is there, we know you can you do it. What will it take for you to finally value the classroom heroes in your state?

 

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In the wake of the largest teacher protests this century over teacher salaries and benefits, Florida teachers unions have been remarkably silent.  It’s as if the crimson tsunami of teacher rebellion sweeping across the nation from West Virginia to Oklahoma and now Arizona has completely bi-passed the Sunshine state. Are we somehow better off than teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona? I would argue that other than a closer drive to Disney World and a free annual pass to Legoland, the answer is a resounding “No!”

The situation is even more dire for teachers in Miami-Dade who face some of the highest housing costs in the nation but have median salaries similar to those of teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona. According to the Florida Department of Education, the median teacher salary for teachers in Miami-Dade in the 2016-17 school year was only $45,236.

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Compare that to a median salary of $50,919 in Tucson, Arizona. Note that housing costs in Miami are nearly double that of housing in Tucson and someone earning $50,919 in Tucson would need a salary of $65,800 in Miami just to compensate for the cost of living difference.

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Similarly, although median teacher salary in Oklahoma is comparable to median teacher salary in Miami-Dade a teacher would have to make almost $74,000 in Miami to compensate for the higher cost of living!

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The reaction of Florida teachers unions to this unprecedented widespread teacher activism has been a deafening silence.  Scroll through the Facebook page of the United Teachers of Dade and you won’t find one post about either the illegal yet successful strike in West Virginia, the threat of a strike in Oklahoma and their legislature’s immediate response with a bill promising a 5% pay raise, and now Arizona teachers’ protests demanding a 20% raise. Instead, you’ll find a post about women workers striking in Spain and a worker walkout over the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

So what gives? Why are Florida teachers unions choosing not to ride this wave of teacher activism and gather up the troops for a rally in Tally over inadequate teacher salaries? Granted, this is a rally that should have taken place last month while the legislature was still in session and the budget hadn’t been signed yet. Why did the FEA not seize this historical moment to finally make some demands of the Florida legislature and governor?

For the past decade teachers in this country have been vilified in the media as lazy vacation lovers with bloated pensions.  Now the tide has finally turned and we are being portrayed in a more sympathetic light, as underpaid and devoted public servants who risk their lives every day for other people’s children. The fact that we are getting any media attention at all, let alone positive attention, is an important step in the right direction. I turned on the Today show this morning and the lead story was about teachers in Arizona demanding a 20% raise.  Even The Talk held a brief discussion about Miami’s plan to house teachers at schools and when Sara Gilbert commented, “Well, if it’s such a rich area pay your teachers more,” the audience actually applauded!

For the first time in years teachers have the public’s support and the media’s attention. Unions need to capitalize on this critical moment in order to try to win back some of the financial losses teachers have incurred over the past decade.

So where are Florida teachers unions at this pivotal juncture?

Perhaps many unions with faltering membership like UTD are more concerned about possible decertification than being part of this teacher salary zeitgeist. But the sad fact is that when your median teacher salary is $45,000 and teachers can’t even afford housing in the city where they teach, they don’t have an extra $90 a month to pay the highest union dues in the country with a promised return on investment of 0-3%.  When teachers in Arizona are demanding a 20% raise and our union settles for 2% repeating the annual mantra of “something is better than nothing,” teachers start to lose faith in their union’s ability to negotiate a fair salary.

Since the decertification bill was passed this year, Florida unions are desperate to increase membership. But instead of calling for radical action, they have turned to blaming the teachers themselves for the sad state of their profession.  Based on recent Facebook comments of  union leadership and people representing union leadership, their talking points seem to consist of: A) What have you done for your union? and B) Teachers need to go out and vote.

Who the hell is telling unions the best way to recruit new members is to blame the victim? What kind of sick and twisted marketing strategy is that? What if Weight Watchers’ marketing strategy consisted of “Hey you fat lazy tub of lard, put down that donut and go for a jog! Now pay me $88 a month and be grateful that you don’t gain even more weight on our program. What? You only lost half a pound after 6 months of Weight Watchers? Well something is better than nothing. Be grateful you didn’t gain five pounds. Now drop and give me 15 push ups.”

I don’t even understand what it means when unions ask, “What have I done for my union?” What exactly is it that I’m supposed to be doing? You asked me to wear black, I wore black. Nothing changed. You asked me to email the School Board. I emailed the School Board. Nothing changed. I went and voted. My candidate won. Nothing changed. You asked me to work to the contract? I worked to the contract. Nothing changed. Please ask me to do something more meaningful, more radical, more effective because the status quo is not working. When teachers in West Virginia rocked the status quo, it worked. When teachers in Oklahoma threatened similar action, their legislature  suddenly found $447 million for a 5% raise. Teachers in Arizona are aiming high. Will they get a 20% raise? Probably not, but I bet they end up with more than 2%.

It may be too late to effect change in Tallahassee this year. But local bargaining sessions for the 2018-19 school year are about to begin. Stand strong Florida teachers. Don’t back down and don’t settle for less than you are worth. Organize at the local level and ride that crimson tide of teacher activism. The time is now because now is the only time. Carpe Diem.

 

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For the seasoned veteran teacher, the thought of calling their school, or any other school, “Home Sweet Home” is enough to fill their mouths with the type of bile reserved for only the most nauseating of ideas. Most teachers balk at the idea of even living in the same town as the school they teach in, wanting to maintain some semblance of an independent anonymous adulthood where they can drink a beer, wear a bikini, and shop at the grocery store without some parent tapping them on the shoulder in the midst of a maxi-pad purchase demanding to know why little Johnny got an F on his last essay.  God forbid you run into a student while buying your monthly supply of sanitary napkins instead! The latest teenage torment of teachers includes snapping an unflattering photo of their teacher with their phones, generating a funny meme, and posting it on social media so they can all get their jollies humiliating you. Let your guard down at the store while buying maxi-pads for a moment and the next thing you know there’s a meme of you on Instagram with 1,000 likes captioned “Ms.Smith being  a b***h lately? This explains it.”

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So it should come as no surprise that when the Miami Herald ran an article about the school system’s plan to build teacher housing on two school sites located in the trendiest and priciest neighborhoods in Miami, teacher responses on Facebook ranged mostly from red hot angry emojis to green puking emojis. But don’t flatter yourselves dear disgruntled and impoverished veteran Miami teachers, these affordable housing units aren’t meant for you anyways. The fact that the median income for Miami teachers in 2016 was only $45,000 tells you this school district is more interested in recruiting than retaining teachers.

So who is Miami Dade County public schools hoping to attract by offering affordable housing on school sites in trendy neighborhoods like Wynwood and Brickell? Does this answer your question?

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TFA recruits are fresh out of college and will see teacher housing built on school sites as an extension of dorm life. The fact that they can put in 13 hour days in the classroom and then just walk across the parking lot to their 275 sq. ft. government subsidized studio for a quick shower and then head out for an evening of craft beer, graffiti art, and overpriced artisan tacos will be appealing to this segment of the teaching population. The number of TFA recruits currently working in Miami Dade Public Schools stands at approximately 165 teachers and according to the Teach for America Miami website, “school leaders have told us they would like to work with even more Teach For America educators.”
There’s only one problem with Miami being able to attract more Teach for America recruits, housing costs. Even Teach for America’s own website shows that trying to live in Miami on a beginning teacher’s salary will result in an annual deficit of $2,500 (some of which might be recouped with a spring time Best and Brightest bonus).

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In order to expand this relationship with TFA, Miami Dade County public schools will have to find some way to surmount a salary that does not afford a modest lifestyle for even a single person. In exchange for creating affordable housing on school property, the majority of Teach for America teachers will do the school system the favor of leaving the profession before putting in enough years to contribute to future pension costs for the district.

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While spending time in Miami, Teach for America recruits can not only work on their tan lines, Spanish, and student loan forgiveness, they can also make crucial connections for future careers in the charter school movement. The Leadership for Educational Equity is just one organization looking to hire TFA alumni to help expand school choice and charters. The Board of Directors for LEE includes an active funder of KIPP and private school scholarships for inner city youth as well as a member of the Walton Family Foundation which has been a crucial player in funding the expansion of charter schools.

According to the Huffington Post, TFA has transitioned from an organization aimed at filling teacher shortages in the urban core, into a breeding ground for the charter school movement, “TFA now claims that their corps members are superior to traditionally trained teachers and the organization has effectively changed its mission to “enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”

School districts pay an additional $2,000-$3,000 per teacher to TFA as a finders fee, but the study showed those costs are recuperated in the long run, “Our analysis found that using TFA to staff teaching positions will, after nine years, provide the district with cheaper labor options than continuing to pay for raises and pensions for career teachers.”

Housing Teach for America recruits together would also help perpetuate the cult like mentality of the organization. One former teacher left the following review on glassdoor.com, ”

“Cult-like, 24/7 job – if you drink the Kool-Aid, you’ll love it. Otherwise, be prepared.”

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So don’t worry veteran Miami Dade County public school teachers, those affordable housing units at schools are not intended for you. The school system doesn’t care if the idea of teachers living at schools is ludicrous and insulting to you. They want you to feel insulted, they want you to feel like your salary will never be enough for even a lower middle class lifestyle, they want you to quit. In the long run, it’s cheaper to recruit with glossy brochures of teacher housing projects in shiny Brickell or artsy Wynwood than to retain a committed workforce with higher salaries.

Just ask the Miami Herald editorial board.  They agree that this affordable housing is not being built for veteran teachers, “True, veteran teachers may not be gung-ho on the idea, or those with families, but we bet young millennial teachers, especially those just out of college would jump at the chance to totally give up on a commute.”

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This week many Miamians and New Yorkers managed the impossible and watched a Miami Dade County School Board meeting.  They immediately came to two conclusions about School Board meetings in Miami that those of us already familiar with Miami School Board meetings knew all along: they are way too long and they are carefully orchestrated spectacles that revolve around one main character, Alberto Carvalho. It didn’t take long for the Twitter world to sum up our School Board meetings with a hashtag, #TheCarvalhoShow.

But what the Miami and New York viewing public witnessed was not your typical School Board meeting. This was an emergency School Board meeting where apparently the normal rules of the game need not apply.  In a non-emergency School Board meeting, no one is ever allowed to mention the superintendent by his name and clapping and cheering are strictly prohibited. Apparently at emergency School Board meetings both bans are lifted because people were dropping “Alberto Carvalhos” on the mic without incident and the crowd erupted into boisterous rounds of applause and standing ovations at several points. At one point audience members even chanted “please don’t go.”

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Two hours would pass before Carvalho even spoke. An assortment of carefully selected students, parents, administrators, community leaders, people with contracts with the School Board (and a few more people with contracts with the School board) begged, pleaded, and groveled for the rock star superintendent to stay in Miami. Even “Uncle Luke” Campbell made an appearance and called his potential leaving “a travesty.”

I’m not sure exactly what the relationship is between Mr.Carvalho and Uncle Luke but it is a bit odd that every time a rumor circulates that Mr.Carvalho may be moving on from Miami Dade County Public Schools, Uncle Luke comes out with an editorial in the Miami New Times begging him to stay. Call me crazy, but if I were the superintendent of a school system who was trying to suppress a reputation for being a bit of a philanderer, Mr. Oh-Me-So-Horny, Face Down *bleep* Up, and Pop that *bleep* would not be my first choice for number one fan.  At least he didn’t bring an entourage of Hoochie Mommas to the School Board meeting.

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While Mr. Nasty as He Wants to Be was on his best behavior at the School Board meeting, several of the ladies on the Board made a few provocative statements. At one point one member referenced the superintendent’s alleged affair by letting a “well, no man is perfect” comment slide in while another geriatric member boasted about the superintendent’s sexual prowess, “Nobody does it better. Isn’t that right Maria?” (referring to Carvalho’s wife).

By that point New Yorkers watching the meeting must have been wondering to themselves, “What the *bleep* kind of School Board meeting is this?” Not just any School Board meeting my friends, it’s the Carvalho Show complete with mood lighting and entertainment as one former Herald reporter noted. Don’t think our School Board meetings are something special? Try watching a Broward County School Board meeting with florescent lighting, folding chairs, and no performances by student Zumba dancers.

Some two hours into the meeting, the superintendent broke into his 2020 campaign speech for Mayor of Miami. It was a great speech and his performance at the end was worthy of an Academy Award.

“”I just don’t know how to break a promise to a child (and) how to break a promise to a community,” said Carvalho.

(Teachers on the other hand, he knows how to break a promise to teachers by involuntarily kicking them off the pay schedule the district promised them back when they were hired, but I digress…).

After a suspense filled 30 minute break, Carvalho returned to the dais with his final decision, “I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement with the children of Miami.”

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Funny, if you asked a typical Miami Dade County public school student about an agreement they had with the superintendent they wouldn’t have any idea what your were talking about. Most of them don’t even know who Alberto Carvalho is. Ask them who the superintendent is and the most common response is, “Oh, you mean that guy that kind of looks like Tony Montana?”

But facts on the ground don’t really matter on the Carvalho Show. It’s about the spectacle and the pretty little words. As one local reporter tweeted, “You will love having him in New York. He speaks in sound bites and is a walking quote machine.”

At this point half the teachers in Dade County were doing a mad scramble trying to delete any  premature social media celebrations on Carvalho’s departure from the night before.

For those of us dying to see Carvahlo stand up to a questioning press, his decision to stay was a bit of a let down. The man was Chancellor of New York City Schools for less than 24 hours and made these entertaining headlines.

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He didn’t even step foot in New York and the NY Daily News ran a political cartoon about him! When was the last time the Miami Herald ran a political cartoon of Carvalho?

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Let’s face it, after the beating poor De Blasio has taken over Carvalho-gate, nobody is going to risk this level of ridicule to offer Carvalho a job heading another school district any time soon. The National Superintendent of the Year isn’t worth ending up looking like this guy in your local media.

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Carvalho ended his future job prospects as superintendent outside of Miami in such an epic way, that he is now eternally relegated to hero status in the MIA and is second only to Pitbull as Mr. 305. By turning a decision to decline a job offer into a publicly televised spectacle, I think Carvalho has earned himself the right to become part of the local Dade vernacular.

For example, if someone rejects you in an unusually insensitive and over the top manner,  you could say, “Damn bro, I just got Carvalho-ed.”

Have a boyfriend you want to break up with and publicly humiliate because he cheated on you? You could say, “I’m finna Carvalho his a**.”

Or you could use Carvalho in the noun form. Invite your besties to a Carvalho at your house this weekend. It works like this. Tell your friends you’re moving out of state, throw yourself a going away party, disappear into the bathroom for a few minutes and then say, “Surprise! I love you all too much. I’m not leaving after all!”

Why exactly Carvalho chose Miami over New York is probably something we will never know. The narrative that he chose to stay because of two undocumented immigrants is  lovely and is sure to win him some political points, but not even people closest to him believe he quit his dream job for the dreamers. His former Principal, retired Chief Human Officer of Miami Dade County Pubic Schools, and current mayor of Aventura was quoted in the New York media as saying, “Carvalho worried he wouldn’t be given “a free hand to be able to do the kinds of reforms that would be necessary.”

At a public education media event in Miami on Monday, ironically sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, Carvalho admitted his decision to quit had more to do with the fact that he couldn’t pick his own players than undocumented immigrants, “I am a true believer that if you want me to land the championship ring, if you want to win the Super Bowl, but I have a field that I’m not going to be able to necessarily pick my quarterback … that the plays will be called, co-consulted, then that may be a deal breaker for me,” Carvalho said.

As a former Herald reporter wrote in her Chalk Beat piece, “Those outside of Florida don’t realize how good Carvalho has it in his adopted hometown, and how much he would be giving up if he left. After Carvalho finally made his big reveal, an education insider there told me: “Here in Miami, he is the king.”

Carvalho would be foolish to leave a compliant School Board, a complacent union, and a complimentary press. In Miami, Carvalho pretty much has carte blanche. The only one he occasionally has to answer to is Tallahassee. And even that might change if his constitutional referendum allowing school districts to become charter districts is approved. Love him or hate him, he is all ours, and we are all his (at least until 2020). Welcome to the Carvalho Show.