He begins:

“As of today, I consider it mandatory that we honor previously established Level raises (sometimes known as steps) for all Polk School District employees. It will cost us about $4.3 million. We have the money to do it.

It’s a simple choice between fulfilling our core function for our community or maintaining a “growing savings account” of dead money that Kelli Stargel and Tallahassee can raid at any time and divert toward fraud.

Give Tallahassee everything; get nothing in return

It is obvious that the Polk School Board and district leadership, back in May or June of 2016, made a decision to take teachers to impasse. It’s why they hired a Tallahassee-wired anti-labor lawyer. It’s why they offered nothing and then said: “Counter.” It’s why we’ve gotten nowhere.

The Polk County community has $174.60 less per student for education than it did a decade ago. Your state government refuses to let us fund ourselves. But Tim Harris wants “a growing savings account” for a “rainy day.” That’s his entire legacy.

Even the destructive state government allows a fund balance as low as 3 percent. We’re at about 5 percent. The two percentage points between those numbers represents millions and millions and millions of dollars. I think the numbers show we can honor the previously negotiated level increases — which relate to years of service — without going much, if any, below 5 percent.  But I’m willing to go as low as 4 percent to provide significant one-time bonuses (or some better idea) on top of levels.

By contrast, Tim Harris is willing to go to a no-raise impasse over growing the percentage of the fund balance savings account.

It does no good to increase your household savings account if you don’t feed and clothe your children. In fact, they’ll put you in jail for that. But that’s what Tim Harris proposes for our people. That’s the reality. That’s where we are.”

School districts’ willingness to stuff the reserve piggy bank full of cash while their employee’s contractual promises go unfulfilled should sound familiar if you teach in Miami Dade County. This brings us to the issue of steps, which despite claims recently made by the United Teachers of Dade, still do exist in many Florida counties. If one looks at the Duval County pay scale, there is clearly a grandfathered step schedule as well as a $500 COLA. http://www.nctq.org/docs/Duval_74680.pdf When was the last time we heard the word COLA in Dade County?

The United Teachers of Dade in the last two days has managed to simultaneously claim that steps still exist and that they don’t exist anywhere else in Florida. Both of these statements are lies. My main criticism with UTD is not about its impotence in bargaining. There is only so much they can do with a fiscally conservative Superintendent who would rather stuff his reserve piggy bank with cash than to improve employee pay, with a state legislature intent on starving public schools and funneling money into a failed charter system instead, and working in a right to work state where going on strike is illegal. My main gripe with UTD is the constant duping of people who pay them good money to represent them. This weekend UTD bragged about getting a security guard $1500 worth of back pay on their Facebook page:


A security monitor contacted us in reference to his salary. He was concerned that he didn’t start on the right step. We investigated with the district and it was determined that he was incorrectly placed on the wrong step. He received retroactive pay on the last paycheck for $1,540.39 for the last three years.”

One astute Facebook commenter mused, “Oh my gosh! They fixed a clerical error! SUPERHEROES!”

Clerical errors aside, I was shocked to see that security guards still had steps when teachers didn’t. So I made a comment about UTD bargaining away teachers’ steps to which they replied:

“Let us assure you that only about 5 teachers in the entire district opted to move into performance pay. No one has been involuntarily moved so your statement is false as that has never been “bargained away”. That would be ludicrous as you would loose your professional service contract and be an annual contract teacher for the rest of your career. Additionally, the former pay schedule had been adjusted multiple times to do certain things. First to incentivize longevity (which created the very small increases beginning teachers received), and then also created large jumps for certain steps. The way 736 was written it specifically stated that all new hires on performance pay would have to receive a larger increase than that on the grandfathered. That means that those steps, especially the largest one, would have to be paid out to highly effective teachers on performance pay. We knew that would be very problematic to pay because some administrators use bias in their ratings through the preferential treatment of some. The new scale is designed to be more equitable for all. That being said, we know that some people had been waiting for many years to make those advancements. While we try to figure out how to make those people whole (our district said that was the plan) please don’t allow people to spread false news. Multiple districts have moved away from steps because of the impact of the law (including Broward).”

UTD really likes to compare itself to Broward, unless it comes to the 5% raise they just negotiated. Then all of a sudden Broward and Dade become apples and oranges. In response to the teachers matter email regarding a class action lawsuit over the district’s failure to honor the grandfathered salary schedule and pay teachers their steps, UTD sent out a “Rumor Control Alert” district email to counter the teachers matter email. It was the last part of UTD’s statement that really bothered me,

“Finally, this seems to be the same group that tried to make it look like UTD and MDCPS did away with steps while counties like Broward maintained theirs. Please see this info on the Broward Teachers Union web page related to their salary schedule which refutes their claim- http://www.btuonline.com/info/stepsexplained.htm”

It is true that Broward County is not honoring their grandfathered step schedule either, but this statement makes it seem like steps don’t exist anywhere in Florida. I can just imagine the Superintendent of Broward County and the Superintendent of Dade County having a power lunch of $80 grass fed Kobe steaks while devising ways to use SB736 as a means of really screwing over their teachers, and saving even more cash to stuff in their reserve piggy pinks. While its wonderful to have a rainy day fund, I imagine most teachers in Florida don’t have the luxury of accumulating much savings of their own. When districts would rather steal from their teachers to feed their reserve piggy banks, while their teachers apply for food stamps over the summer to feed their own children, the social contract between School Boards and their community have been broken.

Since we’ve been comparing Broward and Dade Counties in this blog post, here is a chart made by a Broward County teacher showing that school district theft of veteran teacher salaries amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars lost for many experienced teachers. These numbers are probably fairly accurate for Dade County veteran teachers as well. All of this financial suffering endured by the most loyal employees for the sake of stuffing the pig.

broward teacher salary