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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to donate to the Kafkateach blog so she doesn’t have to donate a kidney over the summer, you can do so here