advicenewteachers

I originally wrote these recommendations for new teachers as a response to a reader who’s daughter was about to start her first teaching job five years ago. They were only posted in the commenting section on the “About” section of my blog but I think they are worthy of their own post. Please feel free to add your own advice for new teachers in the commenting section below.

Here our some suggestions for your daughter if she wishes to stay in the teaching profession for a long time and likes her school:
1. Don’t start writing a blog.
2. Don’t ever say anything at a faculty meeting. Bring a stack of papers to grade so you can use the time productively.
3. Make yourself invisible. Go to the main office to sign in, smile, and then go to your classroom and don’t come out again until 3 pm.
4. Get to know the teachers next door to you. They will be the only adult contact you have during the day. If you have a disruptive student, send them to the class next door rather than the office.
5. Do not write any referrals. Administrators will assume you have no classroom management skills. Try to make contact with parents instead. It will help if you are fluent in Spanish, Creole and Portuguese.
6. Document everything! Save those emails, print them out.
7. Have good relationships with parents. Join the PTA. My $5 PTA membership is more valuable to me than an $800 union membership.
8. Use your teacher webpage.
9. Try to not fall behind on grading or you may never get out under that stack of papers.
10. Pretend you love data and find it fascinating.
11. Overplan your lessons. You don’t want a lesson to run short. “Free time” is your worst enemy.
12. Don’t show many movies. You will get a reputation as that teacher who is always showing movies. Most kids don’t have the attention span to sit through a full length educational film. Show short clips instead.
13. Don’t go out of your way to brown nose an administrator. Most principals last about 3-4 years. I have seen the principal’s pet teachers leave a school after the principal leaves because they have lost “most favored teacher status.” Be friendly, play by their rules but there is no need to grovel.
14. Enjoy the students. They are the best part of the job. If you find yourself having more negative interactions with the kids than positive, it’s time to find a new profession.

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CutCosts463

The big news yesterday was Governor Rick Scott’s veto of the education portion of the budget otherwise known as the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP).  Though most supporters of public education are pleased with the announcement of an additional $200 million in state funding, the compromise might include the approval of the controversial HB 7069. We will have to wait and see what happens during a special legislative session next week to find out if HB 7069 becomes law. While the media has focused mostly on the veto of the education budget, Governor Scott’s veto letter includes some surprises. Here’s a brief breakdown of Scott’s veto list as it pertains to public education:

Let’s start with the good news first. Not often mistaken for a feminist, one of the first main points in Scott’s veto letter includes something for the ladies:

• Exemption for Feminine Hygiene Products: $11.2 Million – HB 7109 creates a sales tax exemption on the purchase of feminine hygiene products.

Tax free feminine hygiene products! I thought this day would never come! Hallelujah sweet Jesus! The government is finally going to cut me a tax break on my monthly tampon and maxi-pad expenditures! Oh, wait, I’m about to hit menopause. Oh, well, next up on the shocking good news from the veto list: Governor Rick Scott vetoes Teach For America Funding!

“Teach for America, Inc. – Florida (Nonrecurring Funds)

(HB 2877)  $1,403,750”

Another line item veto for the corporate education reform movement included cuts to KIPP Charter schools:

“Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Jacksonville (Recurring

Base Appropriations Project)  $500,000”

They were both vetoed under the premise that they were not part of the state’s core education mission. Other notable programs that were cut because they did not meet the criteria for being part of the state’s education mission included:

“Kindness Matters (Senate Form 1584)  $142,500”

Well at least he’s honest. Anyone who has worked in Florida public schools and has had to deal with the nonsense coming out of Tallahassee will tell you that “kindness” is definitely not part of the state’s education mission!

The AVID program’s school reward money for students success on Advanced Placement and IB exams was also cut.

“Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) (Recurring

Base Appropriations Project)  $700,000”

Having taught AP World History to AVID students for several years, I can tell you that if you can get those kids to pass an AP exam your school should be rewarded! AVID programs have received some criticism as of late, but the idea of helping students from nontraditional backgrounds excel in a rigorous curriculum to prepare them for college is a good idea even if those hellacious 6 inch binders they make the kids haul around is not.

Apparently, helping disadvantaged kids succeed is not a priority of Governor Rick Scott because funding for Breakthrough Miami, which seeks to provide tuition free academic enrichment to underprivileged youth was also cut.

“Breakthrough Miami (HB 4101) $500,000”

Governor Rick Scott has never been seen as a champion for teachers (even though the Rick Scott raise of $2500 back in 2013 was the largest pay increase I have ever seen as a teacher) and he continues that trend with several other cuts.

The “Grow Your Own Teacher Scholarship” funding was also cut by $100,000.

“Grow Your Own Teacher Scholarship (HB 4065) $100,000”

I have no idea what that scholarship entails but the name cracks me up. I envision little children pouring water on some teacher seedlings in their “Grow Your Own Teacher” garden at their school. Or perhaps they can put teacher Chia pets in their classrooms and wait for them to sprout? If the state of Florida continues down their path of teacher degradation and abysmal teacher pay, they may indeed have to create some mutant GMO crop of teachers who are happy to put up with overcrowded classrooms, nonsense evaluations, bogus bonus programs, and Third World salaries.

Speaking of the Third World and teacher salaries, the Miami Dade Superintendent was not pleased that Governor Rick Scott vetoed a $100,000 study that would have addressed cost of living disparities in the school funding formula http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article154131114.html.  Although the state certainly needs to step up funding for teachers salaries in counties in south Florida with exorbitant cost of living, I’m not sure we really need to spend $100,000 on a redundant study that would have been outsourced to a third party consultant. scott veto explanation

That concludes my brief summary of Governor Rick Scott’s notable veto items. If you would like to spend your weekend perusing the entire list of items vetoed from the budget click the link https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7D0j0WqbaaAa0FHSlZZM1gyM0k/view#

I did find one other section from the Florida Education Finance Program intriguing. We have always been told that the legislature refuses to fund the class size amendment but the budget shows that almost $3 billion is allocated annually for class size reduction. http://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Final-Veto-List-2017-As-published.pdf Granted, I have no idea how that money is actually allocated, but that seems like a large chunk of change for a law that is being loosely enforced at best.

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teacherappreciationweek

Teacher Appreciation month is over, relax America, teachers can now go back to being the ignored, disrespected, and underpaid public servants that they are. If you are like me, you probably didn’t even notice that May was Teacher Appreciation month at all. For most teachers, the month of May consisted of proctoring tests, covering for other teachers proctoring tests, and killing time in classes only half filled with students because the other students were all testing. Aside from a videotaped message and a robocall from our superintendent (the same superintendent who maneuvered long term cost savings to the district of over $1 billion by stripping his most experienced and dedicated teachers of their financial future by creating a pay structure that will permanently suppress their wages) the month of May probably left you feeling just as unappreciated as every other month. If you are lucky enough to teach at a school with a strong PTA you may have been treated to a free luncheon. Local businesses may have donated items to your school. Jimmy John’s subs was nice to enough to donate quarter-sized subs to teachers at my school, but unfortunately a student decided to express his gratitude towards teachers by running off with the subs before most teachers got to eat any. Oh, well, at least we could still get our one free burrito a year from Chipotle at the risk of getting dysentery and a large hospital bill not covered by district insurance.

In case one month of teacher appreciation just wasn’t good enough for you, the school district of Palm Beach County has decided to launch a year long “Thank a Teacher Campaign” https://www.palmbeachschools.org/districtnews/2017/05/30/district-launches-year-long-thank-a-teacher-campaign-to-honor-educators/. Because one month of condescending gestures of teacher appreciation that acknowledge that you are not paid your worth and never will be just isn’t enough! Would we ever think to launch a “Thank a Firefighter Campaign” instead of paying them their worth? Is it a coincidence that Teacher Appreciation week is the same week as Mother’s Day? I think not. Teachers, like mothers, are supposed to be altruistic saints who do it all for the love of children no matter what the personal sacrifice.

All of this teacher appreciation and the lack thereof, got me brainstorming some Do’s and Don’ts of teacher appreciation. Let’s start with some Don’ts:

Don’ts

  1. For the love of God, no more coffee mugs, tacky t-shirts, tote bags, adult sippy cups, paper weights, migraine inducing lotions or any other generic tokens of appreciation made by twelve year olds in China.
  2. Please don’t make us sit through faculty meetings where you pull names from a hat to reward us with pens or pieces of chocolate.
  3. Please don’t come up with wonky bonus programs based on decades old high school test scores because you don’t want to fund merit programs you instituted.
  4. Please don’t come up with esoteric algorithms that arbitrarily label teachers unsatisfactory educators even though they poured their hearts and souls into teaching a course.
  5. Please don’t rob me of my financial future just because you can’t find a way to finance the performance pay system that you lobbied for.
  6. Although I know parents have good intentions, I actually don’t want you to adopt my classroom. Everything I can buy on adoptaclassroom.org is something the school system should already be providing for me. With the additional restrictions on how teachers in Florida can spend their teacher lead money, I already have enough post-it notes and dry erase markers to last a lifetime.
  7. Another brain fart out of Palm Beach County is rewarding your Teacher of the Year with a luxury vehicle lease for two years. Instead of just giving your Teacher of the Year the keys to a sensible vehicle like a Toyota Camry that they can own, teachers of the year in Palm Beach County are being treated to a BMW lease for two years.  When their two year lease is up, poof, their carriage turns into a pumpkin and it’s back to their 1998 Honda Civic. http://extracredit.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/05/15/surprise-pbcs-teacher-of-the-year-gets-a-prize-with-4-wheels-and-3-letters/

Do’s

  1. Sometimes cold hard cash is the best gift of all! Well, actually, I don’t think you can donate cold hard cash to a teacher but a Target, Publix or Amazon gift card is the next best thing! Remember the limit is $25 but if you are a high school teacher with a student load of 200 that can really add up!
  2. Create a pay schedule that rewards teachers for years of service and provides for an annual cost of living adjustment that keeps up with inflation.
  3. Reward teachers for pursuing excellence in their craft such as pursuing advanced degrees or National Board Certification.
  4. Reward teachers for providing extra services to their students or mentoring other teachers.
  5. Pay us for our time as other professionals would be paid. If we attend professional development over the summer or on the weekend, we should be paid our daily rate.
  6. Listen to us! Invite teachers to the state legislature and listen to their recommendations. Politicians, district officials, and even school administrators can create short surveys for teacher feedback.
  7. Emails, notes and letters of appreciation from students and parents are appreciated. I especially like the letters of appreciation from D students in the back of the room who looked outwardly tortured by my class all year but secretly enjoyed it.

As much as I appreciate words of gratitude, it is not enough to pay the bills. You can express your appreciation for the Kafkateach blog by making a small donation on Paypal. Here is the link  https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LLM8XWXXUSNS8

I hate to ask for money but I have fallen on hard times as of late. Even donation amounts as little as $1 can make a difference. Thank you for your support!

Feel free to leave a comment in the commenting section below expressing your Do’s and Don’ts for teacher appreciation.

photo (3)

Sometimes a selfie is worth a thousand words.

OK, so technically it wasn’t a “selfie,” obviously someone else took this photograph because I don’t take selfies due to my old age and plethora of bad angles, but the purpose was the same as the Wikipedia definition of a selfie: “Selfies are often shared on social networking services such as Facebook,  Instagram, and Twitter. They are usually flattering and made to appear casual.” Like, “Hey, look at me just hanging out in a dress at the School Board building holding a laminated sheet of paper around my neck with my years teaching and pathetic salary.”

I hope my readers realize that this selfie comes at great personal humiliation and strife. My husband is about to unfriend me on Facebook and claims I have gone “full nutter” (I counter only half nutter and I blame it all on working under the absurdities of the MDCPS for 14 years).  My seven year old son was a little sweeter about seeing his mom on TV with a sign around her neck, “You look nice mommy, it’s like you have your own dog collar.”

Contrary to what some might think, I do not attend School Board meetings for the fun of it. Though I have to admit my coworkers and I had at least a little fun at this impromptu photo shoot where we had to push a police cart out of the way to get this picture taken. I thought my coworker’s shirt and my sign made for a perfect match up made even though it wasn’t planned.

Hiraldo and I

Unlike the misfortunate custodial workers who had to wait until 10:45 pm to speak, the public hearing session started right on time. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article152542014.html

Prior to the public speakers portion, a group of Haitians spoke about Trump’s deportation threats against Haitians who came to the United States after the earthquake under temporary protected status. The Board was unanimous in their support of the Haitian community.

The Board chair even allowed them to clap stating: “You are allowed to clap. If it’s done in a respectful way.”

The Superintendent chimed in that he had been to Haiti several times and even closed the segment by speaking a little Haitian creole. (Is there anything this man can’t do? Answer: he can’t figure out how to improve teacher pay or compensate grandfathered teachers for their financial losses.)

No Board meeting is complete without a good round of tooting their own horns and pats on the back. The Board congratulated themselves for raising 3rd grade reading scores more than any other urban area and for closing the achievement gap. (Not sure when the last time any of these Board members tried to teach a low income ESOL 3rd grader how to read was but they sure acted like it was due to their hard work).

One Board member boasted: “We typically talk about the bottom line, Miami Dade outperformed all other large districts in the state.” (Hmm..let’s see if they can outperform Broward in teacher raises?)

Superintendent: “The achievement gap is where we saw the biggest gains. 6% increase for African Americans and a 20% increase for English language learners. I am impressed with the caliber of teaching.” (Show me the money)

Gallon must have read my mind: “Have we contemplated how to incentivize teachers? Many teachers don’t want to teach third grade because of the high stakes involved.”

Superintendent: “We’ve contemplated incentives in high risk areas.”

Gallon: “There are societal implications with high stakes third grade testing. Third grade data is used as a predictor for how many prison beds we’re going to build.”

Then another Board member proceeded to thank everyone, and I mean everyone in the entire school system for the third grade achievement data: “I want to commend all of the stakeholders: the Superintendent, staff members, teachers, principals, interventionists, parents, and community members. Most importantly I want to thank the students (none of whom would have been watching this meeting). I don’t want to forget the region office or any other district employee.”

Kafkateach would personally like to thank ONLY my son’s teachers and reading interventionist who enabled him to grow by leaps and bounds this school year! You deserve all of the credit! Not the School Board or the downtown district types. Just you classroom teachers that worked with my son day in and day out and produced amazing achievements. You did it.

After all of Dade County had been congratulated, the Board aired a video celebrating Dade County’s status as “The Best Choice District in America.”

Enough with the sunshine and lollipops, it was time for the Superintendent to give his annual economic doom and gloom forecast just in time for contract negotiations. Watch out Dade County teachers! There is an economic tsunami heading your way and you know what that means!

Superintendent: “Time is of the essence.  We are flirting with a man made perfect storm. A man made crisis as far as funding is concerned. We are looking at very meager increases in funds for education.  You’d have to go back to a recessionary year to match that outcome. With a $5.9 million increase in funding, once you subtract the mandatory increase of $5.7 million back to Tallahassee for retirement, that’s a $200,000 increase. That’s a fifty cent increase in per pupil spending. What can you get for 50 cents per student? A pack of gum? The kids said “No. A pack of gum costs one dollar. You can only get a gum ball.” We funded education at the  price of a one gum ball for every child. And then the harmful parts of bill 7069. I’m not going to bore you with the details.  Then there are significant and devastating cuts from the Federal government. The Federal administration released its budget. A $9 billion dollar reduction, a reduction in Title 1 funds, a complete reduction of Title 2, a 13% reduction comprising vocational education and technology. The third element, is that the ESEA provides for higher percentage of funds retained by the state.  We are flirting with a man made perfect storm. I am forever hopeful. If it is man made, it can be resolved by man. We hope to accomplish the mitigation of these effects through town hall meetings and social media. We have three major storms converging on the issue of education funding and it will put Miami and every other school system in Florida and around the country in jeopardy. The question is why? We are in the midst of a great economy. We are in a  race to the bottom. Are our children worth more than a gum ball?”

Gulp. There just went any hopes of a 5% raise to match Broward. If the kids are only getting a gum ball, that’s going to equate to one tic tac per teacher. With that category 5 hurricane of an economic forecast we’ll be lucky if we get 1%. Heck, with a speech like that we’ll be lucky if he doesn’t take 1%.

Up next UTD President Karla Mats.

Karla Mats:  “I’m here to speak about the test results. We are test obsessed. We have to live within the system put in place by Tallahassee. The teachers continue to shine in the face of the challenges we face: mobility, economic issues. How does the budget surplus of 3 billion lead to such small increases in funding? It’s sickening and disheartening. We need our governor to recognize this hard work. We call on the governor to veto the bill. They failed the test. The governor can force a retake.

We service over 350,000 students. We need our community to help us. Hear our plea. Contact the governor and ask him to veto the budget. 850-717-9337. Email Rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com  Advocate for children. Public education is the last equalizer.”

UTD VP Antonio White: “I stand before you here with a host of education advocates throughout the community. Veto HB7069. This is one of he most egregious education bills in history. There are deliberate attacks on teachers and students. We need strong fully funded public schools. We are simply tired of seeing politicians putting children last. Year after year we have witnessed a systematic dismantling of public education. We represent 80% of the largest employer in Dade County. Our people also have needs. Find a way when their appears to be none. Find a way to move our work force forward. The welfare of our children and those who serve them is our responsibility. We cannot sit idly by while they asphyxiate our workforce. This bill was negotiated in secret. Definitely out of the sunshine. Demand a veto of HB 7069 . Stand up for students and educators.”

Dad of a 5th grader who is always reminding the Board that their Values Matter campaign actually matters: “Integrity is a value that matters. Integrity, the mother of all virtues. Integrity requires continuing to adhere to principles. It is instilled at home, by teachers, or mentors. There is no such thing as collective integrity. Like the pursuit of excellence, it is personal. Personal integrity is counter to looking the other way.  How can we interact with others that do not hold our values?  Be yourself, trust yourself, find an honorable way. Integrity as defined is difficult. Idealistic, impractical. It is the subject of films about people who made a difference in the lives of others. Listen to different point of views. Exercise appropriate criticism. Be willing to stand alone. Be sincere. Live life with integrity and virtue.”

Words to live by. Kafkateach is up next. This is my third time at the podium. I hate public speaking but I’ve done it three times. It would be nice if some of the other 18,000 plus teachers in Dade County would sign up to take their turn at the podium:

Here is the link to the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYPKc1CWqh0&t=32s

I definitely suffer from resting bitch face syndrome unlike Karla Mats who can’t wipe the smile off her face even if she tried.

If you’d rather not look at my RBF or listen to me speak, here is the text of the speech:

“Good evening. I’d like to start with a quote from our superintendent:

“Budgets are a reflection of values. We budget what we value. We defund what we don’t value.”

As I stand here today wearing a sign stating that after 14 years of teaching for Miami Dade County Public Schools my base pay is only $44,900, I think it is fair to say that teachers are not valued.

It’s embarrassing for me to stand here wearing this sign, but it should be a bigger embarrassment for the board.

When I signed my contract to teach for the district back in 2003, I was supposed to be able to reach top pay after 22 years. After 14 years of teaching, my salary is only $4,000 from the bottom of the pay scale and $27,000 from the top. I’m almost halfway through my career, how will I ever reach the top now?

Even more illuminating evidence of the declining value of teachers over the last decade, is the fact that there are over 7,000 mid-career teachers working for the district in 2017 that made less than they would have in 2004 without even adjusting for inflation! Adjusting for inflation, some of these teachers are making over $20,000 a year less!

I realize Tallahassee’s consistent commitment to underfunding Florida public schools is a major obstacle to paying teachers what they are worth, but almost 60% of the district’s budget is derived from local revenue according to the district’s own statistical highlights. The same report showcases the fact that the number of teachers employed by the district continues to shrink despite slight increases in student enrollment. In 2007 the district employed 22,393 teachers. In 2016, they employed only 18,275 teachers. By employing 4,000 teachers less than a decade ago, despite gains in enrollment, the district is saving over $225 million on teacher salaries alone. It seems like at least a portion of that money could be used to reward teachers for their efficiency and extra labor?

Although state revenue is stagnant and remains abysmally low, local revenue is booming. According to the district’s budget report for the 2016-17 school year, property tax collections were are up $60 million from the previous year and are projected to continue to increase by $60 million for the next three years. I realize I don’t understand the intricacies of the budget, but perhaps a some of those funds could be used to help subsidize teacher salaries in a city with such expensive real estate?

I stand here today to ask the district to find a way to value your teachers, especially your experienced and dedicated teachers who were financially devastated in the transition to performance pay. We have given Miami’s public school children the world, all we ask for in return is what we were promised.”

The Superintendent’s immediate rebuttal: “A couple of truthful corrections, there are fewer teachers now because they migrated to charter schools. When taxes go up Tallahassee appreciates it. With booming property values, the state funding goes down. The state with a complex formula takes into account how much is contributed locally. State funding goes up when local goes down. The state suppressed local taxes so that people will not be paying one more dollar, even though their home is worth more.  There are fewer teachers because of fewer students. $30 million a year goes to charter schools.  The more the district puts in, the more state takes away. The state puts in money as an equalizer. The vast majority comes from local contributions. 60% local, 40% from state. We make a greater contribution than the state returns.”

I consider the superintendent’s rebuttal a small victory because he didn’t even try to address the issue of teacher salaries because he knows it’s true. He’s probably done the math and marvels over how many hundreds of millions of dollars the district will be saving off the backs of the misfortunate mid-career teacher cohort.

Now for my imaginary rebuttal about the Superintendent’s points about blaming charter schools and the Tallahassee funding model.

Kafkateach imaginary rebuttal: “While I do concede that some of the loss in Dade County teachers may be due to charter schools, it cannot alone explain a decline of over 4,000 teachers. More likely it has to do with changes in how the class size amendment is calculated over the years. There was one year where the district actually followed the class size amendment at the class level. But ever since they have tweaked the formula so much that it has been effectively nullified. I think any teacher who has been working for the district for the last ten years can testify to the fact that their student load has drastically increased. When I began teaching in 2003, there was a maximum student load of 150 students. Now there is no maximum. Teaching 175 students at the secondary level is the norm, if you want a supplement you will be closer to 200.

As per the state’s funding formula, the Superintendent is correct that the more funds we produce at the local level, the less the state will return to us. If that’s the case, then why did the district hold back on giving us steps for three years during the Great Recession when the district’s budget was only under $5 billion for 2 years (It was still over $4 billion)?  http://drs.dadeschools.net/StatisticalHighlights/SH0910.pdf Imagine the long term costs savings to the district on holding back steps for three years! They can use the economy as an excuse to not give you a raise, but when the economy is booming that doesn’t lead to more money in their coffers either. ”

Math Stud and UTD steward who has spoken at his fair share of School Board meetings: “I’m a calculus teacher. I’ve been teaching 24 years and I have struggled financially. I’m not here to complain about my salary, but the median salary being low compared to the cost of living was reported by the local Herald and nationally by a former Secretary of Education. We taught today and will teach tomorrow. Many of us have to work an extra job. We don’t feel respected, we can’t even make a single copy at our schools. I feel for the plight of our mid-career teachers, many of whom see no way to move forward because we no longer have a salary schedule. Our teachers are exhausted and must teach an extra period. Remember your teachers when you go to the upcoming negotiations.”

My Comrade Coworker with the Cool Red t-shirt (by the way, she is also from the San Francisco Bay Area where activism is a local hobby):

Here is the link to her speech https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYiybiXtTNc&t=3s

“I have been in education since 1999 as an ESOL teacher. I perform a job that cannot be measured by standardized test scores. I’m the person their parents contact, I provide counseling for students. I provide a nurturing environment that encourages learning. I provide teacher conferences for parents that don’t speak English and feel comfortable with me because I establish a relationship with them. I have students who do not have breakfast in the morning. Students who live pay check to pay check. Yet I am not in a better situation. I too live pay check to pay check. I must teach an extra period and add an extra 25-30 students because my  $44,000 is not enough to cover the cost of living in South Florida. I’m single, no kids, no property so no tax break. A huge chunk of my salary goes to taxes. Plus I have student loans. I find myself getting deeper and deeper into debt because I must use credit cards. I have excellent credit but only qualify for a $155,000 veteran loan with a supplement, without it I qualify for less. I had to move 45 minutes away so I can afford rent. Sad that I would have to leave the community I serve in which I work because I, a teacher with experience and love for teaching cannot afford to live in the community where I work and serve.

Please take into consideration that the baby boomers are retiring and with a lack of incentives to join, or remain in the profession, the quality of teaching will decrease and so will the pool of highly qualified teachers. Guess who’s going to be effected at the end. The students. The people you claim to be fighting  for the most.”

The Master Litigator is up next. If anyone knows how to sue the school district, it’s him. If you would like to join the class action lawsuit against the district and union, here is the link http://teachersmatter.info/ or go to Facebook and search for the Grandfathered Lawsuit group: You can see his speech and imaginary rebuttal here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMo-CRQJJR8&feature=youtu.be

“I’ve been around a while. I’ve been here for positive reasons receiving awards for Science teacher of the year. For the new board members I’d like to ask for your help. We haven’t been able to get where we’re trying to get. I’d like to bring up the Florida statute that states what your powers and duties are: to provide for the duties of public schools, in addition to state funds, and arrange for levying. There are 3 inaccuracies that have been promoted: Tallahassee is not cutting the budget, you set the budget. Tallahassee has increased the budget every year except for the bust years. We are not maxed out in our ability to tax. Blank spaces catch our eyes. When you make a contract and you don’t raise the money. We’ve lowered $195 million in taxes. Raise the millage. ”

Superintendent’s rebuttal: “I need to correct the record. Per pupil funding is still below all time high of 2007 preceding the recession. Base student allocation is going down by $27. Total education, money for charter values put all together and as a total value results in .34% increase for Dade.  I too taught calculus. 50 cents per kid is not enough. We are still below the all time high. This is verifiable to anyone who wants to go beyond partisan publications. This board has levied the maximum millage. That’s why it’s called “the required local effort.” We are levied the max every year. We levy the discretionary mileage to 100%. The only latitude is in debt service. Operating millage that pays for teacher salaries has been levied in full. Some districts have taken to the voters a special tax. But that is not something the board can vote. The people would have to vote.”

Kafkateach imaginary interjection: “The people can’t vote on a special tax unless the Board proposes it!”

Unfortunately, nobody on the Miami Dade School Board seems to give a rat’s behind about low teacher salaries or the criminal robbery of mid-career teachers’ financial future.

At least one member cares about Board protocol and on occasion will challenge the Superintendent.

Gallon: “I need a point of order. If we are going to start rebutting speakers, I have points to rebut as well. Historically speakers have the right to present their case. I have an intent to look into matters but I have no intent of dissecting it on the dais.”

Harvey the Lawyer: “Dr. Gallon is correct. The purpose of the public speakers is to receive public comment and not address concerns directly. You are right.”

Karp interjects to defend the Superintendent: “We have spoken about the purpose of the public hearing to receive information, prior to your arrival.  As a board occasionally we ask the superintendent to clarify.”

Superintendent: “I want to agree with both of you. It’s not my standard to rebut. If the information is so egregious, then we have to intervene. It is not my wish to engage in a debate in the public hearing. At times, the information is so disconnected from the truth that it merits some recalibration.”

Mr. Real Men Wear Pink (He looks like the Rock wearing a pink polo. You can check him out here: https://www.facebook.com/grandfatheredlawsuit/videos/333566137062990/ )

“I’d like to discuss two words, appreciation and irony. I find it ironic that in a month that this county is recognized for its fiscal responsibility and teachers are supposedly appreciated. How was the county able to receive this recognition? By failing to recognize teachers’ years of service or this county ‘s obligation to salaries.  I was taught that actions speak larger than words, so when I receive a robo call telling me how much I’m appreciated but yet I know the reality, that this county has done nothing to recognize the imposed financial sacrifices of teachers, I can’t help but find it ironic. How many years has this county refused to raise the millage? Why? So Board members can run for office? The Board’s unwillingness to raise the millage to fulfill your obligation to your employees. How can the Superintendent and Board members say they’ve lowered taxes and then say we’re “Levied to the max.” There is a disconnect. To further illustrate my point, I’ll ask a simple question, and I’ll challenge anyone to provide an answer, how many years will it take, even under the best financial forecast to reach the salary max? Take myself for example, I have 12 years of service, under the best economic situation a minimum of 10 additional years. Is that appreciation? There is a crisis in this county to obtain teachers. In 2015 I made a promise that I will fight for my profession and I am hear to remind you that I have not wavered from that promise.”

Superintendent rebuts again: “I realize it’s not a debate (but I’m going to rebut what you said anyways because I’m the Superintendent and I can do that). This school board has not ever lowered its taxes from the max. It can be verified in our budget book. Considering the tenuous situation with Tallahassee it is not true.”

The English Teacher with the Shakespearean Surprise Tactics is up next: (notice how this speaker starts complimentary and positive and then goes in for the jugular at the end. Et Tu Brute?)

“I am a Miami Dade County teacher. A product of Miami Dade County public schools. We are the county with the largest amount of foreign residents. The discussion of TPS was spot on. I think that speaks to our community. I admire the strong stand of the board about this budget on the governor’s desk. It would be terrible for our urban and diverse district to pass such a bill. Something I remember clearly, when our new contract was announced was the photograph of the district and the union smiling as they signed our steps away. It was painful to remember the handshake between the union and the district because of the financial loss it meant to me. I don’t put my time into understanding the budget. But as we negotiate the contract can we find a way to put teachers first?”

Ms. Former ESE Teacher Who Is the Embodiment of Integrity: You can watch this month’s speech, and her many other Board speeches here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNDnjZm1L6I&feature=youtu.be

“It has now been 9 months since I resigned and brought forth concerns about our ESE department. As elected members who serve our children and our community I am extremely disappointed with your response and lack their of. I have received business cards and thumbs up from some of you, including a job offer. All of which are equivalent to nothing and only confirm my suspicions. Your silence indeed proves your role in being complicit. How is it I can come before you for 7 straight months and not have one of you consider the matter? Is it because I’m not passionate or tenacious enough? Or is it simply because you in your eyes the system is just dandy? Other parents and other teachers will tell you otherwise. Are the number of advocates fighting against the system not enough red flags? Are we waiting for a hefty lawsuit? What is it going to take for you to look closely at the fact that our ESE Department needs help? Is there something you need from me other than to not come back? Because that’s not going to happen. Let me remind you that in this state we have the McKay scholarship which make it easy for parents to walk away from the failing system. It would be interesting to see how different it would be if we really had to provide the appropriate education as a public school. But I guess that the McKay scholarship letter must take a huge load off your back. Perhaps our problem is that our ESE population is a very small percentage of the student population. Sooner or later they will be our largest population. I say our largest population because day in and day out we continue to let students slip. At this point we are throwing them down the cracks due to several factors. The most concerning are the shortage of staffing specialists, school psychologists and social workers that play a vital role in student placements. I’ve experienced cases where students wait years, yes years, to get evaluated and staffed. Don’t get alarmed, it’s been happening for years. At risk students have to wait for evaluations. They have to wait past FSA testing. They have to wait past summer. They have to wait for high priority cases where the scary parent called the district and threatened a few. There are plenty of parents who know something is wrong but lack the knowledge of their rights and financial means to hire an advocate and must wait. This waiting game is a waste of valuable educational time for our students who deserve an appropriate education. I haven’t asked for anything impossible over the past 9 months. I’ve asked for support for our ESE Department.  A thumbs up and “thank you for your passion” is not enough and is not cutting it. I give up one Wednesday once a month to seek help for those who fear retaliation or simply can’t make it. I give up time with my family at times like these where every second together counts. I have seven more months to go this year and I hold onto the hope that one of these meetings you’ll actually listen.”

I can testify to the veracity of the speaker’s statements. My youngest son has a speech delay and we’ve been trying to get help for the past year. My husband has taken time off of work, driven all over Dade County, been billed a thousand dollars for a hearing test because the county hearing machine wasn’t working and my district insurance won’t cover it, and my son has still not received any help. And I have connections in the system! Imagine what it’s like for those parents without any connections!

Not one to let a School Board public hearing session end on a negative note, some young bilingual teacher showed up to return us to your previously scheduled sunshine and lollipops programming.

Lil’ Miss Sunshine: “We want equity for all students. I want to thank the Superintendent and UTD. Not everything is negative. We need to improve communications as to what is going on and how salaries are allocated. Get involved . Many members have received the call to action as to what is going on with public education.  Thank you for investing in our children.”

I’ve certainly done my part to improve communications as to what is going on. Check out Kafkateach’s first and hopefully last attempt at filmmaking about Miami teacher salaries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V-VKqmXV5Q. As far as investing in the children of Miami Dade County, a big part of that is investing in people who spend each day working most closely with them. Invest in your teachers! We are the face of Miami Dade County Public Schools! Literally. That’s why I took the selfie.

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Congratulations! By signing up to speak at a School Board meeting you are showing your willingness to not be treated like a doormat. Or maybe you just wanted to fulfill your lifelong dream of appearing on a public television program that makes most members of the community curse at their TVs, “Another *bleeping* School Board meeting! I want my Downtown Abbey!”

Whatever your motivation, if this is your first time at the rodeo, here are a few survival tips:

  1. Get a hot spot. The last time I attended a School Board meeting they had disabled the wi-fi in the auditorium. Any distraction from listening to the discussion over agenda item CU-L8R will help to numb the pain.
  2. Bring friends. If you have a few friends with you, you can take shifts sitting in the auditorium while the others go enjoy life at a gastro-pub while they wait for the text that the public hearing is about to begin.
  3. Bring papers to grade. Never mind, it’s the end of the school year, you probably don’t have too many of those.
  4. Bring a lap top. Just because the wi-fi is disabled doesn’t mean you can’t start writing the next great American novel!
  5. DON’T SAY ANYONE’S NAME! EVER! ESPECIALLY NOT THE SUPERINTENDENT’S!
  6. You are not allowed to clap. If the School Board is clapping over some student performance or award recognition, then you can clap.
  7. You are limited to 3 minutes. Three minutes goes by very quickly. If you prepare a speech in advance, it should be under one page typed.
  8. Eat dinner first or bring a snack! These things can go on forever. The public hearing is supposed to begin no later than 6:30 but they don’t always follow their own rules. It can begin as early as 4:30 but that doesn’t happen very often.
  9. You don’t have to speak. If you are like me and hate the thought of public speaking, you can still show up to show your support. You can even bring a sign to make a statement without having to say anything at all. I plan on wearing a sign that shows my years of teaching and my salary.
  10.  Fax in the form no later than Monday 4:30 pm. There is still time to fax the form if you have procrastinated or just haven’t found the balls to do it yet, here is the link to the form http://forms.dadeschools.net/webpdf/6314.pdf.  If you can’t make it to the meeting this Wednesday, the district will be holding town hall meetings all week.  Try to attend one in your neighborhood. http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article151626322.html

For those of you who do plan to attend this Wednesday’s School Board meeting, thank you for standing up for your profession. Remember this quote from the Lorax:

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Riddle of the Day:

What do you get when you cross the Virgin of Guadalupe

480 Our Lady Guadalupe

With a touch of Steve Jobs

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And a whole lot of Godfather?

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You get this disturbing image that has graced the pages of the Miami New Times twice in the last year.

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The first time this creepy image with the Ghostbuster green slime background graced the New Times was last March. As a fellow person of Mediterranean skin tone, I can recommend that the superintendent stay away from green backgrounds. It’s like sticking an olive in a margarita. Speaking of green, apparently our superintendent not only leads the fourth largest school district in the nation, serves as principal of the successful I-Prep magnet school downtown, but also finds time for property management. Unfortunately, the landlord gig does not seem to be working out for him and may actually be a public health threat. According to the Miami New Times regarding a rental home in Fort Lauderdale, “The swimming pool at this property is not being maintained and in proper condition. It is full of stagnant water. It has an accumulation of trash or debris. The pool in this condition is a public nuisance.” http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/schools-superintendent-alberto-carvalho-cited-for-leaf-clogged-mosquito-infested-pool-8323744

Maybe we should think twice before the School Board gets into the landlord business. Imagine what the pool will look like at the teacher housing projects they plan to build in Brickell!

The first article was written in typical New Times fashion where they focused on digging up dirt on local officials. The second article, using the same image, seemed more like something that the Miami Herald would run after a substantial pay off.  The fact that the literally glowing review of the superintendent’s leadership was written by a former member of 2 Live Crew, who’s opus includes titles like “Pop that Coochie” and  “Oh, Me So Horny,” is an endorsement that most public school superintendents might shy away from. But this is Miami, a town where traditional puritanical social norms need not apply.  According to Mr. “Me Love You Long Time” the district will return to its banana republic status if the superintendent leaves.  He cites the superintendent’s record of helping to rebuild neglected urban public schools like Norland and Miami Central.http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/uncle-luke-alberto-carvalho-must-ignore-congressional-run-and-help-miamis-schools-9349934

After attending several technology PDs at the I-Tech Edison campus, I can testify that the transformation of some of Miami’s inner city schools is impressive. I felt like I had stepped into a New England prep school when I first entered I-Tech with its historic brown brick facade and inviting courtyard. The classrooms with their designer desks with wheels and cupholders did not disappoint either. It is to the superintendent’s credit that such impressive public institutions exist in some of the worst neighborhoods of Miami. Conversely, one has to wonder if these well equipped boutique facilities come at the expense of other public schools in the district?

You can see the I-Tech Edison campus for yourself in this Microsoft promotional video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkFCSLs6lKY, Three things become apparent from watching the video: Microsoft may be benefitting more from its partnership with Dade County schools than the district, even students at I-Tech have to work on the terrible tablets and not the expensive MacBooks like the ones in the slime green photograph, and typing on those tablets with long acrylic nails is extremely difficult and inefficient!

One element of truth portrayed in the New Times photo is the look of total disinterest on the students’ faces, even when being graced by the presence of the National Superintendent of the Year. That’s the exact same look my students give me when their screens light up. It’s like I become the invisible woman all of a sudden.

It’s not surprising that even Mr. “As Nasty As He Wants To Be” would write such a nice piece about the superintendent. Ever since the superintendent hinted at a run for congress, the sometimes literally glowing reviews of his record as Chief of Miami Dade County Public Schools seem to be published on the daily.

Which reminds me of a line I heard while watching Argo the other day:

“If you want to sell a lie, get the press to sell it for you.”

When the superintendent was quoted in an article about a protest over the miserly budget from Tallahassee as saying,

“I know that budgets are a reflection of values. We budget what we value. We defund what we don’t value.”

I couldn’t help but think of the sad economic situation faced by many Miami Dade County Public School teachers. We may work in a district with a $5 billion dollar budget, but our work is clearly not valued by the School Board. Whether the deification of our superintendent from the local media be for the purpose of promoting a congressional run or just an extension of his contract, the teachers of Miami Dade County would for once like to be the beneficiaries of our superintendent’s saintly powers. Our martyrdom has made Miami Dade County Public Schools what it is today and we deserve to bask in at least a little of the green glow that surrounds our superintendent.

 

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Tallahassee’s continuous underfunding of Florida public schools, despite a return to economic good times, has caused a drastic cinching in teachers’ pay checks across the state over the last 10 years. The biggest losers of them all seem to be mid-career veteran teachers working for Miami Dade County Public Schools. I challenge any other school district in the state, or even the entire country, to produce numbers like the ones compiled below through the efforts of teacher collaboration on Facebook.

Thanks to technology and the hoarder nature of the profession, an old salary schedule from 2004 appeared on a Facebook post. See image below.

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There is nothing particularly shocking with this salary schedule alone. But when one compares it to what teachers are actually making in Miami Dade County in 2017, 13 years later, the contrast is shocking. The numbers compiled below are taken from an anonymous online survey where Miami Dade County teachers posted their base pay for the 2017 school year.

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If you would like a printable copy that you can tear into little shreds and mail to the Florida Legislature, click the link https://1drv.ms/w/s!AhDpVy8XhRUem3B0ovnf1nMbbQ0y

Seeing these numbers actually drove me to drink, and I am not a drinker. That’s why I’m publishing this blog on a Friday night when you might already be drunk and won’t blame this blog post for any actions taken after inebriation. If you look at the highlighted sections, you will see that teachers with 15 to 23 years experience teaching in Miami Dade County actually made more money 13 years ago in 2004 WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION! When you add on a 2% inflation rate, some teachers are making almost $22,000 less than they would have made in 2004! Teachers with 19 years experience working in Miami Dade County Public Schools seem to be the biggest losers with an inflation adjusted loss of $21,982.

I started working for Miami Dade Public Schools in 2003 so this is the contract I signed up for, not the current min/max schedule (of which I will now never reach the max, after 14 years I’m $4,000 from the bottom) published on Miami Dade County Public Schools website. http://salary.dadeschools.net/Schd_Teachers/. You will also notice that there used to be a $10,000 difference in pay between a first year teacher and a 14 year veteran. In 2017, you actually have teachers with as little as 5 years experience making more money than a teacher with 15 years experience if they received highly effective evaluations. Regardless, almost every teacher’s salary in Miami Dade County Public Schools is thousands of dollars less than it should be if one acknowledges that inflation exists. According to the federal government, inflation was 2.2% http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/ but for some reason, Florida and the Magic City seem to be living in a Disney Dream where $1 in 2004 has the same value as $1 in 2017.  This, coupled with a 3% loss in income (thanks again Tallahassee!) and a soaring real estate market, is leading to economic despair for most mid-career teachers in Miami. The School Board’s answer seems to be to build a few hundred affordable condo units on top of a school for teacher housing. Perhaps the other 19,000 teachers can go live in sand castles they build for themselves on the beach? Hard to tell which will erode away faster, Miami Dade County mid-career teacher pay checks or the shores of south Florida.

There are over 7,000 teachers working in Miami Dade County Public Schools in 2017 who made less than they would have made, WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION, in 2004! The Miami Dade County Public School System is the largest employer in Miami Dade County. When employee pay suffers, the local economy suffers as well. I challenge anyone to find another government worker from firefighters to police officers, where experience does not earn you a higher paycheck. Even security guards working for the school system still have steps!

The Florida Legislature would never do this to other public servants like firefighters and police officers. Reasons for that include that firefighter and police unions frequently vote Republican, rich people who run the Florida Legislature want them to protect their million dollar properties and they most likely don’t send their own kids to public schools, so they stick it to the Florida public school teacher every chance they get. Teacher salaries are also a main target because there are just so many of them compared to law enforcement and other public servants. If they are concerned about paying pension benefits, the biggest bang for your political buck is to slash the salaries of teachers. The war on teachers is also part of the larger war on women and the war on the middle class. The teaching profession has been a ticket into the middle class for many minority women over the last fifty years. By suppressing teacher wages, we suppress a major route to upward mobility. This may be happening most notably in Miami and throughout Florida, but it is also part of a nationwide trend leading to the death of the American middle class. We should all be concerned about this alarming data coming from Miami Dade County Public Schools, teachers may just be the canaries in the coal mine.

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Please spend 30 seconds taking this anonymous survey about Teacher Experience and Base Salary if you currently work for Miami Dade County Public Schools and share it widely on social media. Click the link to take the survey. https://onedrive.live.com/survey?resid=1E1585172F57E910!3543&authkey=!AGB8cDu38dOlfH0

I am trying to compile some data regarding teacher experience and base pay for Miami Dade County teachers in an effort to gain some understanding of how much Miami Dade County Public Schools is saving not paying you what you are worth and what you should have been making at this point in your careers. If you are retiring this year or in the next few years, that would also help me have some idea of how much money the district will be saving as the top earners retire and are replaced by teachers making $31,000 less. Try to help disseminate this survey to other underpaid colleagues and if you haven’t already faxed in your speaker form for the May 24th School Board meeting, please do so ASAP as negotiations are ongoing http://forms.dadeschools.net/webpdf/6314.pdf. You are not obligated to speak by faxing in the form. It is just sending the Board a message that your are not happy about teacher salaries.

In other news, in UTD Bargaining Update #4, Mats continues her English muffin negotiating strategy:

“President Hernandez-Mats went on to state that the union and M-DCPS management would have to get creative to find what is necessary to honor teachers. She stated that we would need to continue to look in every nook and cranny to find what we need. She also called upon our community to let our Governor know that the budget is insufficient to fund our schools properly. Management has asked UTD to seek the places where funding could be maximized as it has done in the past to fund a collective bargaining reserve.”

Actually, it’s probably a better idea if the six figure earning full time Union President went digging in the nooks and crannies herself finding possible sources of funding rather than pleading for the district to do it. I managed to find hundreds of millions of dollars worth of nooks and crannies that could be used for teacher salaries after a ten minute Google search.

In nook number 1, I found an interestingly large decline in the number of teachers employed by Miami Dade County Public Schools over the last ten years despite seeing a slight increase in student enrollment. You can see the numbers for yourself here http://drs.dadeschools.net/StatisticalHighlights/SH1516.pdf

In 2006, Miami Dade County Public Schools employed 22,000 teachers and in 2015-16 it employed only 18,500 teachers with an average salary of only $55,600. The decrease in the teacher force by 3,486 teachers with an average compensation of $55,600 amounts to a savings of $194 million on teacher salaries alone!

In nook #2 on the same site, it shows that only 33% of the budget comes from the state and 55% of the budget comes from local revenue. So constantly blaming Tallahassee for your lack of a raise when only 33% of the budget is based on funding from Tallahassee is not a great excuse.

That might lead one to ask, “How have local revenue sources been performing in the last few years?” Answer: they’ve been freakin’ fantastic and they are only expected to get better by the double digit millions for the next three years thanks to the real estate boom!

Look what I found in this cranny on p.168 of the district’s financial report, http://financialaffairs.dadeschools.net/ES16-17/ES16-17.pdf. There is a projected $61 million increase in property tax collection for the 2017-18 school year. Geez, I think we could find some money for a decent raise in there!

Even without the decline in the teacher workforce and an increase in property tax collection, the district is saving millions from its current veteran teachers by denying them their steps. In 2014 there were over 4000 teachers earning top pay. We know at least 500 teachers retired in 2015 and there was a massive increase in teachers entering DROP in 2011 because of legislative changes and they would have been forced out in 2016 according to this Miami Herald article http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article28656136.html. So a very conservative estimate of 1000 fewer teachers making top pay of $72000 being replaced by teachers making $40,800 would be a net savings of approximately $31 million. That’s without taking into account the thousands of teachers that should be earning $72,000 and are only making $59,000. A twenty-five year veteran at my school is in DROP and only making $59,000, $13,000 less a year than a 27 year veteran! There are thousands of teachers like him in Dade County. That’s why I need you dear teachers to please take 30 seconds to fill out the anonymous survey https://onedrive.live.com/survey?resid=1E1585172F57E910!3543&authkey=!AGB8cDu38dOlfH0 and share this survey widely through social media and email so we can get an accurate number to take to the School Board on May 24th. And don’t forget to fax the form! http://forms.dadeschools.net/webpdf/6314.pdf

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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 UTD WIN

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

 

 

school-board-meeting

Here is a quick link to the School Board speaker form if you’d rather not read of all this. http://forms.dadeschools.net/webpdf/6314.pdf. You’re not obligated to speak just by faxing it in. The point is to express your dissatisfaction with teacher salaries during the ongoing negotiations. Negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday, May 9th and so far all UTD bargaining updates point to another year of blaming Tallahassee and rising healthcare costs for the lack of any noticeable increase in your pay check. Keep reading to find out more about possible sources of district funding that could be used to pay you what you are worth.

The Miami Herald ran perhaps the least shocking news story of the year when it reported on Friday that the Miami Dade Schools Chief may be running for a higher political office http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article148840949.html. The opening of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress presents an opportunity for the Superintendent to finally find a place on the national political stage. According to the article, Florida Democrats are all a tingle with excitement at the thought of the Miami Supe making a run for Congress even if he’s not currently a registered Democrat. In his typical eloquent evasiveness, he gave a non-answer as to whether he would seriously consider running:

“I have a sort of moral responsibility at least to entertain their request for consideration,” Carvalho said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “At the same time, my dedication and commitment to the Miami-Dade County Public Schools is as strong and unwavering as ever.”

The Superintendent would run as a Democrat despite having no registered political affiliation, stating:

“Politically, I’m a free agent, accountable only to the people I serve,” he said. “And that’s a good position to be in.”

He describes himself as socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Ain’t nobody know better just how fiscally conservative the Superintendent of Miami Dade County Public Schools is than Miami Dade County Public School teachers! Rather than honor the grandfathered salary schedule or raise teacher salaries, the Superintendent has stock piled cash in reserves leading to a triple A rating from Moody’s. Moody’s cites the rising property tax base for the rosy financial picture for the district. https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-Assigns-Aa3-to-Miami-Dade-County-SD-FLs-250M–PR_903948418

“The Aa3 general obligation rating reflects the district’s substantial property tax base that continues to strengthen, narrowed financial position with modest contingency reserves and cash, and an ongoing substantial capital program, funded in part with a sizable $1.2 billion voter-approved general obligation bond authorization.”

Further evidence of rising property tax collections can be seen in the Miami Dade County Public School System financial affairs report for 2016-17. The image below to shows the property tax collection rise over $139 million in the last three years. You can read the entire report or scroll to p.154 to summary of the General Fund http://financialaffairs.dadeschools.net/ES16-17/ES16-17.pdf

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Another impressive piece of evidence the Superintendent can add to his fiscally conservative portfolio is how he has managed to make veteran teachers pay for younger teachers’ merit pay and reduce district costs on teacher salaries by eliminating the state mandated grandfathered step schedule. This excel chart shows the number of teachers at each step before they were eliminated in 2014. Note that over 4,000 teachers were earning top pay and as they retire, their replacements will be earning $30,000 less and there will be a large gap in time before any teacher makes it to the top of the pay scale again. Teachers with 22 years in the system, which should have been at the top of the pay schedule at this point in their careers making $72,000 are only making on average about $53,000. A cost savings to the district of approximately $15,000 a year per teacher. Screwing over 2500 teachers out of approximately $15,000 equals a savings to the district of almost $40 million a year! Fiscally conservative indeed!

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So consider it your civic duty dear Dade County teacher to show up at the next School Board meeting on May 24th and let the public know exactly how fiscally conservative our Superintendent is and how he has balanced the $5 billion budget off the backs of its most loyal employees during his reign of economic terror on Miami Dade Public School teachers. You may want to tape a sign to your chest and back like the one below, showing your years of service and base salary at the School Board meeting.

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UTD negotiations with the district are scheduled to resume Tuesday May 9th. Could we get a few hundred or few thousand teachers to fax in their speaker form by then? http://forms.dadeschools.net/webpdf/6314.pdf What message would that send the negotiating team?

The “Miami Teacher Salaries Then and Now” blog post https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/miami-dade-teacher-salaries-then-and-now/ had almost 15,000 views in only a few days merely by posting it in two places on Facebook and having other teachers share the post. This is possibly a more effective method of sharing information with the Miami Dade County teacher community than district email with the added benefit of not clogging up anybody’s inbox and there is no “Reply All” button! https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/the-chain-email-from-hell-a-day-that-will-in-mdcps-infamy/