Browards teachers spent the last four years without a raise and in the meantime watched their own union implode but a modest pay raise appears to be finally headed their way, school district leaders announced Tuesday.
The agreement, which still must be ratified by both Broward School Board members and the unions rank-and-file membership, calls for a base 2 percent increase (known as a step increase in union terms), with additional unspecified bonus money to be awarded to newer teachers who are on the lower rungs of the pay scale.
Teachers who are already at the top step of the union pay scale will receive a $500 annual salary increase. The raises would take effect mid-year, in January, costing the school district about $10 million this year and more than $18 million a year going forward.
These have been difficult times in the school district, and in the union, said Broward Teachers Union administrator John Tarka, who called the agreement a step forward. Tarka was appointed to temporarily run the union by its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, after allegations of widespread misconduct surfaced against former BTU President Pat Santeramo last year.
Santeramo was arrested in July, and is awaiting trial on charges he stole about $300,000 from BTU through a combination of vendor kickbacks and artificially inflated payments for sick and vacation time. The union is in the midst of a three-week mail-in voting process to select a permanent president who will replace Tarka.
Donna Shubert, a kindergarten teacher and union steward at McNab Elementary School in Pompano Beach, said the proposed deal will likely be approved by union members, as even a small raise would be viewed by many as better than nothing. But after four years of stagnant pay, Shubert said she found this new raise difficult to get excited about.
You dont pay for everything else and then see whats left for teachers, Shubert said. I saw my paycheck last week, and I thought, My gosh, this is what I should be making weekly, not every two weeks. Its disheartening.
Along with pay frustrations, Shubert said the ever-present threat of layoffs and the open hostility some state lawmakers have toward teachers and public education make it hard for her to recommend teaching as a profession these days, at least in Florida.
Superintendent Robert Runcie said he would have liked to boost teacher pay even higher, but the districts tight budget picture made that impossible. Runcie said funding for the raises will come from vacant job positions in the district, cost savings after the district moved its health insurance management in-house, and overall operational efficiencies.
Were like scraping the bottom of the barrel to make sure that we find every penny that we can to invest in the classroom, Runcie said.
Meanwhile, United Teachers of Dade and Miami-Dade school district administrators returned to the bargaining table Monday. They have yet to reach a tentative agreement on any change to salaries, though they have traded various offers. Miami-Dade teachers last received a raise during the 2009-10 school year.
The districts latest offer included a 1 percent salary increase for all teachers and other union members a proposal the union criticized as not being a serious offer. Karen Aronowitz, UTDs president, said she was pleased for Browards teachers and hopes the Miami-Dade School Board will "instruct the superintendent to settle our contract with raises for teachers and education support professionals."