Miami-Dade Teachers

Miami-Dade School Board approves teacher raises, talks healthcare

Teachers in Miami-Dade will finally get that raise Gov. Rick Scott pledged nearly a year ago, although they’ll have to work to approach the full $2,500.

The Miami-Dade School Board on Wednesday voted to approve a one-year deal with the United Teachers of Dade that commits $50 million from the Florida Legislature to provide raises of at least $1,300 for most the district’s 21,000-plus teachers. Another $20 million in federal performance pay dollars should give most teachers an extra $1,000 down the road, based on the results of their district evaluations.

The money from the state wasn’t enough to fund the raises pledged by the governor, and not every teacher will get a bonus. But most will, bringing their pay boost this year close to $2,500 or more, according to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

The unanimous board vote came after a majority of the roughly 25,000 employees represented by the United Teachers of Dade voted to ratify the new deal Oct. 30. More than 81 percent of those casting ballots voted in favor of the agreement, a rate union officials held up as a sign of the deal’s value.

Still, more than 3,000 voted against the contract. And much of the conversation Wednesday turned to healthcare costs, which are rising as the self-insured district works to manage changes under Obamacare.

Concerns that cost increases would eat into raises were discussed throughout negotiations, during which district officials warned they needed to find $60 million to keep their healthcare plan funded. Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, veteran teacher and outspoken union critic Shawn Beightol wrote to the board that under the terms of the deal, his raise is a wash.

“If I stay on [my current plan,] I will have to pay $2,700 more for my family’s healthcare” in monthly premiums over all of 2014, he wrote.

Union President Fedrick Ingram, despite touting the agreement as a “high point” for teachers, acknowledged Wednesday that healthcare costs would be an issue for some employees. “That’s just the truth. It’s not a negative about the contract,” he said.

Carvalho and several top administrators noted during the meeting that the district has committed $14 million toward the healthcare plan this year and next to help provide free, employee-only coverage. The district also subsidizes monthly dependent premiums by varying amounts depending on how much the worker is paid; the subsidy is 80 percent for employees earning $25,000 or less.

“I think we are one of the very last ones to actually provide a free option. Is it an extremely rich option? No, but it’s free,” Carvalho said. Later, after several probing questions on healthcare from board members, he tried to refocus the discussion on the approval of teachers’ raises: “I thought we would be coming here today to first and foremost celebrate something pretty remarkable.”

The raises awarded by the contract, which include a 2.3 percent increase and $331 bonus for about 4,500 secretaries, security guards and paraprofessionals, are retroactive to Oct. 11.

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