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Dade teachers union, district reach tentative agreement to boost salaries

Miami-Dade teachers could see their first salary increase in three years, union leaders and district administrators announced Thursday.

The United Teachers of Dade’s bargaining team and administrators signed a tentative agreement, which still must be ratified by the bargaining unit members and the Miami-Dade School Board.

The deal, which follows months of negotiations, comes just days after the district got approval for a $1.2 billion bond referendum from taxpayers.

If ratified, the proposal would raise the starting salary for teachers in their first three years to $40,000 – worth as much as $1,500 – and would lift the salary for the most veteran teachers by $1,000 to $69,225.

All eligible teachers would be able to move up a rung on the pay ladder, known as a “step” in union terms. Education support staff, like clerical employees and security monitors, would get a 2.25 percent increase to their base salary.

“It moves us forward,” said Karen Aronowitz, president of United Teachers of Dade, which represents 21,000 teachers and 11,000 non-instructional employees.

“We know that our teachers wanted a step and we’ve gotten them a step,” she added.

The last time Miami-Dade teachers received a salary increase was December 2009. They have been working under a contract that expired in June.

On Thursday, Aronowitz threatened to declare impasse if there was not a resolution; that message was blasted on social media.

Earlier this week, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho hinted there were “better days ahead” for Miami-Dade teachers and principals at the celebration Tuesday night for the passage of the bond referendum.

“All of those results pale in comparison to what teachers do in a classroom, to what students demonstrate every single day,” Carvalho told reporters.

“This tentative agreement is a positive move towards incentivizing and retaining recent additions to our teaching staff as well as recognizing our veteran teachers,” Carvalho said in a statement Thursday.

While negotiations were ongoing, UTD leaders signed off on the Miami-Dade district’s application to compete for more federal money, up to $30 million for middle school math, in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program. They previously had rejected it, but some teachers and union leaders saw the tie-up on the application as a bargaining chip for raises.

Rank-and-file members are set to vote Nov. 19 on the tentative deal. If passed, the soonest the Miami-Dade School Board could approve it would be Nov. 21. If approved, the contract would extend to 2015. The school district is the county’s largest employer.

Said Aronowitz: “We did what our bargaining unit asked and they’re going to make a decision on it and I hope they’ll make the right decision so we can move forward.”

The tentative deal includes changes to Miami-Dade teachers’ health care plan. There would still be an employee option with no premiums. But it would increase contributions for dependents.

Similar to the tentative deal in Miami-Dade, Broward teachers recently struck a tentative deal in October that gave extra money to newer teachers on the lower end of the pay scale. In addition, the Broward Teachers Union and the district tentatively agreed to increase the base salary by 2 percent.

Miami Herald staff writer Michael Vasquez contributed to this report.