Miami-Dade public school teachers could be getting a raise, despite low state funding

Teachers in Miami-Dade will get bigger paychecks if the United Teachers of Dade union approves a new contract.
Teachers in Miami-Dade will get bigger paychecks if the United Teachers of Dade union approves a new contract. The Miami Herald

Miami-Dade’s public school teachers could be taking home bigger paychecks next year, a result of months of negotiations between the school district and the teacher’s union.

The final numbers: A 2.67 percent raise for “highly effective” teachers and a 2 percent bump for “effective” teachers. Education support professionals would see a 2 percent raise.

The union, United Teachers of Dade, said a majority of the county’s teachers fall in the 2.67 range.

The contract, if approved by a majority of the UTD’s bargaining unit on Nov. 7, extends until 2020 and puts the new starting salary at $41,000 with a new maximum of $72,720. It also adds annual supplements of $750 or $1,500 to mid and late-career teachers, respectively.

Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he was proud that the compensation agreement would mean no increases in healthcare costs for school employees, and that the state-funded bonuses of $1,200 for highly effective teachers and up to $800 for effective teachers pushed the average salary increase to 4.34 percent.

Still, union president Karla Hernández-Mats said the agreement doesn’t go far enough.

“We have done the best we could in this financial situation, but it is absolutely not what our members deserve,” Hernández-Mats said.

Hernández-Mats credits the agreed-upon raise, a full percent more than the district’s counteroffer, to the vocal teachers who put pressure on their school board representatives. The union ran a social media campaign updating teachers on the negotiations and encouraging them to weigh in.

Teacher pay is a sore spot for the thousands of educators who struggle to live in an increasingly expensive metropolitan area in a state that ranks near the bottom of the country in state funding per student. Many teachers take on second (or third) jobs to make ends meet, Hernández-Mats said, and some even apply for food stamps.

Both the district and the union agree that teachers deserve higher pay, and each have been clear about what they say is the barrier to better compensation: state lawmakers.

In a year of state economic surplus and academic accolades for the district (among them, no F-rated schools), Miami-Dade saw a 1 percent increase in state and local funding.

“Considering the revenue stream from Tallahassee and the current economic conditions our district is in,” Carvalho said. “We’ve been able to turn what seemed to be an impossible position into an agreement that honors and dignifies our teachers.”

Once, Florida calculated cost-of-living when coming up with teacher salary numbers, which helped teachers who live in expensive urban areas like Miami-Dade and Broward counties but that practice was ended. This year, when state legislators set aside $100,000 to study cost-of-living disparities for teachers in the state’s 67 counties and potentially make it a factor again, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it.

“They’re systematically underfunding our public schools,” Hernández-Mats said. “We’re having to fight for every nickel and dime.”