Miami-Dade Schools, teachers union make a pay deal capped by surprise bonus in January

From left, Miami-Dade County school board member Mari Tere Rojas, United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats and board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall offer their support for a referendum to raise property taxes.
From left, Miami-Dade County school board member Mari Tere Rojas, United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats and board member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall offer their support for a referendum to raise property taxes. WLRN-Miami Herald News

After schools let out and day turned to night outside school district headquarters, school officials and teachers union delegates stayed behind, holding back tears of joy.

Never before had Miami-Dade County Public Schools and United Teachers of Dade negotiated with over $200 million for instructional personnel — a sum generously approved by voters who said yes to paying more in taxes, largely for teacher pay.

Both groups struck a deal late Tuesday after UTD warmly accepted the district’s first financial proposal, a three-tiered plan unveiled by the district for the first time earlier that day

Working with $211 million — a previous estimate said $204 million would be raised for teachers in the first year of the four-year referendum — the district’s plan includes a 5 percent supplement from the referendum funding for instructional personnel and full-time paraprofessionals in January, ahead of double-digit percentage increases promised by the referendum ready in July. The agreement also comes with about a 1 percent raise for recurring salary adjustments for teachers.

“What’s great about this is that no one is left behind, and that’s important to us,” said UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats. “I really feel like you heard us.”

The 5 percent supplement, a surprise previously hinted at by Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, would be paid out from January to June 30, 2019. Carvalho, who said he consulted with credit agencies to make the January supplement possible, said the district would dip into reserves for the supplements and then be reimbursed when revenues from the referendum are collected in July.

Beginning in July, entry-level teachers working 10 months and making $41,000 to $41,999 would get a 12.5 percent supplement, the conservative and much talked about figure given on the campaign trail for the referendum. The scale increases, peaking at a 22.75 percent supplement for 853 later career 10-month teachers making $64,000 to $69,999 — teachers identified as historically wronged by a change in a grandfathered pay scale, missing out on thousands of dollars in pay raises. Teachers making above that salary will get supplements of 17.75 percent and 15.88 percent.

The median salary for a teacher in Miami-Dade County is around $46,000. District figures put 7,254 teachers into that group — the most of any other salary range — making $45,000 to $49,999. Those teachers who will receive supplements of 15.88 percent, or $7,000 to $8,000.

There was little discussion during bargaining about sharing funding with charter schools, which made a push last week to get a cut of the referendum funding for charter teachers, who do not belong to a union.

“When we went to the voters with this we were very clear on what the intent was,” Carvalho said, adding that the negotiations were “honoring what people voted for.”

For regularly scheduled raises not tied to the referendum, teachers previously on the grandfathered scale will also see a 1 percent salary increase. Those on the performance scale will see a 0.825 percent increase for effective teachers and 1.1 percent for highly effective teachers, retroactive to July 1, 2018. The salary increases will be recurring and are not part of the additional funding raised by the referendum.

Both sides blamed the paltry increase on a 47-cent increase in funding from Tallahassee lawmakers that could be used for teacher raises. Miami-Dade received the third lowest increase in that funding among all 67 counties.

The new deal also included more extra duties for elementary school teachers and converts a planning day to a professional development day. Teachers will also have the opportunity to vote to participate in a one-year “collaborative planning” pilot that will schedule 30 minutes weekly or an hour biweekly of collaborative planning time.

The tentative agreement will go to teachers for a ratification vote early next week. If approved, the contract will be placed on next week’s school board agenda.

Contact Colleen Wright at 305-376-3003 and @Colleen_Wright.
Colleen Wright returned to the Miami Herald in May 2018 to cover all things education, including Miami-Dade and Broward schools, colleges and universities. The Herald was her first internship before she left her hometown of South Miami to earn a journalism degree from the University of Florida. She previously covered education for the Tampa Bay Times.