By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI— After months of union negotiations, teachers in Miami-Dade County are expected to receive salary increases of 2-3 percent, but this amount is dwarfed by the nearly 10-30 percent increase that could befall school administrators.
The news came as a shock to teachers and local residents, who just recently approved a property tax increase in last month’s election on the promise of providing nearly $1.2 billion for technologicial upgrades and new schools.
The provision, adopted by the School Board last week, increases salary caps for certain administrative positions, as well as creates new jobs for qualified personnel and gives promotions to others.
“We found out a few weeks later that this bill was secretly passed,” said Karla Hernandez, a high school teacher in Hialeah.
Dissenting School Board members told Florida Watchdog that the vote for the provision was proposed even though most members had not read the bill and were not completely aware of the salary cap increase for administrators.
“I’m very upset at the way it was brought to the board, because we should have talked about it and discussed it,” said Marta Perez, School Board member for district 8.
“We just passed a referendum for schools and now people will think we’ve just used that money to raise wages for administrators,” she lamented.
Perez said she felt blindsided by the matter in which the proposition was offered for a vote.
“I thought the board was voting for something just brought up in committee, but it turns out we voted for something else,” Perez told Florida Watchdog.
The highest paid administrators who work outside schools can now earn up to $174,000, according to contract negotiations unveiled by the Miami Herald. The previous limit was $145,462.
Raquel Regalado, board member for District 6, agreed with the criticism, admitting that it may have “confused many people” who were not paying close attention to the debate, but still supports the measure.
“We haven’t raised the wages of anyone. We have just raised the potential of what we have to gain in the coming years in order to attract people,” said Regalado, who denied the money came from the bond just approved by voters.
“A few weeks ago there was no money for anybody,” said Hernandez. “Where did the money for these raises come from?” she asked Florida Watchdog.
“I agree with my colleagues who have expressed frustration at the way the document was presented,” District 7 School Board member Carlos Curbelo said at a recent meeting.
The measure to increase salary caps for administrators was passed unanimously by the board’s nine members.
In August, the Miami-Dade County School Board raised a ballot question for the Nov. 6 election, asking voters to approve $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds, intended to build and modernize schools around the district, as well as update the technological system.
The ballot proposal was approved by the Florida Department of Education, following a review that confirmed the need for funding in order to implement the construction projects for new schools.
In the School Board meetings, the salary increases were justified as a way to attract “qualified” candidates who may come to the county after the Miami-Dade school district was awarded the Broad Prize for Urban Education in October, a result of significant gains in student achievement.
“It has affected the morale of teachers,” said Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “We need to keep the best talent within this district.”
Chris Barry of Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit fiscal watchdog organization based in Tallahasse, said the deal revealed a sad state of affairs for parents and taxpayers of Miami-Dade County.
“Unfortunately, the teachers do not earn as much as administrators,” he told Florida Watchdog. “We should pay teachers more than the bureaucrats. They will argue that it’s what you should pay, but we know we can reduce that amount and keep as many teachers and principals.”
Barry said kids are more impacted by what goes on in the classroom than the administrative buildings with high-paid officials.
“That’s where Florida’s educational excellence is and this is how the students will earn good wages,” said Barry. “We shouldn’t pay administrators the big salaries. ”
The teachers union negotiated an increase that ranges between 2 and 2.7 percent. That increase is estimated that all teachers receive in the State.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org.
Watchdog.org’s Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.