Solutions that don’t break the bank, reinvent the wheel or marginalize our teachers are within our grasp. We could have rigorous classes, safe and disciplined schools and treat teachers like valued colleagues rather than easily replaceable cogs, and we could do so tomorrow if we wanted. Disclaimer, this is an opinion and commentary site and should not be confused as a news site, and you should know that quite often people may disagree with the opinions posted herein.
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Monday, May 15, 2017
Florida's teachers are its biggest losers
Tallahassee’s continuous underfunding of Florida public schools, despite a return to economic good times, has caused a drastic cinching in teachers’ pay checks across the state over the last 10 years. The biggest losers of them all seem to be mid-career veteran teachers working for Miami Dade County Public Schools. I challenge any other school district in the state, or even the entire country, to produce numbers like the ones compiled below through the efforts of teacher collaboration on Facebook.
Thanks to technology and the hoarder nature of the profession, an old salary schedule from 2004 appeared on a Facebook post. See image below.
There is nothing particularly shocking with this salary schedule alone. But when one compares it to what teachers are actually making in Miami Dade County in 2017, 13 years later, the contrast is shocking. The numbers compiled below are taken from an anonymous online survey where Miami Dade County teachers posted their base pay for the 2017 school year.
Seeing these numbers actually drove me to drink, and I am not a drinker. That’s why I’m publishing this blog on a Friday night when you might already be drunk and won’t blame this blog post for any actions taken after inebriation. If you look at the highlighted sections, you will see that teachers with 15 to 23 years experience teaching in Miami Dade County actually made more money 13 years ago in 2004 WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION! When you add on a 2% inflation rate, some teachers are making almost $22,000 less than they would have made in 2004! Teachers with 19 years experience working in Miami Dade County Public Schools seem to be the biggest losers with an inflation adjusted loss of $21,982.
I started working for Miami Dade Public Schools in 2003 so this is the contract I signed up for, not the current min/max schedule (of which I will now never reach the max, after 14 years I’m $4,000 from the bottom) published on Miami Dade County Public Schools website. http://salary.dadeschools.net/Schd_Teachers/. You will also notice that there used to be a $10,000 difference in pay between a first year teacher and a 14 year veteran. In 2017, you actually have teachers with as little as 5 years experience making more money than a teacher with 15 years experience if they received highly effective evaluations. Regardless, almost every teacher’s salary in Miami Dade County Public Schools is thousands of dollars less than it should be if one acknowledges that inflation exists. According to the federal government, inflation was 2.2% http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/ but for some reason, Florida and the Magic City seem to be living in a Disney Dream where $1 in 2004 has the same value as $1 in 2017. This, coupled with a 3% loss in income (thanks again Tallahassee!) and a soaring real estate market, is leading to economic despair for most mid-career teachers in Miami. The School Board’s answer seems to be to build a few hundred affordable condo units on top of a school for teacher housing. Perhaps the other 19,000 teachers can go live in sand castles they build for themselves on the beach? Hard to tell which will erode away faster, Miami Dade County mid-career teacher pay checks or the shores of south Florida.
There are over 7,000 teachers working in Miami Dade County Public Schools in 2017 who made less than they would have made, WITHOUT ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION, in 2004! The Miami Dade County Public School System is the largest employer in Miami Dade County. When employee pay suffers, the local economy suffers as well. I challenge anyone to find another government worker from firefighters to police officers, where experience does not earn you a higher paycheck. Even security guards working for the school system still have steps!
The Florida Legislature would never do this to other public servants like firefighters and police officers. Reasons for that include that firefighter and police unions frequently vote Republican, rich people who run the Florida Legislature want them to protect their million dollar properties and they most likely don’t send their own kids to public schools, so they stick it to the Florida public school teacher every chance they get. Teacher salaries are also a main target because there are just so many of them compared to law enforcement and other public servants. If they are concerned about paying pension benefits, the biggest bang for your political buck is to slash the salaries of teachers. The war on teachers is also part of the larger war on women and the war on the middle class. The teaching profession has been a ticket into the middle class for many minority women over the last fifty years. By suppressing teacher wages, we suppress a major route to upward mobility. This may be happening most notably in Miami and throughout Florida, but it is also part of a nationwide trend leading to the death of the American middle class. We should all be concerned about this alarming data coming from Miami Dade County Public Schools, teachers may just be the canaries in the coal mine.