Broward School Board is ruining our public education system
By Sharon Glickman, Esq. President, Broward Teachers Union
Remember the 1976 movie Network, when actor Peter Finch’s character, TV anchor Howard Beale, leaned out of an open window and started yelling, “I’m as mad as h$*@# and I’m not going to take this anymore”? Multiply that by about 14,000 and that’s how Broward County’s educators are feeling.
On March 3, the Broward County School Board’s negotiating team—for the third time since last September—rejected the Broward Teachers Union (BTU)’s proposal for a salary increase for all teachers and the “unfreezing” of veteran teachers’ salaries, which have been at the same level since 2008. By their refusal, the School Board made it impossible to continue negotiating, forcing a deadlock which requires a third-party magistrate and months to resolve.
We all know that actions speak louder than words, and once again, the School Board has failed to show teachers that they are appreciated. If the board has its way, over the last seven years Broward teachers will have received an average salary increase of 8.5 percent while the rate of inflation was over ten percent. This means that a teacher with seven more years of experience is making less money in real dollars than they did seven years ago. Any way you slice it that is just, plain wrong!
The School Board’s current proposal is to give teachers a one-time $200 bonus. That way the board can pat themselves on the back and convince each other that they’ve raised teachers’ salaries.
The School Board cannot possibly be serious.
As a veteran educator with more than 30 years of teaching experience before becoming BTU president, I am in solidarity with our members by being insulted and outraged that the School Board and superintendent of the sixth-largest school district in the United States would think for one nanosecond that our educators would accept such a denigrating “solution.”
Instead, I’ll ask Superintendent Robert Runcie why—if the district budgeted an increase of $71 million for educator salaries—will you not agree to the additional three million dollars BTU has proposed to bring parity to teacher compensation?
Apparently, you would rather do nothing and sit by as record numbers of veteran teachers retire this year, burned out from steadily increasing testing and paperwork requirements, demoralized by years of working without a raise, wondering what happened to the profession we once loved, and disgusted by the utter lack of respect you and the School Board continuously exhibit toward us, the backbone of our public school system.
How many people in the private
sector would accept working without a raise for eight years? But many of our teachers have, because they are passionate about helping every child learn. They believe that teaching really is a noble profession, and they make incredible sacrifices—an alarmingly high number even work multiple jobs just to pay their bills—because they love being an educator and seeing the joy on a child’s face when he or she “gets it.”
Broward County already is facing a serious teacher shortage, yet because the School Board continues to refuse increasing salaries, the word is out among Florida university graduates not to work for Broward County Public Schools, where education professionals don’t get raises and the School Board disrespects you and what you do.
Instead, the Board spends money traveling to out-of-state teacher job fairs—dollars they wouldn’t need to waste if they just did the right thing and paid their educators a fair salary.
The ball is in their court, but they continue to delay. To resolve negotiations, the board is requiring the optional step of a March 30 special magistrate hearing (whose opinion they are not bound to follow). How long does the School Board believe they can continue to delay and refuse the teachers of Broward County what they are long overdue? Why do they want to?
Many veteran teachers would postpone retirement and continue teaching, but how long can you expect a professional employee to deal with frozen salaries and a general climate of disrespect? All the BTU asks is that the Board members show their appreciation to our current, hardworking teachers by agreeing to a raise at least equal to what our other school employees have received, which is a meager 2.5 percent.
If you had one special educator who altered the course of your life, please help our children experience the same. Write or call our School Board members to voice your strong support for fair raises for our teachers, and vote this fall for School Board members who will do the right thing for educators, the very lifeblood of our public education system. Contact information is on http://www.browardschools.com/Our-School-Board/Meet-the-Board. The very future of our children, our economy and our education system depends on making your voice heard.