By: Donna Shubert
Many of you might not recognize the name J. Wellington Wimpy but you may remember him simply as “Wimpy” from Popeye cartoons. Wimpy always said, “For a hamburger today, I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday.” Oddly, that reminds me of working for Broward County Public Schools, especially after last week’s school board meeting.
It is a stretch, I know. But for years and years we have heard from the School Board of Broward County saying how important teachers are, how valued we are, and how they will gladly pay us Tuesday for our hard work and dedication today.
Tuesday never comes.
Well, honestly, they didn’t promise to pay us Tuesday but I have heard year after year at negotiation meetings, board meetings, and in other conversations how they would like to pay us more but just don’t have the money.
They have the money for $10,000 bonuses, for $30,000 raises, for 22.5 percent raises for administrators – they just don’t have the money for teachers’ raises. They have the money to pay salaries to administrators comparable to private businesses that are supposedly to draw top people. They have the money to pay consultants the going, inflated rates and they have the money to pay for all kinds of perks and expenses administrators may incur.
They just don’t have the money to pay teachers.
I know I shouldn’t complain, I received one of the highest salary increases last year – 91 cents an hour. It certainly beats the one-third of one percent I received years ago when Jim Notter was Superintendent.
When teachers get raises, it is not like we all get the full amount either. We are “averaged” so not every teacher get 2.5 percent, and some of our most experienced teachers have not received a raise since 2008. Their salaries are frozen and they have only receive small, one-time bonuses. Do administrators at K. C. Wright have their salaries frozen for seven years and only receive $500 one-time bonuses?
Our salaries have been so low and stagnant for so long the wage gap widens between administrators and others who are paid more than teachers with each “increase” we receive. If the raise is 2.25 percent, 2.25 percent of $100,000 is a lot more than 2.5 percent of $45,000.
Right now we have teachers who have worked over twenty years and have just broken the $50,000 salary mark. Several years ago, these teachers would have, after 20 plus years, finally received “the bump” and finally had bigger increases, bringing them up to the $70,000 mark.
Today, these same teachers are making $20,000 less than they should.
Broward County Public Schools won’t even pay teachers money promised in the contract. Teachers are suppose to be paid $25 a day if a teacher is absent and there is no substitute to take her/his class and the students are placed in the classes of other teachers. However, when class lists were “altered” “fudged” or down right falsified to make it seem like the class size amendment was being met, teachers were not paid the $25 a day. The children were in their classroom, however, they were not in the class of the teacher of record and there was no substitute. These children were in the class of their actual teacher they were just listed as being with another teacher on paper and yet there was/is no money to pay teachers the $25 a day. So even when we are guaranteed the money in a contract — there’s no money for teachers.
For heaven’s sake, even the Pope has said teachers deserve raises. But Broward Schools is trying to convince teachers through messages on our “alert” mailbox that they had a three-year deal with the Broward Teacher’s Union and should not have to give more than what was agreed upon then. They expect teachers’ support on this issue knowing that they grossly underpay us and that the union has never stood strong for a fair increase for us. Because the union has always rolled over, they are shocked that they are now asking for more.
Kind of reminds me of the musical Oliver! “More, more food sir” “More, more wages, sir.” Here’s the thing — you don’t get to say you don’t have the money so you cannot pay teachers what they earn and deserve. Find the money! No excuses because excuses do not pay the FPL bill.
And, of course, what the school board giveth, the school board taketh away. My entire 91 cents an hour raise from last year and more will go toward paying supplemental insurance because the School Board has just extended our disability from a 30-day elimination period to a 60-day about two years ago to a 90-day elimination period effective January 2016. So mostly the school board taketh away. For instance, a teacher with a serious injury or illness will have to go 90 days without a disability check before the disability insurance kicks in or will have to spend approximately $30 a pay period, every two weeks, for AFLAC. There is just no chance for teachers to get ahead or even maintain. When we get a raise the school board finds a way to take it back.
Broward County Public Schools is taking in more tax money. There are reports they have saved $30 million and $7.5 million on salaries. They can afford to give teachers and ESPs their long overdue, well-earned, and well-deserved raises.
A word to the wise: you cannot say you support teachers and then not pay them enough to support themselves and their families.
Donna Shubert was born and raised in Sunnyside, (Queens) New York and moved to Florida with her husband and two daughters in 1994. She taught in New York for a few years prior to her daughter’s birth and then started substituting at McNab Elementary School in Pompano Beach for five years while they were attending school there. After that, she went back to full-time teaching for the past 15 years at McNab where she has been an employee of Broward Schools for 20 years. Hubert feels that because of the lack of respect for teachers and education, as well as the low salary, heavy workload and unsound educational policies and practices being forced on students and teachers by legislators and administration, she is quitting this year although she is old enough to call it retirement.