By: Jen Russon
The corner of University Drive and NW 31 Court is usually quiet, but early Wednesday evening, a rowdier scene unfolded as the Broward Teachers Union braved the rain and protested for higher pay.
Along with other union members, BTU President Anna Fusco encouraged motorists to honk as her group picketed for the substantial percent pay increase she said was supposed to occur last fall.
“Our CFO [Judith M. Marte] has said numerous times she would make a commitment to budget people over projects, but so far that hasn’t happened,” said Fusco, adding she had to ask last year for a modest 1.5 percent pay increase across the board.
This year, BTU seeks approval on a five percent pay increase for the 15,000 teachers, 3,000 support professionals, and 500 technical support staff who work for Broward County Schools.
“That’s unprecedented, that we had to ask,” Fusco said, citing improvements public schools have appeared to wait in vain for, since her district received an $800 million General Obligation bond in 2014.
Her frustration was echoed by others who participated in the Broward Schools Watch protest.
Robin Rothman, a science teacher at Bair Middle School, agrees with Fusco who said their colleagues believe Superintendent Runcie and his CFO Judy Marte are playing a shell game with that money; rather than improve infrastructure, teacher training, and salaries, the school board has let those things fall by the wayside.
“When we came to the table this year to ask for raises, we got nothing. We were taken out of our classrooms to attend meetings promising us higher pay, and they lied to us,” said Rothman.
The teacher indicated labor union members from the Florida Education Association told her there was no money for raises this year.
Fusco said she understands addressing problems in the county’s 256 schools is a tremendous task, but she also knows the funds are there to give the hardworking teachers of Broward County the pay increase they deserve.
“We do for our students in more ways than one. As well as teach, we nurture, even feeding and clothing them when we need to, digging into our own pocket,” said Fusco.
As cars drove by, and teachers jingled bells and managed signs calling for accountability from Superintendent Runcie, Fusco stressed what they want is not a large request, and that she hopes the 90-minute presentation she plans to give before the school board on March 10 is enough to sway them.
“My goodness, do the math. Most of our teachers are earning as little as $40,000 a year. Many of our ESE staff are paid hourly and make as little as $18,000 a year,” she said.
The Broward Teachers Union will argue for an annual raise for teachers across the board at a School Board hearing scheduled Tuesday, March 10, at 5:00 p.m. at Plantation High School.