Broward teachers resume fight for a salary increase

Broward County teachers called for an end of the “circus” in the school district during a protest for higher salaries on Tuesday (Alejandra Marquez Janse/South Florida Media Network.)

Broward County teachers continued their fight for a 5 percent salary raise at a protest in Plantation High School on Tuesday — but their efforts were not successful.

Gathered on stairs outside the school’s auditorium, dozens of teachers held signs reading, “Stop the circus in our schools,” and “Our kids are worth it.” They protested for several hours before a meeting between the Broward Teachers Union and the county’s school board that was planned to discuss a deadlock on raising teachers’ salaries.

“We’ve been in negotiations and they weren’t going the way we’d liked them to go, and the district wasn’t coming with in-good-faith bargaining,” said Kenneth Minchew, a sixth-grade world history teacher and union member. “So we decided to declare an impasse and we’re trying to get money for our teachers.”

As WLRN reported, the union declared negotiations with the school district halted in December after the board refused to accept the 5 percent proposal.

The board offered a 1.5 percent increase then — now it has proposed 2.

The board said the state does not provide enough funding to raise teachers’ salaries and has already reduced spending throughout the district, the Sun Sentinel reported. 

Minchew said Broward County focuses more on product than on people. Many times it has bought new computer programs and increased administrators’ salaries while saying there is no money for teachers.

Laura Clark and Victoria Whalen, two middle school teachers, agreed. They said the board has enough cash to pay teachers but refuses to allocate it.

“They always seem to find money in the budget for programs, paper–anything but teachers,” said Whalen, who has been teaching for 25 years. 

According to the BTU website, Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie and Chief Financial Officer Judy Marte are the heart of the problem. The two are playing a “shell game,” by prioritizing spending on unnecessary programs instead of raising teachers’ pay. 

Clark said every year the school board receives money from the state and it is up to the union and the board to negotiate how much money will go towards teachers’ salaries. But whenever the union proposes an increase, the board refuses.

“You get paid maybe 42 or 45,000 and you can’t live in Broward with that money,” said Clark. “You cannot live in South Florida; rent is so expensive. So most of my teacher friends have to work two or three jobs.”

The meeting lasted seven hours. It started around 5 p.m., when the auditorium filled quickly and dozens of people were left outside. 

Security officers said they could not allow more people inside and guided them to an “overflow room” in the school’s gymnasium to watch the meeting.

But some stayed in the front doors asking to be let in and succeeded only after half an hour. Security let people in for a few minutes, and then repeated that the auditorium was full. Eventually everyone got in or went home.

After heated debates and more protests throughout the meeting, the board adjourned at 12:14 a.m. after voting to maintain its 2 percent proposal and reject the union’s.

 

Alejandra Marquez Janse is a Venezuelan journalism student minoring in political science. She is passionate about understanding policy and informing people on issues that affect them.