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Charter Schools Push For Share Of Teacher-Pay Money Raised By Miami-Dade County Tax Increase

Emily Michot
Miami Herald
Kindergarten students Gregory Antoine and Kaylee Monteagudo at AIE Charter School in Miami Springs. Charter schools in Miami-Dade want to share in money from a recently approved tax increase.

A lobbying group that represents charter schools in Florida wants its members' teachers in Miami-Dade County to get pay raises with some of the money that will be generated from a new tax increase approved by voters last month.

According to a report from WLRN's news partner the Miami Herald, the Florida Charter School Alliance has written to state legislators arguing the language of the tax-increase referendum was vague, allowing charter schools to argue for a share of the money. The referendum is expected to raise $232 million in its first year, most of which would be spent on public school teacher raises and the rest on police officers.

Miami-Dade County schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho has already said he would ask the school board to give charters some of the money for police, but he maintained on Wednesday that the ballot question was intended to benefit only traditional public school teacher salaries.

He stressed there were many opportunities for the public to ask questions about what specifically the referendum would fund, including a series of town halls. 

"I respect the mentality and the decision of the voters in our community," Carvalho said on Wednesday following an unrelated meeting at the school district headquarters in downtown Miami. "I think they were well aware of what they were voting for."

Carvalho wouldn't comment on whether he would fight the charter school group in court, should there be litigation over the issue.

Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade teachers union, United Teachers of Dade, released a statement calling on Carvalho to state unequivocally that charter schools would not get any of the money for teacher raises.

"Funds collected as part of this referendum were never presented to Miami Dade voters as an initiative that would help line the pockets of for-profit [operators] who have led the charge to gut public education," UTD president Karla Hernandez Mats said in a statement.

Charters are publicly funded but privately operated. They are nonprofits, but some are operated by for-profit firms. The lobbying group pushing for the funding to be distributed to charters told the Miami Herald all of the money would go directly to teachers.

Similar referenda in Broward and Palm Beach counties specified in the ballot language that tax increases would go toward only district schools. 

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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