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'Everything has gone up but my salary': Broward teachers rally for higher wages

Members of the Broward Teachers Union rallied outside the Kathleen C. Wright school board building in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday Nov. 9, 2023.
Gerard Albert III
Members of the Broward Teachers Union rallied outside the Kathleen C. Wright school board building in Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday Nov. 9, 2023.

Dozens of members of the Broward County teachers union gathered outside the county’s school board chambers Wednesday afternoon to push for more money from the board.

The district and the Broward Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement in August on supplemental pay for district staff how to distribute money from a voter-approved referendum that taxed $100 per $100,000 in assessed property value. There was a range for raises from the referendum: from $500 extra for new hires to a $12,000 increase for teachers with 15 years of experience.

But the referendum money is not a salary increase, union leaders say, as it would have to be renewed by voters in 2026.

Teachers want a more permanent solution and initially asked for a 7% increase. The school board countered with a 1.7% raise, which comes from state allocated funding. Now the union is pushing for 9%.

The Broward County School Board has not put up any money from their own budget for raises this year, according to the union.

“The expectation is work after hours on the weekends, on vacation time. And they don't want to give any extra money,” said Anna Fusco who heads the union.

According to a district analysis teachers make an average of $66,259 in base salary and supplements, not including benefits. Still, according to many veteran teachers who spoke Wednesday, they make less than $60,000 a year.

For a teacher making $60,000, a 9% raise would amount to an extra $5,400 a year.

“Everything has gone up, but my salary,” said Katrina Whitaker who has been a teacher for 34 years.

The Miami metro area, which encompasses Broward and Palm Beach counties, posted the highest cost-of-living increase among the nation’s biggest 14 metropolitan areas in August. The region has ranked at the top of the list since December 2022, when annual inflation rose 9.9%.

Teachers are often forced to work after hours and weekends to complete tasks. They do it, they said Wednesday, out of love for their students.

“At the end of the day, you know, we care too much about the kids to quiet-quit the way that anyone else across the country would to protest low wages,” said Jason Tache, a 22-year-old social studies teacher at Piper High School.

After almost 30 members of the union spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, Superintendent Peter Licata acknowledged the need for a livable wage but stopped short of offering any sign of more money from the district anytime soon.

“We do value you. We do hear you and we do understand you,” he said. His comments were met with jeers and boos from dozens of union members watching the meeting in the overflow areas.

“The district is committed to working with the Broward Teachers Union on the 2023/24 contract negotiations," read a statement released by the district. "At this time, negotiations remain ongoing and will resume at the next scheduled meeting on Thursday, November 16.”

Gerard Albert III covers Broward County. He is a former WLRN intern who graduated from Florida International University. He can be reached atgalbert@wlrnnews.org
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