Results matter, and there’s no question that Miami-Dade County Public Schools has been on an upward trend in just about every measurable metric, from test scores to graduation rates. So now is the time for the public to invest in education by passing ballot issue 362, according to Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade.
“Our schools are underfunded, our teachers are underpaid, and they deserve the best because they’re giving us the best, we are an A-rated district, we have zero failing schools,” Hernandez-Mats said.
Referendum 362 would raise the average homeowner’s tax bill by about $142 per year, raising $232 million per year for the next four years. Eighty-eight percent of the money would go to raise the salaries of teachers and counselors. The exact amounts of the pay raises would be negotiated with the UTD if 362 passes, but superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the boost will push the teacher salary average from 45th in the country to somewhere above the national average.
Carvalho says 362 is about rewarding teachers and motivating them as well.
“We’ll be even happier to do our lesson plans, we’ll be even happier to stay after school and make sure each child is granted the education they deserve,” said Stephanie Pierre of Norland Senior High School, the district’s Rookie teacher of the Year.
“A lot of my colleagues and I are pushed to work additional jobs because we can’t afford the cost of living in Miami-Dade on our teaching salary alone,” said Molly Winters-Diallo, the district’s Teacher of the Year.
Winters-Diallo teaches at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School. She’s been working in the system since 2004, and her base salary is still below $50,000.
“I know that there’s difficulty attracting teachers as well as retaining great teachers because people feel there’s other options where there will be fair compensation,” Winters-Diallo said.
Referendum 362 isn’t just about giving teachers a bigger paycheck, 12 percent of the money would go toward improving school security.
“This 12 percent investment will guarantee the presence, the full-time presence, into the foreseeable future, of a fully-certified law enforcement entity at every single school in Miami-Dade, our parents deserve it, our kids deserve it, and our teachers do as well,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho says if voters don’t approve 362, there’s no money to continue the current arrangement of having cops at every school beyond this school year. The district had to make deals with 18 police agencies and municipalities to comply with the new state law requiring a police officer or an armed guardian at every public school.
Since Broward County voters passed a similar referendum during the primary election in August, Carvalho is worried there could be an exodus of teachers moving to Broward, taking advantage of higher pay there, if 362 isn’t approved in Miami-Dade County.