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Miami-Dade Teachers Battling For More Bucks

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade public school teachers are gearing up for another fight over pay at a time when the district says there is little more it can afford to give. Union bosses for the district’s 23,000 teachers declared a contract impasse this week. That means a hearing officer will listen to their arguments, make a recommendation and then leave it to the school board to decide whether there will be raises.

United Teachers of Dade president Karen Aronowitz said, “Our teachers keep coming forward year after year doing the job and yet year after year we are told there is no money for teachers.”

Contract schedules show a first year Miami-Dade teacher makes $38,500 annually. A 10 year veteran makes nearly $42,000 and at the top of the scale a teacher on the job for 22 years earns about $68,000 per year. All the years in between are supposed to include annual steps up the pay ladder, small ones at first than bigger ones later in a teacher’s career.

The union argues the step-up in pay—ranging from a few hundred dollars annually to thousands of dollars for long time teaching veterans– is overdue but administrators say they just can’t afford it.

“The teachers are asking for a two-step increase. That would cost the district $109.5 million and that would be a permanent increase,” said Miami-Dade public schools spokesman John Schuster.

The school district is already bracing for the end of federal stimulus money. That will cost the district about $125 million next year. There is also talk about the looming state budget deficit—tabbed as high as $3 billion. It all adds up to major budget uncertainty.

Miami-Dade administrators say they best they can do is offer teachers a one time, one-percent bonus. That would amount to several hundred dollars per teacher.

“It would be irresponsible for the school district at this time to take on something (more) that would burden taxpayers in our county,” said Schuster.

“The people that work for our schools are taxpayers and what we are saying is that, as part of the budget, we have to be budgeted in and (yet) we are never budgeted in,” Aronowitz retorted.

Get ready. It is a story you will hear often next year and it will not be confined to Miami-Dade schoolteachers. The end of federal stimulus dollars combined with still depressed property tax values will leave everybody from school districts to state lawmakers scrambling, and fighting, over every single dollar.

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