MDCPS Contract Raises Cause Controversy

Sabrina Catalan, copy editor

On Nov. 7, the United Teachers of Dade ratified their Miami-Dade 2017-2020 contract by voting to include a 2.67 percent raise for “highly effective” teachers and a 2 percent raise for “effective” teachers, according to the Miami Herald.  The contract also stated that the school district would increase healthcare cost coverage for their teachers.

During an interview with the Miami Herald, Miami Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho approved the new decision.

“We’ve been able to turn what seemed to be an impossible position into an agreement that honors and dignifies our teachers,” he said.

Despite the joy some teachers may be feeling, other teachers disagree with the new contract and recognize the pitfalls this new proposition holds.

“The teachers on the top are benefiting because they are getting the raises; the teachers on the very bottom are benefiting because they are automatically rehired for the next year. But everybody in the middle is completely left out,” chemistry teacher Wendi Werther said.

Being a UTD steward for 27 years and a former vice president for six years, Werther is dissatisfied that the new contract only rewards the high achieving teachers and disregards the teachers who have been working for MDCPS for decades.

There are policies from the last two contracts and this contract that she finds unfair.

“When they did away with the step system, they did away with the substantial raises. It’s not fair,” Werther said. “There’s people who’ve been working for 18 years in the system who are only getting three or four thousand dollars more than a beginning teacher. They are never going to get the raises that the teachers on the top get. And the difference is 30 thousand plus dollars. I voted against the raise because it didn’t help me. It’s not going to put me on top of the scale.”

On Nov. 6, Werther and a few other Palmetto faculty members helped set up the voting ballots after school from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“Very few teachers came down to vote. I was really surprised,” she said.

At Palmetto, 24 teachers voted for and 19 teachers voted against the contract. About 100 teachers never casted their ballot.

According to the UTD website, 10,649 teachers voted yes, while 4,999 teachers voted no in regards to the new contract.

“It was 68 percent yes in the district,” Werther said . “So [the Palmetto teachers’] votes really didn’t matter; although they should have mattered.”

Business management and law teacher Elinor Arrabal justified her reasoning for choosing not to vote.

“I had a hard deadline to meet that day. I was very busy,” Arrabal said. “I also trusted the majority, which is what I agreed with.”

Despite not completely agreeing with the new contract, there are some policies that Werther is happy to see.

“One of the things UTD did successfully was that teachers found to be effective or highly effective that year are then automatically rehired for the next year. So [the policy] protects those teachers that don’t have continuing contracts,” Werther said.

Still, Werther continues to work towards helping the UTD construct a contract that benefits teachers across the spectrum, and she encourages other teachers to voice their own opinions as well.

“A lot of people have quit. I stayed,” Werther said. “I want to have a voice, and you can’t have a voice if you are not a member.”