Dade County Teachers To Vote on No-Raise Contract
Teachers in Dade County, Fla., which has gained a reputation for its lucrative and innovative teachers' contracts, will vote this week on a new three-year agreement that focuses mainly on classroom conditions and contains no salary increases at all.
Florida's budget troubles have left the country's fourth-largest school district unable to pay teachers for advancing on the salary schedule or to offer cost-of-living raises.
The United Teachers of Dade is urging teachers to approve the contract, not "because it's great, but because of hope for the future," Annette Katz, a spokesman for the union and a member of its bargaining team, said last week.
While previous contracts have been ratified nearly unanimously, Ms. Katz said she expected a closer vote on the current proposal.
"We're not going to have a 97 percent pass [rate] this time," she said.
Pat L. Tornillo Jr., the U.T.D.'S executive vice president, wrote in a letter to union members that the negotiations on the plan were "perhaps the most difficult contract negotiations that I have overseen in the 28 years I have been with this union." In the face of funding cutbacks, Mr. Tornillo wrote, the union was forced to focus on "nuts-and-belts issues,'' such as giving teachers more control over student discipline, freedom from submitting lesson plans for review, and a greater voice in deciding how salary supplements for extra duties are allotted.
'Best We Can Achieve'
"I should be presenting you with a new master contract which includes a substantial salary increase for this year, along with a host of innovations cast in the tradition of so many of our contracts," Mr. Tornillo wrote. Instead, he conceded, the proposed contract is "the best we can achieve under the current circumstances." . The proposal stands in stark con- trast to the union's last contract, in which teachers received raises of 28 percent over three years, plus longevity increases, Ms. Katz said.
The contract includes provisions to reopen talks on salaries in each of the three years of its duration if new money becomes available. Teachers would continue to advance on the salary schedule regardless of the availability of funds.
Two major provisions touch on issues dear to teachers'hearts: student discipline and lesson plans.
Under the agreement, the school district would have to notify teachers of what disciplinary action had been taken against students who were removed from the classroom for disruptive behavior before the students returned to class.
Students who used profanity in the classroom also could be expelled under the new discipline policy.
The lesson-plan policy would free all teachers, except those on oneyear contracts or whose performance had been deemed unsatisfactory, from filing weekly lesson plans with their school principals.
The contract also would establish a pilot program to give some schoolbased-management committees a greater voice in deciding how much to pay for certain extra duties and in determining which teachers should receive the money.