It was crystal clear that #362, which garnered 71% of the vote this past November, was a pay raise for Miami Dade Public School Teachers and increased security measures. It was made clear that this only applied to those teachers and support staff that work directly for Miami Dade Public Schools and not individuals who work at private, parochial or charter industry schools. Anyone suggesting otherwise is being disingenuous.
As School Board member Rojas pointed out last week, “Even if we wanted to (which the Board did not) the School Board can’t share this money because we have no oversight over charter schools.” In other words the school board would have no idea where the money would go. The School Board would be unable to find out if taxpayer dollars were being spent on teacher pay increases or simply adding to the profit margins of the for profit management companies that operate the majority of our charter schools.
The referendum for Miami Dade County Public School Teachers pay raise was crafted out in the open, discussed at numerous televised School Board Meetings, nuances debated vigorously and work shopped at public forums with citizen input over the course of one year. At certain points in the year long different ideas were floated by Superintendent Carvalho, such as funding pilot programs, debated and ultimately rejected. It was discussed publicly if these taxpayer funds would be shared with charter schools and that notion was also shot down. The County Commissioners who reviewed and approved the ballot language, were also clear on where these taxpayer dollars were to be spent if the referendum was passed.
The very powerful Charter School business industry did not begin grumbling about sharing #362 taxpayer funds until it became evident that the referendum would be successful. While Miami Dade Public school teachers and United Teachers of Dade, their union, campaigned for months to ensure the passage of #362, the largest for profit charter school management company in Florida attempted to dampen voter support among parent in an email they distributed on November 2nd just before election day.
Voters in Miami Dade have shown a willingness to support increased taxes to support Jackson Memorial Hospital, School Building Bonds, to combat sea level rise and now Public School Teacher Pay Raises. What infuriates voters and undermines public trust in local government is when voters realize they have been part of a “bait and switch” scheme. County voters are still upset that increased taxes collected with the promise of expanded Metrorail and mass transit efforts were instead used for operational costs and debt service. A decade later and no new rail lines to the south, north or west are even being planned.
The for profit charter school entities that are now stirring the pot chose not to be involved in this public discussion during the public debate period, planning or campaign to pass this referendum. They went so far as to tell parents of their students in writing that #362 did not include their schools. Any efforts to siphon off these funds after they have already been allocated would be a dis-service to county voters and like the public transit funds, another sad “bait and switch” scheme by politicians. The school board Chair must ensure that the board stays the course.