Dr. Peter Licata was sworn in as the new director of Broward County Public Schools this morning and then was thrown right into a dead end during a school board meeting.
“It’s my fourth day at work and you’re going to ask me to spruce up the entire budget?” Licata asked during a lively discussion about a substantial salary increase for teachers and principals.
“Broward County Public Schools are allergic to change, our budgets are photocopies of last year,” board member Dr. Allen Zeman replied.
Zeman proposes to significantly increase the total compensation for teachers and principals, i.e. salaries and benefits, to $100,000 for teachers and $150,000 for principals by 2025.
“What do you think the public’s reaction would be if we were able to pay teachers $100,000 over two years in general compensation? Will someone show up and say it’s a really rotten idea?” Zeman asked during a board meeting.
He said higher property tax revenues, plus more money from the state, plus referendum money, equaled enough funding to pay for the increase without any budgetary gimmicks.
“So the salary increase over five years would be 31%, so that’s a pretty substantial salary increase,” Zeman said.
This is exactly what teachers like Fania Desinord want to hear. She teaches at Coconut Creek High School and pleaded with the board to support Zeman’s plan.
“As I stand in front of you, my salary is $50,000 a year and I’m in my eighth year as a teacher – will I ever be able to afford a house in this county at that price?” Disinord said.
Every board member and superintendent supports paying teachers and principals, but there are concerns about the long-term budgetary implications.
“I just don’t want to overburden us, we will have a voucher system coming soon and we have no idea how it will affect us,” board member Debbie Hickson said during the discussion.
“I think I would like more clarification on sustainability issues,” added board member Jeff Holness.
The superintendent reaffirmed his support for the concept, but suggested that accepting Zeman’s proposal during this budget cycle might be financially reckless.
“I think we have the opportunity to do it, I think we can do it, but I think that it would be imprudent on our part to rush into this, making such important decisions that may have residual consequences for a long time. term,” Licata said.
The Board agreed with the Superintendent, voting to move the matter to next week.
Zeman wants the county to prepare two budgets, one currently being finalized and the other to reflect his salary increase proposal, and then let the board vote on the one he prefers.
Broward’s average teacher remuneration is currently $78,000. Zeman says that raising that amount to $100,000 would make Broward County Public Schools the leader in teacher pay in the entire southeastern United States.