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Uncategorized   |   Sep 29, 2008

Would you take a 20K paycut?

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Would you take a 20K paycut?

By Angela Watson

How is it possible that I am making LESS than I did last year? Noticeably less?

I stopped doing the year-round pay option, which should have put an extra $200 into each check. Yet my last paycheck was $700 less than it was in June.

Some investigative work on my part uncovered additional budget cuts that I have been oblivious to. I knew that the Florida legislature cut out mentoring stipends (that was 10K). However, I was not aware that the funding has not (and may not ever) come through for the 10K that National Board certified teachers get for teaching in Title I schools. That cost me another 10K. I was also not aware that a third supplement has not been processed, which means that I’m out $2500 until the paperwork is completed.

Mind you, even with all of those generous stipends, I was still making LESS then if I had stayed in the Washington, D.C. area. That’s because the step raises in my district (like many in Florida) are typically $200-$400 a year. Between years 1 and 2, the step increase is an insulting $30. It can take years just to get a one thousand dollar raise.

I don’t fault the school district. Broward County is one of the highest paying in Florida. It’s well-organized and consistently on the cutting edge with curriculum and technology. Teachers who criticize BCPS don’t realize the level of corruption and mismanagement that most large urban systems contend with. But the state has got to come through with funding. The hands of district leaders are completely tied.

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Instead of paying its teachers consistent, professional wages, Florida has instead provided sporadic bonuses and stipends which it then snatches up as convenient. Last year, teachers were told we would not get paid for mentoring AFTER we had already documented 90 hours of time spent working with new teachers. (A partial payment was later made. This is the equivalent of hiring someone to redo your kitchen for $10,000, waiting until the last appliance is put neatly into place, and then announcing, “Um, yeah. So. I changed my mind. I only have enough money to give you $4,000. But thanks for doing such a great job!”)

I don’t expect to get paid what I am actually worth as an experienced teacher (which would be 6 figures, no?). But apparently I am expected to take a 20K pay cut without protest, because the money I’m losing is all from grants which were ‘subject to legislative funding’. My salary was not high to begin with, considering Florida ranks 50th in the nation in money spent for education. (For those who are not geography buffs, yes, that would be dead last.) And yet the cost of living in South Florida nearly rivals that of Manhattan.

This is profoundly unfair. I’ve written my congressional representatives and emailed the governor. I’ve participated in protests and forwarded emails to everyone who even halfway cares. Things are simply not going to improve as long as there are budget shortfalls. The state will continue to justify stealing from its teachers and refuse to compensate them for what they’ve earned.

Choose the BEST response below:

a) suck it up and do nothing “for the kids” sake
b) blog about the failure of the Florida legislature to prioritize education in hopes of shaming and pressuring the government into funding their promises
c) include my complaints in a letter of resignation
d) both b and c

Did I mention I’d be making nearly $30,000 more in the suburbs of NYC?

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Yes, this post has some strong statements. But not nearly as strong as they need to be in order to bring about change. At some point, action has to follow words. Who is willing to take action?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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Discussion


  1. Well, you wanted that glamorous South Florida life style… Now you’re discovering the “hidden” costs. Resign if you like, it will change nothing but your own circumstances. Education school seniors in the Mid West and North East have been aggressively recruited by S. Florida districts in the dead of winter for years. They all too willingly volunteer to provide fresh meat for the sausage grinder.

    It’s usually takes 3 to 5 years down here before oblivion gives way to righteous indignation. It looks like you’re right on schedule. Teaching is a calling not unlike the ministry. Just as many in the clergy must deal with a crisis of faith, so must teachers deal with a crisis of service. In either case, “somebody got some prayin’ to do!”

    Welcome to Florida (A Right To Work State):
    The politicians giveth and the politicians taketh away. Thus sayeth the State Constitution. But hey, those mojitos sure do go down easy.

  2. This is part of the reason I’m staying in NJ. We do have a very high cost of living but we start in the 40’s and end in the 80’s. Some districts have a yearly increase of 2k-2,500 k every year. That’s unheard of in most states. Personally, Florida weather is not for me. Florida is very attractive to most until they realize that the jobs aren’t there. Or in the case of teaching, the money isn’t there. Good luck. You could always move to Jersey 🙂

  3. I happened onto your blog while searching for ways to better design my classroom (on my dime) and couldn’t help checking some of your posts. This one sounded just like me! I teach in Oklahoma and our State Sup. just tipped the scales on a vote to take away our National Board stipend. They already cut it this year, taking it from $5000 to $3500. Since I was cerified in 2009, this has effectively cost me $41, 500. I’m angry at our state leaders, ashamed that I encouraged others to work so hard to seek their certification when they will never see a dime, and deeply saddened that the state of Oklahoma sees me as clearly worthless.
    I just wanted you to know that I understand how you felt when you wrote this. While I do see teaching as a calling, I also think that we provide an invaluable service to our country and we should be compensated accordingly. I also feel that if America REALLY wants to fix education, we will see fewer administrators and more money spent where education really happens – in the classroom.

    1. Hi, Kara! I totally feel your pain. I’m assuming you meant it cost you $4,500?

      When they started cutting out bonuses for NB, I chose to look at it like this: those were bonuses, not guaranteed salary, and therefore not guaranteed. As the economy worsened, I felt better about losing the money–after all, millions of Americans lost their JOBS. There was simply no way the taxpayers could afford it.

      What saddens me, though, is the fact that these bonuses will probably never be reinstated once the economy improves. I’m not sure what the future of NBPTS is, but it’s not looking bright at the moment. The fact that studies about the effectiveness of NBCTs show mixed results does not help our case.

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