Why would 19,000 teachers sue the School Board of Miami Dade Public Schools for $60 million in lost salaries?
Because a law passed by the Florida Legislature in 2011 required that as of July 1, 2014, whatever salary schedule was in place would thence forth be frozen in time, or, as the statute phrased it, grandfathered. But the school district just didn’t do it.
The term grandfathered goes back a long way. During the Jim Crow era, grandfather clauses were used by seven southern states to exempt those who already possessed the right to vote prior to 1866 (end of the Civil War) from new laws imposing educational, property or tax requirements for voting. The grandfathered laws had the effect of disenfranchising freed African Americans who did not gain the right to vote until passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870. But grandfathering allowed impoverished and illiterate whites to continue to vote as before. They had been grandfathered.
The current law (Fla. Stat. §1012.22) was intended to prevent further annual increases to district salary schedules for teachers hired before July 1, 2014. Teachers hired after that date would receive performance pay, which would be calculated or derived from the greatest increment between levels of the grandfathered schedule, depending upon a teacher’s effectiveness. In theory, performance pay would quickly out-pace the frozen schedule forcing veteran teachers to relinquish their tenure to join the new comers.
However, M-DCPS just kept on bargaining new schedules to attack the higher end salary steps for teachers approaching retirement. It was something like knocking off West Virginia mountain tops for the benefit of coal companies. And not incidentally, for two years, the District did not award any performance pay whatsoever. The damage to teacher salaries is estimated at $20 million per year.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “How did the District get around grandfathering?” The District’s position was that the grandfathered salary schedule was any schedule they “designated as such.” Wonder how they interpret a 70-mph speed limit?