On Friday, September 27, 2019, Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs posted on the School Board Chair Facbook Page that funds just aren’t present to provide Orange County Public School teachers the proposed raise. Yet, the School Board Superintendent makes more than the two Mayors combined; over $300,000. I found this very odd and began digging. I’ve done the research and Public Records Requests for OCPS records to determine how the 1 Mill funds were utilized by OCPS. This was the ballot measure voters ratified in 2018 to re-authorize the 1 Millage tax to “retain highly qualified teachers” among other things. This is just one of the solutions to fix the problem of teacher wages.
One of the ways the Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs can “fix” the teacher wage issue is to submit a new 1 Mill authorization for 2020 or 2022 to the Board of Orange County Commissioners to clearly define exactly how the $60 Million dollars will be allocated going forward. OCPS needs to factor in how to achieve paying ALL teacher salaries from the 1 Mill or greater tax since state funding is falling short. After conducting the research, it is now clear to me the ballot language was meant to mislead the public in believing the wages for teachers would be taken care of by this ballot measure but that belief was ‘planted’ in their minds in order for the ballot measure to pass. Read the Resolution for the Millage tax here.
In reality, it’s the remainder for the $60 Million that is disbursed to pay the salaries of a few teachers and staff (925) and it’s not enough for ALL teachers. I don’t like Smoke & Mirrors. I can tell you this, had I been the County Commissioner for District 3 when this Resolution was being brought forward, I would have engaged the entire Commission and the public on this matter. I can assure you I will address this issue when elected as County Commissioner. The re-authorization for this ballot measure comes up regularly and has been re-authorized by the voters on an ongoing basis since 2010. I firmly believe the voters would approve an increase if they KNEW their taxes were going to be spent in the spirit of the ballot measure conveyed in the many advertising and marketing campaigns designed for passage of the ballot measure.
The answer to my public records request in an effort to determine what employees were in the “etc.” category and what calculations were used to determine which salaries were paid from the 1 Mill funds:
1. Specific date range: July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018
2. There is no policy, memorandum, E-Mail, or other correspondence in written or electronic form that establishes the criteria determining which class/job description of employees was included in the 1 mill funds expended in 2017-18 that equated to $60,858,395. All dollars that were remaining after funding went to support arts (art, dance, drama, and music teachers), athletics (pay for coaches and athletic trainers), student activities (field trips and after school tutorials), and the charter schools proportionate share (not controlled by district) were utilized to support teachers. The balance of funds, $60,858,395, were divided by the average salary/benefits of an instructional employee and resulted in 925 teachers, counselors, social workers, etc (instructional staff). This information was compiled by Megan Thomas Vamos, Administrator, Office of Management and Budget.
You Be The Judge
After reviewing 2018 ballot measures for increasing millage rates for various counties, it is clear to me that the residents in Orange County were misled to believe teachers would be reasonably compensated; however, the crafty language in Orange County’s ballot measure only included the word ‘retain.’ By doing so, OCPS created an erroneous argument that it does not have the authority to compensate teachers in the form of increased wages and benefits from the voter-approved millage increase. In fact, a voter could logically conclude one of the first steps in retaining teachers is by paying competitive wages and enhancing benefits.
One only has to evaluate ballot measures from several counties, who truly wanted to retain teachers through wage and benefit increases and work towards the goal of providing quality education students, to conclude OCPS misled the public and their employed teachers. The ballot measures in those counties used the operative words of “pay” and “compensation” alone or in conjunction with the word “retain” and “retain highly qualified [teachers].” See asterisks below in each ballot measure.
I am not an attorney, but I believe this is a great starting point for the media and an attorney to call into question the motives of OCPS (“The District”). Moreover, an accounting and rationale used to allocate the funds to particular areas of the OCPS budget needs to be done by way of an independent audit. A determination also needs to be made as it relates to the legislative intent on the use of the word “retain.” More importantly, an investigation needs to determination whether or not discussion ensued on if retention included an increase in wages, benefits, or to what extent compensation was contemplated by the School Board prior to drafting and ultimately passing the Resolution. The Resolution was then introduced to the Board of County Commissioners for approval to place the referendum question on the ballot. The key here, were the drafters of the Resolution purposeful in omitting language that would bind OCPS in paying teacher salaries or increased wages (raises) exclusively. Please refer the the language of each County’s ballot measures below: (not all counties were researched)
2018 Orange County Ballot Measure
Shall the School Board of Orange County, Florida renew the current one mill ad valorem millage for essential operating expenses in order to preserve academic programs, retain highly qualified teachers, and protect arts, athletics and student activities beginning July 1, 2019, and ending four (4) fiscal years later on June 30, 2023, with annual reporting to ensure proper fiscal stewardship of these funds to the citizens of Orange County?
-retain highly qualified teachers (missing operative language in the eyes of OCPS, yet OCPS drafted the language)
2018 Palm Beach County Ballot Measure
Shall the School Board of Palm Beach County have authority to levy 1.00 mills of ad valorem millage dedicated for operational needs of non-charter District schools to fund school safety equipment, hire additional school police and mental health professionals, fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers, and improve teacher pay beginning July 1, 2019 and automatically ending June 30, 2023, with oversight by an independent finance committee of citizens and experts?
*Improve teacher pay
2018 Miami-Dade County Ballot Measure
Shall the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida, levy 0.75 mills of ad valorem taxes for operational funds (1) to improve compensation for high quality teachers and instructional personnel, and (2) to increase school safety andsecurity personnel, with oversight by a Citizen Advisory Committee, beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2023?
2018 Broward County Ballot Measure
Shall The School Board of Broward County levy an ad-valorem operating millage of 1/2 mills annually for fiscal years July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2023, to (i) enhance funding for school resource officers, including individual charter schools with more than 900 students, (ii) hire district school security staff, (iii) increase compensation to recruit and retain highly qualified district teachers and (iv) fund other essential instruction related expenses preserving important programs in district schools?
*increase compensation to recruit and retain
2018 Hillsborough County Ballot Measure
Shall a one-half cent school capital outlay sales surtax be authorized for a ten (10) year levy by the School Board of Hillsborough County beginning January 1, 2019, to fund air conditioning replacement and repairs, capital improvements and construction of other schools, building enhancements for school security and other maintenance needs?
A new 0.5% sales surtax is in addition to the current 7% sales tax and is estimated to raise $138 million annually and $276 million the first two calendar years. Revenues will be distributed to the School Board of Hillsborough County. Expenditures will be governed by the August 24, 2018 School Board Resolution.
(no language at all regarding paying teacher salaries)
2014 Marion County Ballot Measure
Shall the Marion County School District’s ad valorem millage be increased by a total of one mill, beginning July 1, 2015 and ending June 30, 2019, for the necessary operating expenses including reading, physical education, art, music, library/media and vocational programs; meeting class size requirements; and retaining State Certified teachers and paraprofessionals with oversight of these expenditures by an independent citizens financial oversight committee.
(no operative language regarding paying teacher salaries, uses ‘retaining’ similiar to Orange County ballot measure)
Keeping kids in school and having access to quality educators is paramount! Teachers working two jobs to make ends meet has caused a few, and likely more, to leave the profession. Vote Bill Moore for Orange County Commissioner, District 3.