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Opinion

Vote ‘Yes’ on Miami-Dade’s school referendum question for teacher raises, safe schools

For a complete list of the Miami Herald recommendations for the Nov. 6 general election, click here.

State legislators have been so stingy for so long, that Miami-Dade Public Schools is turning to voters for money to pay for teacher raises and school safety.

Miami-Dade voters are being asked to approve an increase in property taxes by 75 cents per $1,000 in taxable value. In real money, that amounts to about $12 a month, possibly less than $144 a year for the typical homeowner.

Voters should say Yes.

We agree with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho that Miami-Dade teachers are sorely underpaid compared to those in other states, while our cost of living is way higher. Many teachers work second jobs to make ends meet. Others change careers or move to states where teachers are better compensated.

The tax increase would generate an extra $232 million a year. Carvalho said, pending bargaining with the United Teachers of Dade, the school district plans to direct around 90 percent of the money to subsidize the salary increases; the rest will fund school safety measures, supplementing money already allocated by the state following the Parkland school massacre.

If voters approve the November referendum, which is also supported by the Miami-Dade School Board, the vast majority of the county’s 19,000 teachers would see a bump in their salary. Consequently, other school employees, including counselors and teacher’s aides, would also get a raise. It’s fair to spread the wealth.

“Relying on a change in Tallahassee and asking teachers to be more patient — it doesn’t work for me,” Carvalho told the Editorial Board. “If we don’t get this passed, we’re at the mercy of the state.” That leaves little hope for funding.

Carvalho said a confluence of events makes this the right time to ask voters to dig into their pockets: a tax rate that is the lowest in 40 years; growing needs in schools not being met by state lawmakers; and the district’s excellent academic performance rating — plus overall public support for school safety. It’s been top of mind since 17 students and staffers were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. The shooter managed to avoid security, enter the school and open fire. Helping matters: Broward County voters already approved a similar measure for that district in August.

The ballot item says that the money will be collected until 2023, not into infinity. We support that end date. Voters would have to approve an extension.

We hope that the fruits of the referendum — along with the $1.2 billion 2012 bond referendum approved by voters to rebuild and repair aging schools — will plug most financial holes that plague the district, at least for the near future. Carvalho assured the board the tax money cannot go toward operational or progammatic costs, but only teacher salaries and security. That should be an iron-clad promise — with no loopholes.

The Herald recommends YES (#362) on the Miami-Dade County Public Schools referendum to increase property taxes for teacher raises and school security.

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