Why Do Broward School Secretaries Earn More Than Many Teachers?

Teachers say they are vastly underpaid.
Teachers say they are vastly underpaid.
Photo by Douglas P Perkins via Wikimedia Commons

Donna Shubert has spent most of her career working as an elementary school teacher, the job she’d wanted ever since college. But recently, another job posting caught the 62-year-old's eye. In fact, it was in the same school district, but instead of working with kids, it was a secretary position for a Broward County School District administrator.

Though the job required only a high school diploma, the pay was better. A posting for the executive assistant to the chief academic officer listed the salary as $50,500-$72,000. It would take a Broward County teacher 20 years to even hit $49,200.

So Shubert, a kindergarten teacher at McNab Elementary in Pompano Beach, fired off an email about the discrepancy to Broward superintendent Robert Runcie and the school board. And she encouraged fellow teachers to apply for the job, if only to make a point.

“My goal is to make them think about this,” Shubert says. “I want to make them think; I want them to see how unfair it is. It’s disgraceful. I want to make them understand that and act on it.”

The longtime activist for teachers says her point isn’t to pick on secretaries, who she notes work hard for their salaries. Instead, she’s trying to call attention to the wage disparity.

New teachers start at $40,000 and crack $45,000 after 14 years, according to the Broward district’s salary schedule. They have to put in 24 years to earn $58,500. After 26 years, they can make $71,250.

For comparison’s sake, district data shows executive secretaries hired in 2015 currently earn $50,542 on the low end, and secretaries hired in 1986 make $65,320 on the high end.

It’s worth noting that teachers have a shorter work year — 196 days — than other district employees. But Shubert says the number of workdays is similar when you take away the extra vacation, holiday, and sick days given for noninstructional jobs.

School board member Nora Rupert, a former teacher herself, defends the executive secretaries’ pay. She points out that her own secretary's salary is higher than the $42,570 she makes, and says she thinks that's fair. But she agrees with Shubert that teachers should be paid much more.

“I hope the public can see that and push back to our legislature to say if we really want a first-class education, then we need to be paying our teachers a first-class salary,” Rupert says.

Teacher pay has long been a sticking point in Broward. Last school year, teachers asked for 2.5 percent increases, but administrators said the money wasn’t there. Last month, the school board agreed to give average salary increases of 2.5 percent but took away a $2,600 supplement paid to high school teachers for teaching a sixth period. The union still has to sign off on the deal.

But Shubert says teachers are struggling to buy homes and that the majority work second or third jobs. They’re not making a living wage, she says — which is the whole point of her protest.

“Our level of responsibility, our workload, the educational demands, all the training we constantly have to go through, all the extra jobs they push on us — we should be fairly paid for that,” she says. “We shouldn’t have to wait for money to fall from the heavens.”

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