Its been four long years since Broward teachers have had a raise.

We know money is tight and likely to be tight in the upcoming budget.

But with the increase in the local option tax last year and the much ballyhooed $25 million in savings by rearranging senior staff, teachers should now be the priority.

The Board needs to find a way to negotiate at least a 3% raise for teachers.

BTU should be ready to negotiate one or two givebacks in order to help fund raises.

No more take, take, take without serious consideration of trading fringe benefits for money.

In past years, the only thing on the table during the closed door sessions was money.

Rarely did the Board get involved in other benefits under negotiation and never once asked for a giveback.

It’s been a rough four year lesson, but by now the Board and the union should be painfully aware that the pot is not bottomless.

Yet look at BTU’s Negotiations News and you’ll see more demands for fringe benefits without a hint of givebacks.

Along with negotiated raises, the Board should be prompted to remember that the step system is a complete insult to junior teachers.

In 2006 we gave teachers a 6% raise and forced an equal division of the money between each teacher.

It worked out to $2050 per teacher.

The new Board of 2007 took that lesson to heart and teachers wound up with $1725 each.

To that effect, the Board needs to strike the step system from the contract and replace it with a flat statement of real percentage raises.

But four years (forget the $500 “bonus” last year) is long enough.

It’s time to make teachers a priority once again.