Teachers’ Union Hemmorrhaging Money, Members



Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo is fighting a revolt by dissident board members, who demand an independent audit to uncover why the labor group is cutting staff and hemorrhaging money.

In a five-page letter to state and national teachers’ organizations, dissidents allege that Santeramo mismanaged the union’s finances.

Santeramo agreed to an audit after speaking to the American Federation of Teachers in Washington about the letter.

“I believe in full disclosure and transparency and expect a complete audit to commence in the coming weeks,” Santeramo said in a written statement to Browardbeat.com.

The union has been staggered by the same cutbacks that have crippled the Broward public schools. When teachers are laid off or have less to spend, BTU membership drops.

Projections are that the BTU will lose another 1,150 members in the upcoming school year that begins this month.  That would leave approximately 11,300 members.

BTU Spokesman John Ristow cautioned that the 1,150 number discussed at the June 29 Board meeting was “a projection.”  He said it could “change on a week to week basis… BTU won’t have complete numbers for the 2011-2012 school year until about the second week of the new school year because the district is still placing teachers and student attendance always varies from district expectations.”

Whatever the eventual membership of the BTU, the union is hurting financially.

The union’s net assets dropped $1.3 milion in the year ending June 30, 2010  – to $3.7 million from $5 million.  This was largely due to a decrease in cash deposits.

In an attempt to head off financial disaster, the recent minutes of the BTU Executive Board meetings are filled with news of cutbacks and layoffs.

Santeramo and First Vice President Bernie Schultz are reducing their salaries 18 percent.  The rest of the staff are slicing salaries from 2 -17.5 percent.

In addition to the salary cuts, staff also had their 401k defined retirement contribution of 24 percent eliminated.


Everything from legal fees to travel and even holiday gift cards are being cut.

The letter to the state and national unions allege financial shenanigans by Santaramo without offering proof. When questioned by Browardbeat.com, Ristow forwarded the following one paragraph statement from Santaramo:

“The letter that you refer to lacks a date or signatures* so we do not know when it was written or who signed it. Regardless, on the subject of the Broward Teachers Union finances, the AFT was informed in mid-July that two BTU executive board members would be seeking an investigation and audit of BTU books. President Weingarten spoke with me immediately, and I said that I would be open to a comprehensive financial audit. I believe in full disclosure and transparency and expect a complete audit to commence in the coming weeks.”

Much of the letter involves alleged wrongdoing by Santeramo.  Since no evidence is offered, I won’t reproduce the allegations.

You can read the first page of the letter below.

The significance to me is that Santeramo is being challenged from inside his Board.  Bottom line: the BTU is in for turbulent times.


 *–Note: The letter had no signature when leaked to Browardbeat.com.  It was delivered to me personally by a BTU Board member.


First page of the five page letter (underlining on original) Click to enlarge.

23 Responses to “Teachers’ Union Hemmorrhaging Money, Members”

  1. GOPapa says:

    Maybe teachers will realize they don’t need a union.

  2. J.P. says:

    Teachers need unions now more than ever. Have you seen what the governor and legislature is trying to do with all of our public services? Next he will try to privatize the press too — like Buddy’s blog. No surprise the BTU is cutting back just like the rest of us. They are no different. Good for them.

  3. Git R Done says:

    What about the 8 Million on the side they got in 2005???
    They better check that out and see what happened to it !!!

  4. Stan says:

    Yeah, cause not having a union has worked out so well for other workers!

  5. Floridan says:

    Why not? Big business has a union — the Republican Party.

  6. Resident says:

    Sounds like they need to Unionize to protect them from their own Union.

  7. Insider says:

    It is about time that the union members start questioning where their dues are going. Besides the high salaries they pay to their chief executives; the perks that aren’t necessary (such as having their own insurance when they could be covered under the SB insurance); and wasteful spending (how much do they spend on sending massive amounts of postcards to board members when they were demanding a salary increase even when faced with teacher layoffs?), the union steadfastly refuses to negotiate in good faith with the district.

    The union has refused to participate in negotiations resulting in the loss of state and federal money for programs that have been budgeted; they have refused to consider changes in their contract such as changing the high school schedules, which would have saved money which could have been used to save jobs; as well as a multitude of other actions that, over the years, has ended up costing the district, and ultimately, lost jobs for teachers.

    Santeramo has told several people that, when faced with cuts in employment versus a raise or bonuses that would benefit a small number of already higher paid teachers, he would opt for the extra money at the expense of the other, newer teachers.

    Santeramo has also steadfastly refused to consider changing the salary scale which favors older teachers at the expense of the newer teachers. Year after year, the board asked to provide raises that were either even across the board, or help to raise the salaries of newer teachers, yet Santeramo and the BTU persists in favoring the teachers who are already on the higher end of the pay scale.

    I guess this makes sense to him, since his executive board is made up of these long-term teachers, but newer teachers have been getting screwed by the union for years.

    I guess the chickens have finally come home to roost. It’s about time.

  8. TruthOrConsequences says:

    This is not the political environment for teachers NOT to have good representation. The BTU needs new leadership. The current administration is siphoning the cash out of the BTU. Get the PERC reports and you will see that they pay themselves royally while the teachers are scrimping along to make ends meet. Included in this is a cash payment of 24% of their salaries for retirement. I’d say that amount is over the top! The new wrinkle is that the BTU is now reimbursing employees for unused vacation and sick leave. It is rumored that Santeramo is requesting $500,000. Frankly, Santeramo has used sick time and also has gone on several cruises using his vacation time. The Board of Directors are hand-picked by Santeramo and they generally approve anything he requests. It’s time that the BTU Board Members wake up and demand that Santeramo leave before he leaves with all of the BTU’s cash.

  9. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    sounds like who ever or whom ever maybe has malice intent etc. to bring Santeramo down possibly because the culprits want his job. Was he out spending union monires like a drunken sailor? I don’t know. W/ the economy in shables w/ this here about basiclly the Union is low on cash, along w/ another other organizations running low, but you have a Gov. rejected federal monies etc. because Mr.Scott doesn’t agree w/ Pres.Obama’s idelogies. Nonsense take the money Goober. As far as this union head, prove to us you are innocent of any wrong doing.

  10. loki says:

    Is this the republican party drop off? Did they finally break into the union to try to break it down? I know I’m mischievous but this is a hell of a way to cause tension among the members? Now that’s a good smart republican. Take down the BTU from the inside out. What if they don’t find anything then what?

  11. Drug Tester says:

    Unions are only concerned with how much money comes in with union dues, then making sure that high ranking members stay in their feather bed positions. The well being of the average member is a distant third concern. Any concern for students is not even on the radar screen.

  12. thisguyshadit says:

    The BTU did not lose membership last year. They probably will this year because of all of the lay-offs. In fact, the BTU treasury should be pretty full and fat (if it hasn’t been already drained) because of adding new groups to the BTU: the technical support personnel, classroom support personnel and charter school teachers. So, it’s hogwash that they are hemmorrhaging money due to loss of membership. They misrepresented their financial position to you, Buddy, as they also do to the membership.

    Buddy, do you have the PERC reports for the past few years? If not, call 1-850-488-8641 and you’ll see exactly where the money is going unbeknownst to the membership. It’s going to extravagant salaries and benefits.

    Buddy, you’re on the right track. Get the PERC reports (they’re free to all) and write a follow-up article.

    Santeramo’s quote “full disclosure and transparecy” is laughable. I don’t think he has any intention of opening the financials to the membership or to the Executive Committee.

    Keep shining the light on this. The teachers deserve better representation than they currently have.

  13. ExCompassionate Conservative says:

    As much as I am for a union to look out for the rights of their memberships, I do welcome the union itself to the real world of less income and having to cut back frills.

    I grew up in a union town where it seemd like the union heads with the biggest salaries had the biggest bellies, drove the biggest cars while their membership became thinner and thinner and eventually lost just about all of their jobs.

    The moral of the story is respect the taxpayers and customers who uses your services.

  14. Smart Move says:

    Floridan, you are very astute to make that comment. Well done.

  15. Victim of BTU says:

    Thank you. This article made my day. The only way it could be better is if they all lost their jobs. Thanks to BTU’s refusal to negotiate in good faith, not to mention the gross incompetence of my staff field rep, I got laid off from my TSP job in 2010.
    BTU failed to represent me at my informal grievance hearing with NIS – they were unprepared, uninformed, and my rep became hostile when I called him on it.
    Santeramo, Schultz, etc., did not lift a finger for me or any of the TSP staff last year. Indeed, I was told the best thing I could do is have my students and colleagues write to the Board to save my job!
    A few months later, all of us laid off employees got an anonymous letter stating the obvious: that BTU was in violation of state law and failed in their duty to represent their bargaining unit members in good faith. Too bad: we had no recourse.
    Pat, Bernie, John, and the rest: I pray every day that you know the humiliation we felt begging in vain for our jobs. I hope and pray that your families suffer they way ours have.

    To the non-teachers still enrolled in BTU: save your money. Quit the union.

  16. whaduxpect says:

    Relax, take a breath. Nothing is going to happen to BTU Prez Santeramo. He will be paid out all of the cash he asks for and more. The BTU Board does his bidding instead of watching out for the teachers.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it before-We need new leadership. The teachers traded in Gentile for this guy Santeramo. Looks like the teachers lost twice.
    Better luck next time.

  17. THETRUTH says:

    The truth is not all in the letter, there is way more to this story. Buddy did a little deeper, dont let the propaganda machine topple over you. They are broke because of misspending not because of the district laying off teachers. Do you really think an audit by there own father union will shed honest light? Wake up people

  18. Marco says:

    24% contribution to pension plan is obscene travesty and unheard of in private sector.

  19. Eyes Opened Now says:

    Thanks to “thisguyshadit”, I called PERC and got 3 years of BTU salaries. It opened my eyes. It’s a disgrace how Santeramo has been raising his and everyone’s salaries while teachers get nothing. Time for a housecleaning. Sweep them out the front door. Let’s not even mention their huge expense accounts.

    Now I understand the term BTUseless. They’re useless when it comes to defending teachers but generous when doling out dues money for their own raises.

    Considering the current political climate, teachers need the protection of their union. I’m in favor of the union but not the leadership. These union bosses and their cronies have to go. They seem just as corrupt as the district.

    Teachers, get the PERC reports and open your eyes

  20. Anarchy says:

    All of this should not be news to anyone, we all are well aware that the Union, including Pat, has made sure as we get less they keep getting raises every year, while we have VISTA they all have ETNA Health insurance, and it is pretty hare to swallow that PAT not only gets paid by the Union but, he is still on the County Books at the same time. I was always taught the level of involvement in a negotiation is totally based on the level of enumeration quotient is tied to one side or the other. SInce it looks like PAT’s bread is buttered on both sides I guess thats why we really don’t negotiate very much. It doesn’t hurt him or his BOYS, one way or another.

  21. Mr. G says:

    Maybe now the truth will come out. In all my years in Broward not one person refuses to address the double sipping of pensions, salaries and medical benefits of these union officials.

    They make more than the poor teachers. I hope they launch a large investigation and crack this wide open. EXPECIALLY THE DOUBLE DIPPING GOING ON FOR YEARS!!
    BTUsless does not care about their members just there pockets.

    Remember not one district in FL layed off any teachers but SBBC, don’t you smell a rat here???

    Just think they can all be roomies with Bev Gallagher when the times comes. How chummy!?!?!?

  22. StandByTruth says:

    I don’t see how the teachers are going to get rid of Santeramo. The BTU board members don’t have a spine and will approve anything to retain their $125/month stipend. The Board members are the best least-paid sycophants the world has seen.

  23. mish says:

    Sadly, I cannot find even ONE teacher who actually voted for the Union President. As a teacher and former union member I have asked almost everyone I have taught with. I have been told the union President hand picks a board and they re-elect him. I have been told he assumed the position from the former President who was jailed for some crime. I am now a laid off teacher. I have not received any help from my union. I believe the teachers union is actually a ridiculous farce!