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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Move underway to 'Pay teachers first'



Republican Sen. Alex Villalobos and Democratic Rep. Luis Garcia, of Miami and Miami Beach, today announced they'll be sponsoring legislation next session to force school districts to spare teacher salaries when they balance the budget and remember them first when they get new money.

The slogan is: "Pay teachers first baby,'' Villalobos said at a Miami news conference. "The legislation will make sure in these tough times, when everybody is making tough decisions, if they are going to make any increases they should start with teachers. Teachers are the backbone of the education system"

Added Garcia, "Just remember folks, you got no teachers, you got no schools.''

The proposed legislation, something the teachers union has sought for years, would force school district administrators to steer any additional new money they receive first to teacher salaries before they pay administrators. And when it come to additional cuts, teachers salaries would be spared.

The measure would also impose new restrictions on administrator salaries: they wouldn't get a salary increase until teachers received a commensurate increase and the salary scale of administrators could not be more than twice the average teacher salary for the academic year. The measure also imposes some new rules on districts: a super majority of the school board can reject a superintendent's salary scale, school board members could be recalled if a percentage of the members' district petition for it.

Villalobos said this was not intended as a hostile move against school boards but instead a move to increase accountability.

"You need to pay teachers what you've promised,'' said United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz. She said teachers were tired of "being the piggybamk" for districts.

"The public would be surprised to learn when the district does its budgeting process it has left out teachers salaires,'' she said. "There are going to be hard decisions to make...But when you start a budget you start with what's essential and our teachers are essential."

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:15pm]


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