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Florida teachers union leaders: We want better pay for all, not a new legislative 'gimmick'

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Leaders of local and state teachers unions tell the Herald/Times that they are eager for more details on the Florida Legislature's planned expansion of teacher incentives. But -- with lingering criticism of the two-year-old "Best & Brightest" bonuses -- they aren't very optimistic that lawmakers will come up with a true solution to poor teacher compensation.

"These guys don’t get it. Hiring teachers is not the problem. Retaining them is," Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, said in a text message.

Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, called the proposed expanded incentives "a gimmick" by lawmakers "to avoid paying our teachers adequately."

MORE: "$200 million for teacher incentives? Florida lawmakers crafting plan to do it"

"Teachers don’t want bonus pay; they want real pay," she said, adding that permanent increases to the base student allocation — which could help districts afford to pay teachers more — "is really the only thing that’s going to help with our teacher shortage."

Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said in a statement: "The devil is in the details. We can’t give any indication of what we think of this proposal until we know about who qualifies and how teachers could access this money."

McCall said Florida’s teachers salaries are $10,000 below the national average and need to be made more competitive with other states.

"If this proposal works to alleviate this discrepancy, we could support it," McCall said.

"If it's another scheme like 'Best & Brightest' that doesn’t address the core problems of paying teachers and education staff professionals adequate and competitive salaries, we’d have problems with it," McCall said. "We didn’t create the system but we do what is asked, and if a teacher meets the requirements of the complicated evaluation system they should be paid for it — not some — all."

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Colleen Wright contributed to this report.

Photo credit: EL NUEVO HERALD