Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pasco teachers, administration talk contract language while waiting for money details

With limited new financial resources, Pasco County school district officials have made clear their doubts that the budget can handle salary increases for teachers and staff in the new fiscal year that started Sunday.

United School Employees of Pasco leaders still are holding out hope.

Many district workers have spoken of the need for "meaningful raises," so they perhaps can stop working second jobs, USEP teacher negotiator Val Smith told the School Board.

"We understand the state has done us no favors," Smith said. But  "people know other districts are seeking creative solutions" such as added property tax rates to make up the difference.

She said the USEP encourages the district to find solutions, too, noting surveys show the general public supports paying teachers more.

While waiting for more financial information, such as the exact amount the district will carry forward from the 2017-18 budget, the sides have been discussing other sections of the contract.

The USEP is seeking, for instance, a more "understanding" policy on involuntary teacher transfers, Smith said.

With the closure of Ridgewood High, and some changes to the allocation formula, more teachers than usual found themselves being moved against their desires. In some instances, Smith said, the switches led to pay cuts and jobs that don't necessarily fit the teachers' needs.

To offset some of the consequences, the USEP has proposed creation of a "hardship" appeal to involuntary transfers. Hardships could include a change in work hours, a transfer to an out-of-field assignment or a commute of more than 20 miles from home.

Smith said the idea seems like a humane way to deal with such situations, and she was positive that the district would support at least some of the proposal.

District officials have yet to respond.

Other concepts also on the table include evaluations and paid leave.

The sides are scheduled to meet again on July 11 (school-related) and July 12 (instructional). The district is posting the proposals on its website as they are submitted.

No one is anticipating an early resolution to the contract.

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