Pasco superintendent criticizes union's impasse declaration, calls for more talks
Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning is calling the United School Employees of Pasco declaration of impasse in contract talks "grossly unfair," and proposing the sides return to the table to hash out their differences.
"We made the call (Thursday) to set dates," Browning said. "We want to come back."
USEP leaders have said they would be open to continue talking even as the sides look to a hearing officer for mediation. Union president Kenny Blankenship said he turned to impasse only because he believed the district was not ready to move on financial matters after the USEP brought a new pay proposal to the table Wednesday night.
But Browning deemed the act "inappropriate" and "unreasonable."
"It is incredibly frustrating to me to know that we finally got back to the table, we were passing proposals back and forth and they give us a proposal. They demand a response right then and there," he said. "They didn't give us ample time to respond."
The upshot, Browning suggested, is that the 2.65 percent average raises plus slightly increased benefits that the district put into its 2016-17 budget are held up for months. "We have been ready to give raises since July."
Blankenship and other union officials have countered that the district's offer is not good enough, and that the administration has made just one offer it doesn't look likely to budge from. That stance, they said, drove the decision to move to impasse even though some other small issues were moving.
The union also has taken issue with the administration's refusal to consider some non-money ideas, such as job protections for well-evaluated teachers on annual contracts. District employee relations director Kathy Scalise has pointed out that the USEP also has not answered some district proposals, stating the frustration is equal on both sides.
The USEP took its action on the same day it announced its schedule for officer elections. Candidates can declare through Dec. 22, with voting to begin in late February.