Pasco teachers, district return to contract talks
A month after declaring impasse, the United School Employees of Pasco returned to the bargaining table with Pasco County school district representatives to see if they could get closer to a contract deal.
Both sides came with new proposals, aiming to bridge the gap of their differences on issues including pay raises, training for teachers at differentiated accountability schools and job protections for teachers on annual contract.
They made some progress, but walked away without any new agreements.
"Obviously we are quite a ways away" from agreement, USEP negotiator Val Smith as the session neared its end.
On pay, the district increased its pay raise offer 2.65 percent to 2.68 percent. The USEP has asked for 3.75 percent.
District lead negotiator Kathy Scalise said she was wary of proposing even that small added amount, because the finance office learned today that the district would not be getting financial credit for all its enrollment growth. That growth is providing all the added money for raises.
"We have scraped where we can," Scalise told the USEP team. "We do not have an excess."
Smith requested added information about raise amounts, and said she would try to respond at the next round of talks.
On job protections, the district did not budge from its long-standing position that it cannot guarantee positions to teachers on annual contracts. The USEP has requested language that grants teachers on annual contracts with strong evaluations a new contract, similar to Pinellas County schools.
"We do not believe it is in alignment with the law to offer any type of guarantee or any caveat that says this is what you do to get your annual contract renewed," Scalise said.
She gave the union a copy of statute as the district offer.
"I know this is probably not what you are asking for," Scalise said, "but it is the only way we can come up with an answer."
"This is not the response we were hoping for," Smith said.
She suggested that the union was open to other conditions to protect teachers' jobs, and wanted to have a conversation. But it was a clear non-starter for the district, which has rejected this proposal twice before.
The talks lasted just over two hours, including a lengthy private caucusing period. The sides plan to meet again in a week.
Negotiations for school-related personnel are set for Wednesday. The sides also are scheduled to pick a magistrate for impasse hearings on Wednesday.