Sunday, November 18, 2018

Work more, pay more proposal far from sure thing for Pasco County schools

A proposal to adjust the Pasco County teacher pay schedule by requiring educators to work 30 minutes longer each day met with near instant pushback from teachers, who said they already work long enough for the salaries they get.

As the feedback flowed in, several School Board members stressed they are not yet sold on the idea.

"It's worth discussing," vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley said of the administration's idea.

Related coverage: Pasco School Board considers longer days for higher pay 

But she noted that the district already had implemented a program in which teachers could volunteer for a sixth teaching period for $5,000 — more than the projected $3,300 they would make in the new proposal. [District records show 60 teachers take advantage of that program.]

Crumbley, like others, said she had many questions about that system and other factors before she would fully support going to negotiations over the idea.

Board member Colleen Beaudoin shared in the concerns. She observed that many teachers already work second jobs, or are talking of taking positions in other districts that require longer work days.

Pasco moving to such a model could allow those teachers to remain in the district and make more money, Beaudoin suggested. But she acknowledged that not everyone is in the same position, and suggested the proposal might not have the desired effect.

"I'm not saying it's necessarily worth it," Beaudoin said.  "It's a discussion."

She further expressed dismay that the proposal arose during a workshop that was supposed to be about finding money for raises. The few possibilities raised on that front, such as reallocating learning coaches to schools, were quickly shot down by administrators as not feasible.

The idea of using insurance fund surpluses to fund a bonus had some support, but board members worried about not leaving enough money in the account to cover potential claims.

The conversation left board member Steve Luikart astounded.

He said during the workshop that the "six of seven" plan was "impressive." He later clarified that he meant it was impressive the administration "could come up with a project like that not concentrating on what the issue is. I call that smoke and mirrors."

Luikart said he and others have prioritized employee pay, and the administration did not make that a reality in the presented budget. Superintendent Kurt Browning has asked the board to wait until after the October student count to make a raise decision, adding his staff has already found enough money for increases of about 1 percent.

"To me, what they're doing is … poor planning on their part," said Luikart, who retires in November after two terms. "Unless they come up with a substantial raise for employees, I'm not going to vote for the budget."

The board plans another workshop on the administration's "six of seven" plan in late September or early October.

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