Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning says he’s growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of action on his proposal to boost teacher pay over the next two years.
“They won’t come to the table,” Browning said, referring to the United School Employees of Pasco bargaining team. “How can I have a conversation with myself?”
USEP leaders so far have shown little inclination to accept Browning’s proposal, which would generate millions of dollars toward pay by cutting about 200 middle and high school teacher positions and having those who remain teach six periods daily instead of five.
But they have not refused to talk, union chief operating officer Jim Ciadella stressed.
“The district has not invited us to the table to formally discuss this proposal,” Ciadella said. “We are not standing in the way of anything.”
He noted the idea — a revised version of a plan that gained no traction a year ago — has been presented only as a concept at a June School Board meeting, on a website distributed to employees, and through general conversations. The USEP wants to discuss alternatives, he added, but also wants to hear from members for whom it bargains.
“We are in the middle of, and will hear information this week from, a survey we distributed to almost 1,800 secondary teachers to get their input,” Ciadella said. “Our survey will help us determine how we proceed, or do we proceed.”
Browning contended that the USEP members need to have more information before they can come to an opinion on whether they like the pay plan. And that, he said, requires conversations rather than surveys and websites.
“We’re talking about what it might look like,” Browning said. “I cannot even get the union to come to the table and talk about what it might look like. I can’t get them there. Time is ticking.”
If this effort fails, he continued, it might be too late for Pasco schools — with one of the lowest teacher pay rates in the state — to catch up and become competitive.
USEP president Don Peace has encouraged the administration and board several times to ask voters to increase local property taxes, as Pinellas County has done, to bolster the money available for salaries. Browning said he was not ready to make that request before delving into other possibilities, such as his contentious “six of six” plan.
“I’m not going to do it,” he said.
Ciadella said the USEP continues to vet ideas that could lead to improved pay. And if Browning wants to negotiate over the latest proposal, he suggested, maybe a formal request would help.