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Controversial Pasco teacher pay plan set for formal introduction

The local teachers union already has denounced the idea.

Less than two weeks after local teacher leaders announced their opposition, the Pasco County school district intends to formally present a much disliked salary plan during contract negotiations on Wednesday.

“I need to have a decision made by Christmas,” superintendent Kurt Browning said of his “six of six” proposal, which aims to boost salaries by as much as 12 percent by reducing the middle and high school teaching staff and having those who remain instruct an extra class daily.

“We’re going to deliver it,” Browning said.

The United School Employees of Pasco already has informally rejected the idea after surveying about 1,600 secondary faculty members, who indicated they would rather get smaller raises and not change their work conditions. The district killed a similar proposal a year ago in the face of heavy union opposition.

RELATED: Pasco teachers union rejects school district’s pay plan

But on learning of the district’s plan to offer the concept in collective bargaining, USEP president Don Peace offered a conciliatory note.

“We’ll listen,” Peace said. “We’ve got to hear what they say.”

In comments Tuesday to the School Board, Peace made clear that he appreciated the administration’s efforts to include the union early in the discussion about teacher raises. He added that the USEP leadership was not angry about the district’s persistence in pressing for its plan.

“We just simply don’t agree that what has been discussed so far is in the best interest of employees,” he said.

Instead, the USEP seeks a pay increase that does not burden one group of employees to benefit others. He reiterated his frequent call for a local property tax increase referendum, suggesting the general public would willingly support the tax as a way to keep the best teachers in their children’s schools.

So far, district officials have not supported calling a referendum. But they have repeatedly stated their desire to increase salaries as much as possible, to make Pasco competitive with neighboring districts and to boost employee morale.

The board approved 3 percent raises as part of the 2019-20 budget that won final adoption on Tuesday. That could be the full amount of the pay hike if the sides cannot reach agreement on any additional moves.

RELATED: Pasco school district seeks to boost teacher pay by cutting positions, increasing course loads

The negotiating teams are slated to resume talks at 6:30 p.m., after nearly a month off. Both Peace and Browning said they hope for quick resolution, so the district can focus on critical education issues.