Bargaining Update 2 June 18, 2015

From: Lacey Unseth [WA] [mailto:LUnseth@WashingtonEA.org]
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 10:51 AM
Subject: Bargaining Update 2 June 18, 2015

Platitudes won’t fix our classrooms

For the second time this week, Pasco administrators came to the bargaining table with a message that teachers and instruction really just aren’t important priorities here.

You may recall that on Monday, administrators came prepared with little more than a few platitudes about valuing education. They didn’t offer any formal response to a 70-page comprehensive bargaining proposal offered by PAE’s bargaining team. Wednesday was more of the same. After two and a half days, administrators responded with predictable rejections for 33 of 65 PAE proposals. They agreed to eight minor housekeeping items. They made counter proposals on 21 proposals — including adding in some takeaways. The district suggested putting $85,000 into our health pool but would take away our $600 a year sick leave incentive ($50 for each sick day not used). More critically, the district is proposing that PAE members would no longer have a choice about what insurance provider the district selects. The district suggested the carrier selected would be Asuris.

By the numbers: Money, respect, and the staff, programs and materials students need

Pasco’s lack of respect for teachers may start at the bargaining table, but it is not just symbolism. Platitudes notwithstanding, a pattern of distain for teaching and learning is evident the way Supt. Saundra Hill runs — and funds — our district. Using budget numbers the district was required to submit to OSPI reveals that Pasco consistently spends less per year on schools in Pasco than administrators tell the community they will spend. Pasco also spends less on teaching and teaching support than other districts of similar size. It’s a small difference: only 1.2% — but that slice adds up considering the district’s overall $179 million budget.

Meanwhile, the district tells the community it will spend more on teaching and teaching support than it actually spends. Last year (final spending isn’t complete yet this year) Pasco told residents it would spend $103.3 million on teaching activities, but actually spent only $94.4 million—a shortfall of nearly $9 million. In the past five years, the greatest percentage growth in spending has been for administration, 19.9%. But in this year’s budget, the district tells the community that its greatest spending growth, 13.8%, will be for teaching and teaching support. Looking at actual spending, however, reveals that teaching and teaching support are historically the most-underspent program areas for the district, 8.4% less than budgeted levels for 2010-2014.

Can you spot what’s NOT a priority in Saundra Hill’s latest shell game?

Even more deceptively, the district is now trying to play a shell game with the $37 million it’s left in the bank, claiming reserves really are only $8.2 million. It’s an old dodge, tried unsuccessfully by countless districts before, to claim that the excess tax money administrators are sitting on suddenly can’t be spent because it’s in a “designated” reserve.

In reality, designated reserves are like any of us who have savings accounts where we decide we’re putting aside some money for a trip to Disneyland. If a tree falls through the roof of our house during a storm, no one says “We can’t fix the roof because our money is in a designated reserve.” Instead we say, “Well, fixing the roof is more of a priority than a Disney trip.”

A memo from Hill shows the district’s plan is to set aside $29,331,472 that it will not actually spend. Instead, it’s in reserve for topics as nebulous as “Encumbrance carryover,” “reserve for other carryover,” “interfund loan receivable,” and, in mid-2015, a $1.7 million “reserve for FY (fiscal year) 13-14 Net Rev./Exp./Transfers Out.”

Saundra Hill’s legacy may be shortchanging the needs of Pasco’s teachers and students and leaving a bloated administrative staff. PAE members have voiced increasing concern over teacher compensation, insurance, curriculum, workload, class size, teacher evaluation, transfers, state testing, and inconsistent, incompetent and even abusive decision-making practices within the district.

The longer the district refuses to listen and meaningfully respond to teachers’ concerns, the more likely that PAE members will have to stand together publicly to help parents and community leaders understand the damage that is being done to our schools. Members see a once-proud district that is now spinning into administrative chaos and discord, with bungled planning, a failure to deliver adequate resources to our classrooms, and a growing number of staff who are resigning jobs in Pasco to teach in other more successfully managed districts.

Our administration likes to offer platitudes about professionalism. But for Pasco’s frontline educators, professionalism isn’t just talking nice. It means acting professionally, too, to solve the litany of problems that have festered under Saundra Hill’s invisible leadership.

Bargaining is set to resume July 9.

PAE Bargaining update 2–6-15.pdf

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