Bargaining Update July 10

From: Lacey Unseth [WA] [mailto:LUnseth@WashingtonEA.org]
Sent: Friday, July 10, 2015 9:10 AM
Subject: Bargaining Update July 10

Is the district’s strategy to pick a fight with its own teachers?

Thursday marked the third day of bargaining between the district and Pasco’s teachers, but instead of making significant forward progress, the district is moving the wrong direction on key issues.

· The district is moving the wrong way on keeping great teachers: Instead of addressing systemic problems that are driving away Pasco’s teachers, such as low pay, lack of adequate materials and curriculum, over-crowded classes and unprofessional administrators, the district is offering a simpler fix: an earlier deadline to resign, after which you are locked into your contract and can’t leave even if you want to. Currently, employees must announce by July 15 if they intend to leave. The district wants to move that back two weeks, to July 1.

· The district is moving the wrong way on student contact time: Thursday’s proposal included more release days for high school conferences, while ignoring PAE’s proposals to reduce testing and increase the amount of time teachers can spend, you know … teaching.

· The district is moving the wrong way on reducing overcrowded classes: The district tried to bluff that the state won’t send more class-size money unless the district opens new classrooms, and said it may choose to decline $1.66 million in class-size funds. PAE pointed out that was incorrect and misleading: State law specifically allows for other options to use class size reduction money even when additional physical space is not available.

· The district continues to move the wrong way on sixth-grade teaching roles: Despite having largely agreed this spring to allow sixth-grade teachers to teach in their subject-area specialty, the district tried to resuscitate its whacky plan allowing them to force teachers to teach all curriculum subjects whether they are qualified or not. The community understands that’s nuts: In an editorial headlined, “Pasco’s sixth-graders deserve expert teachers,” the Tri-City Herald quoted PAE Chief Bargainer Matthew Polk saying, “Kids deserve to have math experts be their math teachers,” and then the editors offered their own two-word conclusion: “He’s right.”

· The district is moving the wrong way on pay: The only ongoing raise proposed by the district was one extra day of pay for extra responsibilities. Meanwhile, the district now wants to tie “deemed done” incentive pay to specific tasks, such as parent conferences, open houses, SBAC conferencing and additional testing, etc. PAE has proposed an 11.2 percent pay increase for teachers, matching the salary increase given to state legislators.

· The district is moving the wrong way on using tax dollars responsibly: After apparently forgetting that our school district is an institution of learning, not a savings bank, the district still refuses to spend almost any of its obscene reserve fund on students and teachers. With more than $30 million already wasting away in reserves, and nearly $14 million in new money headed to Pasco in the recently completed state budget, the district notes that new spending in its contract package totals only $1.59 million. Even more embarrassing, the bulk of that increase — $906,300 — would disappear after a single year. The remainder ($686,850) is considered an ongoing increase, but even that includes $90,000 for increased substitute pay. So with some $44 million at its fingertips, the district is willing to commit only $596,850 — just over a half-million dollars — to ongoing support for Pasco’s teachers. That is out of an overall budget this year of more than $179 million, or an increase of 0.33 percent.

· The district is moving the wrong direction on health insurance: Although the district has agreed to put an additional $88,000 into our insurance pool, on Thursday it confirmed its hope to remove teachers’ voices from decisions on insurance providers, and switch to the insurer teachers already resoundingly rejected, Asuris.

WEA staff bargainer Steve Lindholm took the district to task for appearing to be trying to deliberately stick its fingers in teachers’ eyes with these proposals, instead of working collaboratively to resolve real problems in Pasco’s schools that hurt teachers and students.

The teams will be right back at the bargaining table Friday morning (July 10). Thank you for the support of those members who were able to come support PAE’s Bargaining Team. Our intent is to settle this contract amicably, but if the district wants to force a battle of wills, they need to understand we are ready.

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