Education

Pasco teacher contract issue could resolve quickly

The Pasco School District’s teachers union says there are problems in the final draft of a new contract that led the school board to stall a Tuesday night vote to approve the deal with teachers. But one union leader says he thinks the contract language can be resolved quickly.
The Pasco School District’s teachers union says there are problems in the final draft of a new contract that led the school board to stall a Tuesday night vote to approve the deal with teachers. But one union leader says he thinks the contract language can be resolved quickly. Tri-City Herald

Representatives from the Pasco School District’s teachers union have identified problems in the final draft of a new contract that led the school board to stall a Tuesday night vote to approve the deal with teachers.

But the union’s lead negotiator Matthew Polk said he thinks the contract language can be resolved quickly, allowing him and other teachers to focus on teaching.

“It’s probably not a giant stumbling block, more like a stubbed toe,” Polk said in a message to the Herald.

The Pasco Association of Educators’ bargaining team was still meeting Wednesday afternoon but Polk said the document contained “a multitude of mistakes, discrepancies and pieces of language that were never agreed upon — or in some cases, never even discussed.”

The union has offered new language for the contract to the district and provided their notes to justify the changes.

Polk said he was disappointed the school board did not approve the tentative agreement with teachers developed more than a week ago, ending a two-week teachers strike. Teachers voted to accept the proposed contract on Sept. 14, ending a strike that delayed the start of the school year by nine days.

Assistant Superintendent Sarah Thornton requested the school board hold off approving the deal with teachers after the union raised questions about language used in a draft drawn up by the district. The board approved a memo that ended the strike, called off legal action by the district and union and halted a district plan to freeze teacher pay.

Neither union officials nor district administrators have said specifically what parts of the contract are being debated. But Thornton told the board that the dispute over the language should not be seen as bargaining in bad faith or an attempt by either side to make last-minute changes.

“This is simply an issue of drafting contract language both parties agree to,” she told the board.

Polk said the union also worked Wednesday on its final suggestions for amending the district calendar to make up for the missed school days. The district and union must agree to the changes.

The tentative agreement gives Pasco teachers an 8.7 percent pay raise over the next two years in addition to a 4.8 percent raise from the state. It also requires class size reductions, more planning time for teachers, more money for classroom suppliesand a task force review of the amount of standardized testing in the district. Finally, it sets strict timelines for curriculum adoption over the next two years.

Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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