Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargaining

IB-2010-B (April 2010)
Author: Ben DeGrow

PDF of full Issue Backgrounder
Scribd version of full Issue Backgrounder

Summary
Forty-two of Colorado’s 178 school districts bargain exclusively with a local teachers union. Often conducted by tax-funded district employees on both sides, negotiations forge policies that determine the use of taxpayer dollars. Yet only one of the 42 districts (Poudre R-1) has an established policy that thoroughly ensures the public’s right to observe bargaining negotiations.

A 2001 state sunshine law requires Colorado school districts to post completed bargaining agreements online, but the process to create the agreements remains almost completely unseen. In 2004 and 2005, two separate legislative bills to expand public access to negotiations were defeated. Eleven other states have laws providing at least some public access to collective bargaining sessions or records, including six states that guarantee open negotiations.

No negotiations between government agencies and private organizations over public policies and public dollars should be held in secret. As unions tend to exert extraordinary influence over the election of the board members with whom they negotiate, it is even more crucial to make bargaining sessions accessible to the press, parents and other concerned citizens.

District officials who negotiate on behalf of the local school board tend to prefer closed sessions to maintain productive relationships with employee associations and to prevent inflamed passions from distorting the process. While their concerns may make the case to preclude public participation in most bargaining sessions, it should not require prohibiting all citizen input nor limiting public observation of the process.

Local policies to enhance bargaining transparency would be hard to achieve as they would be subject to the same dynamics that create closed negotiations. A statewide open negotiations law not only would honor the taxpaying public’s right to know, but also would offer the potential to make negotiated outcomes more responsible and fairer to all involved.


Posted by ben on Apr 16th, 2010 and filed under Issue Backgrounders, Labor, Latest on K-12 issues, Publications. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

15 Responses for “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargaining”

  1. [...] Several months ago my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote an issue backgrounder called “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargain… He noted that only one of 42 bargaining districts in our state have policies that ensure public [...]

  2. [...] Several months ago my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote an issue backgrounder called “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargain… He noted that only one of 42 bargaining districts in our state have policies that ensure public [...]

  3. [...] forget to check out this brief 2010 backgrounder from my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow explaining some of the merits of the open negotiations policy. Meanwhile, the group Americans for Prosperity-Colorado has created the website “Make [...]

  4. [...] yourself on the issue of open negotiations by reading the 2010 issue backgrounder by my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity-Colorado still [...]

  5. [...] know Ben thinks he is smart about these issues. He did write that issue backgrounder last year: Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargaining. And yes, his conclusion I quoted above is pretty good. But I think a better summary of the argument [...]

  6. [...] DeGrow wrote in his 2010 issue backgrounder “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargain… the Colorado General Assembly nearly adopted such a measure in 2004. How different the landscape [...]

  7. [...] in collective bargaining negotiations.” As my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow explained in a 2010 issue backgrounder, a similar bill was introduced, and very nearly passed, eight years ago (back in the dark [...]

  8. [...] for local schools and classrooms. Of 41 Colorado districts with union negotiations, all but 2 remain essentially closed from public view. What other private group do we allow to have secret meetings with government officials over tax [...]

  9. [...] Here’s hoping the wave of good government in public education continues to grow as 2013 unfolds. For the next several weeks, it’s all eyes on Loveland. Hopefully that leads to all eyes being able to watch the union negotiations themselves. [...]

  10. [...] not long after my Education Policy Center friends released a paper bringing attention to the topic, Colorado Springs 11 started to crack the “cone of [...]

  11. [...] accepted, Adams 12 would become the fourth of Colorado’s 10 largest school districts to adopt open negotiations. That kind of transparency enables taxpayers and teachers alike to observe whether the [...]

  12. [...] accepted, Adams 12 would become the fourth of Colorado’s 10 largest school districts to adopt open negotiations. That kind of transparency enables taxpayers and teachers alike to observe whether the [...]

  13. [...] more transparency, letting people in to observe (not participate in, mind you) a process that helps “forge policies that determine the use of taxpayer dollars.” It’s one thing to imagine why the parties would rather keep out the prying eyes of citizens [...]

  14. [...] bargaining arrangements remains the same as when my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote the definitive piece for Colorado schools four years ago: No negotiations between government agencies and private organizations over public [...]

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