Anyone who has been a reader of this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a big fan of open negotiations. When school board representatives and the leaders of employee groups sit down to discuss how huge chunks of taxpayer-funded K-12 budgets are spent, and set policies that affect classrooms, we’re better off with parents, teachers, and community members able to keep an eye on the action.
Earlier this year the Jeffco school board and teachers union made a historic agreement for bargaining transparency. When last we checked in, though, union leaders staged an impasse that led to mediation and took discussions back behind closed doors. Only a couple of other school districts make it nearly even that far by holding some sort of real open negotiations.
That soon could change. Thanks to the concerted effort of my Independence Institute friends, it soon may become the law of the land. Proposition 104 will be on the ballot for Colorado voters to decide this year.
Yesterday, the Durango Herald way down in the southwest corner of the state weighed in on the issue:
And it may well be that there is an anti-tax or anti-union animus behind the Independence Institute’s actions here. But regardless of what motivated Caldara and company to come up with Proposition 104, they got it right.
Schools are a big part of everyone’s property taxes and, as Caldara points out, teachers’ union contracts make up a huge part of schools’ budgets. Not only should how that money is spent be transparent to the taxpayers, so, too, should be how that was decided. The process, not just the outcome, is the public’s business. [emphasis added]
Then, almost as if on cue, one of the major Front Range newspaper editorial boards also applauded the proposal, which would change the law but not the state constitution. From today’s Pueblo Chieftain:
We wholeheartedly agree with…the vision of the proposal. Any plan to provide more openness within and accountability from our elected boards is a tremendous boon for the constituents. And — given that the teachers who are most impacted by the negotiations are the one most often kept away from the table — we view this as a win for them, as well. [emphasis added]
Back-to-back endorsements is no small deal. If it reached three days in a row (even a wide-eyed little kid like myself is kind of skeptical about it happening), I guess you’d have to call that momentum.
Major efforts to enact open negotiations were undertaken in the state legislature in 2004 and in 2012, but fell short. Now it falls on the people themselves to decide, and I wouldn’t be disappointed to see the sunshine start pouring into bargaining rooms across the state. Aaahh! Imagine breathing in the fresh scent of transparency!