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How Union Contracts Block School Reform: A Denver Case Study

IP-3-1990 (February 1990)
Author: Ed Lederman

PDF of full Issue Paper
Scribd version of full Issue Paper

Executive Summary

  • Teacher contracts function virtually as the constitution for a district, yet their provisions are little known to the public.
  • Unpleasant surprises emerge when the Denver Public Schools contract is read from the viewpoint of frustrated education consumers.
  • Article 44 bars community accountability committees from monitoring classroom work (although required by state law).
  • Article 7 caps the workday at 7-1/4 hours, restricting parent contact and yielding an average DPS teacher salary of $22.50 per hour plus benefits.
  • Article 9 calls grading English papers a non-teaching duty.
  • Articles 8 and 13 preclude a principal from selecting his own team of teachers.
  • Articles 10 and 11 give a bad teacher triple job security.
  • Article 22 excludes student performance as a criterion for pay raises.
  • Article 19 entrusts student discipline policies more to the union than to the school board.
  • Article 31 burdens non-union teachers with annual, personal visits to the DCTA office to prevent a dues checkoff from their pay.
  • School board authority must be reasserted if reforms are ever to occur. Renegotiation is underway, but Article 5 keeps the talks secret.

A first step to reform would be experimental lifting of the above restrictions in certain contract free zones.

The situation is little better in other large Colorado districts, suggests a comparative table on page 12. Locking in the Status Quo