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Liberty Watch Push for Open Union Negotiations Gains Traction in Loveland

It’s great to see more Colorado citizens demanding their tax-funded school districts conduct important business about personnel policies and special interest privileges in the public eye.

A petition by the grassroots group Liberty Watch to bring negotiation transparency and other union reforms to Thompson School District made its way onto the pages of today’s Loveland Reporter-Herald, collecting the petitions of more than 180 local residents.

Liberty Watch director Nancy Rumfelt is trying to get the petition’s reform proposals onto the February 20 school board agenda. You can learn more about the proposals and their rationale by listening to Rumfelt’s 20-minute on-air radio interview last week with one of my Education Policy Center friends.

Not surprisingly, though, most Thompson leaders seem more than a little reluctant to take on transparency and the other issues:

Board of education president Sharon Olson said she has not seen the petition and while it’s still early in the budget process, there haven’t been any discussions about possible changes to union-related policies.

“We couldn’t change some of those things because we are contractually obligated anyway,” Olson said. “We wouldn’t be able to bring those up until the contract is done.”

Sounds a little bit like “it can’t be done because we’ve never done it that way before,” or “we couldn’t change those things until it’s too late to have them changed.” Yes, it’s a head-scratcher. (For a refresher, this is the same Board that last year considered adopting a policy to reimburse its members for expenses and to provide them with a stipend.)

Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to follow the successful lead of Douglas County and to earn the applause of teachers as in Adams 12, simply by opening up union negotiations for the public to (quietly and respectfully) observe?

It certainly would. Not to mention much better than taking the approach of offering silly arguments against open negotiations, like some Jefferson County school board members made in 2011.

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.