After several failed attempts by the Colorado General Assembly to bring transparency to collective bargaining negotiations between Colorado school boards and teachers unions, the Independence Institute stepped in and used the citizen initiative process to bring the matter to the ballot. The result was a huge victory for transparency, taxpayers, and rank-and-file teachers.
The idea that these negotiations took place behind closed doors was an anathema to open government. Salaries and benefits can be up to 80 percent of a school district’s budget. And that money all comes from the taxpayers. It seems only right that those taxpayers, and the teachers whose livelihoods are affected, should be able to see that process for themselves.
In 2014, citizen proponents Jon Caldara and Mike Krause brought Proposition 104 to the Colorado ballot, and Independence Institute launched an education campaign in support of the measure. The language of Prop 104 was clear and straight to the point: “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”
And in the November election, Coloradans said yes to open negotiations. In an election where three other ballot measures lost, Prop 104 passed overwhelmingly, 70-30. Where the legislature had failed to act, Independence Institute took transparency to a vote of the people and changed the law for the better.