The Douglas County School Board in Colorado has voted to forgo further negotiations with the union representing the district’s teachers over the collective bargaining agreement. It will also stop paying the salaries of union leaders out of public funds and will forbid the district collection of union dues.
Initially, the board debated putting all these measures on the ballot and allowing local residents to make a choice in November, but according to Ryan Parker of The Denver Post, members decided to forgo the expense and use their latitude to decide the issues themselves.
Board President John Carson said that the vote was inevitable in light of the commitment the board has made to pursuing education reform that includes merit pay and a new teacher assessment system, both of which are opposed by the teachers union.
Brenda Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, said after the meeting that the board realized that what it was going to attempt with the ballot was illegal and that is why they chose to vote on resolutions.
“What they did tonight has no future impact on our direction,” she said.
The room where the board held its meeting and vote was packed with nearly 150 supporters of the DCFT, some brandishing signs opposing the board’s proposed action. Carson had some difficulty controlling the spectators during the public comment portion of the night, with many in the audience booing as people got up to speak on the measures in question.
The protesters were there not just to express opposition to the board vote, but also to attempts by the district to strip the union of its collective bargaining rights. Law enforcement officers had to be summoned to maintain crowd control and turn away people once the room was filled to capacity.
As people attending the meeting filed into district headquarters, the protesters walked back and forth, carrying signs saying the school board’s attitude toward the union shows disregard for teachers.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with the district’s treatment of teachers,” said protester Randi Allison, who has three grandchildren enrolled in the district.
She said she has seen firsthand how important Douglas County teachers are to a child’s success.
The director for Taxpayers for Public Education, Anne Kleinkopf, said that even the proposal to put the collective bargaining issue on the ballot was an overreach on the part of the board as doing so would exceed the reach of the board’s legal power. But not everyone agreed. Daniel Krueger, who spoke at the meeting in support of the ballot measure, said that using public funds to pay union expenses was, in effect, shortchanging the district’s students.