The relationship between the Douglas County School Board (Colorado) and the district teachers union has soured somewhat after they failed to reach a collective bargaining agreement due before the last one expired in June. As a result, the school board is petitioning voters in the November referendum to sever ties between the two bodies permanently.
School board member Craig Richardson said it was necessary to focus on doing what was best for the schoolchildren of the district instead of what benefited union officials:
"Instead of paying the high-dollar salaries of the union executives and a host of other union expenses, we ought to be focusing on restoring our focus on the classroom, both financially and pedagogically." Richardson reportedly went on to say, "I suggest that we consider at the next meeting ballot language that would prohibit the district from ever funding with taxpayer dollars union salaries and public pension benefits going forward."
The three questions that the Board wish to appear on the ballot are: Should the district be prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining with the union? Should the district be prohibited from using public funding for the compensation of union leaders? and Should the district be prohibited from collecting union dues from employee paychecks on the union's behalf?
The unions are less than enthused about the board's proposals:
Brenda Smith, president of the teachers' union, the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees, said to 9News that this is not about the students. "This board is focused on anything but kids in the classroom," Smith said. "What the board is trying to do is basically a power grab. They are trying to limit what future elected officials may want to do and they are basically out of control,"
Douglas County has lost 500 teachers over the past two years, a figure which critics of DCSB say is indicative of teachers in the district feeling unsafe and unwanted. The district says the figure is completely normal as a 10% turnover rate is nothing unusual in a metro-area district.
Union officials, their teachers and some sympathetic parents are continuing to campaign against the DCSB. They echo Smith's claim that the board's motivations are purely anti-union and have nothing to do with making a betting learning environment available for their children. There is even a Facebook page called âSpeak for DCSD' where disaffected teachers can share gripes with each other. On this page one poster tried to whip up support for a class action lawsuit against the DCSB for mental anguish, slander and harassment.
The School Board is due to meet again on September 4 to vote on whether to actually put the questions on the November ballot.