Teachers should do bargaining in public eye

Freedom New Mexico

At a time when the privilege of collective bargaining is jeopardized for public employees, a Colorado Springs school district has negotiated its master agreement with the teachers union in meetings closed to the public. That takes chutzpah.

When called on it last week, board members came to their senses and voted 5-2 to ask the teachers union to negotiate in public.

This year the union and school board decided on a new negotiation process called interest-based bargaining.

Both sides of the negotiation sit casually and discuss matters in a nonconfrontational manner, attempting to find common ground. It’s supposed to be a nonpressure environment, and advocates of the closed meetings worry about members of the public raising concerns that might kill the mood.

“It’s a long, complicated process,” said Tim Cross, executive director of the Colorado Springs Education Association, the teachers union. “What could happen, like in other things, is that in the middle of public discourse the community takes positions without knowing the whole story, and things become unnecessarily heated.”

Loose translation: The union would rather not come under the heat of public scrutiny.

That’s just too bad.

Board members wisely voted in favor of an open process after Jeff Crank, state director of Americans for Prosperity, politely asked them to. Though it may be more comfortable and convenient to meet in private, Crank reminded board members they are managing a half-billion dollars worth of taxpayer money.

He is correct. It’s not the union’s money. It’s not the board’s money. It’s money invested by the public for no purpose other than the benefit of children. To ensure their money is used properly, the public must be privy to discussions about the master agreement.

CSEA President Kevin Marshall said his union would be willing to talk about an open process, but he made no commitment.

The union should consider itself on thin ice. The economy in Colorado isn’t all that different from the economy in Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states that are cracking down on collective bargaining by public employees.

Do not just talk about negotiating in public. Do it, right away. Public exposure won’t be a problem if the union negotiates in the best interest of the public’s kids.