It’s Hard Out Here For An Anti-NCLB Pimp!

Hey, look at us! Hey jerk, over here!

OK, I’ll bite.

Per this post, today’s Oscar flavored grenade lobbed over the wall from the bunker at the AFT’s anti-No Child Left Behind on the specifics but pro-on the vauge statements of support blog argues that teacher collective bargaining contracts are actually readily accessible everywhere! Why? Well again, they have anecdotes! Some contracts are online!

In fact, it’s a question that can be answered with more precision than their Google: For the fifty largest districts in the country the contracts are available on seven of the teachers’ union websites in those districts. So it’s really semantics. Seven in fifty, you decide if that’s noteworthy or exceptional or if as one of that seven the UFT, which, to their credit, posts their contract prominently on their site, constitutes a noteworthy exception. To be fair, an additional 31 contracts in those districts can be found online somewhere, just not at the teachers’ union site.

Worth noting five other things:

First, if you have any question that the contracts can be hard to find ask journalists, it’s a frequent complaint. In fact, in the Collective Bargaining in Education Frederick Hess and Andrew Kelly note that of the twenty large districts they examined for media coverage, “Eight districts had no news articles written about the most recent contract negotiations and another four had no more than one newspaper article published.” And it doesn’t just mean that if it’s not contentious it doesn’t get coverage. Even districts with contentious negotiations saw few stories. Some of that is because most of the action happens behind closed doors, some of it is just sloppy work, but some of it is also because it’s hard to write about documents you don’t have.

Second, the figures above are the contracts for the very largest districts in the country. Overall, public availability is uneven but as with many things it gets harder to find them as you get toward smaller districts though the increasing emphasis on transparency will likely change that before too long.

Third, if you’re really sick interested, there are 199 teacher collective bargaining contracts on file at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, which collects contracts for bargaining units with more than 1000 people.

Fourth, some of the contracts the AFTies link to are expired (though I didn’t have time to check if new contracts are in place in those cities — DC, Duval, San Fran. and Newark, readers?). Maybe they’re for lifetime achievement Oscars?

Finally, the AFTies conveniently duck the more central part of the post in question, why don’t we have the negotiations themselves in a more public fashion?

What’s more interesting than the specifics is why the AFTies even want to pick this fight? Privately many teachers’ union leaders agree that there needs to be more transparency with the contracts and don’t see it as a big issue. There are smarter fights for them to pick. They seem to be onto one because while they first attacked I’m Rick Hess Bi*ch about his chapter for the teacher collective bargaining book, now they’re embracing it with almost Blogback enthusiasm…Prediction: That won’t last long…

PS–The AFTies also trot out the usual standby: All criticism of them comes from people who just hate unions. Does Andy Stern hate unions? Does Bill Taylor? Does anyone even take that charge seriously anymore? And, considering that there really are people out to get unions, is it really wise to cry wolf all the time and should they be insisting that everyone be a 100 percenter anyway? I don’t cross picket lines, I try to buy union and use unionized services when I can etc…if I’m a union-basher then they’re really in trouble…

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