Sunshine On My Contract Makes Me Happy…

The WaPo editorial board calls for more transparency in the D.C. school contract negotiations.    And why not?  This is a step that Jane Hannaway and I called for a few years ago as a general reform to today’s bargaining process and in general more transparency around policymaking is better.  Yet while opening up negotiations more is perceived as not in interest of the teachers’ unions, I’m not sure that’s entirely true at all.   Contrary to popular belief, everything they ask for, even around key sticking points, isn’t indefensible.  

9 Replies to “Sunshine On My Contract Makes Me Happy…”

  1. In education, we’re often crying loudest over the least important things. What’s more important? More transparency in labor negotiations or more transparency in instruction and testing?

    Schools are black boxes. It’s virtually impossible for the average person to see inside and figure out what’s actually going on. And test score statistics are almost kafkaesque in their opacity — as I’m learning now while I ask simple questions of the test director in our state for what I thought would be a simple news story about how scores are calculated.

    Yes, we desperately need more transparency in education. But labor negotiations, much like the sausage-making politicians are famous for, can gladly stay behind close doors as far as I’m concerned. The doors that need to open up are the front doors of our local schools.

  2. Probably would have been clearer to say “Nothing they are asking for is indefensible.”

    That said…

    I am all for transparency. But I expect it to be reciprocal. I think the people demanding more openness and accounting in public institutions should themselves be more open and forthcoming.

    For example: to the Washington Post editorial Board: how much do they make and what does their benefit plan look like? What are the publisher’s finances. How much are they paying columnists. And as for the newspaper itself, what are its sources of revenue. Does it receive advertising or other consideration from political or other interest groups?

    And more: what are the newspaper owners’ interests in school policy? Are they implicated in text publishing? (they are) Are they affiliated with companies that sell tests, and test preparation kits, and test preparation classes?

    I could go on, but you get the idea. These calls for openness are typically very one-sided. And necessarily so.

  3. The WaPo board makes a fair point and manages to make more than one shocking observation along the way. To the Stephens I say, yes, there are other problems here – schools and WaPo have their own transparency issues – but that’s a rather empty response to a substantial editorial. If our answer to the colossal problem of education is, “yeah, well, lots of other stuff is wrong too,” we’re going to be waiting a long time…

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  5. The relationship between teachers and school administrators is an important element in what shapes public schools. There is no better way to understand this relationship than to observe the contract negotiation process. I did this in Minneapolis and chronicled what I learned on a website The key to being able to do this was a rarely mentioned Minnesota law that says teacher contract negotiations are public meetings. I’m sure other states have similar chinks in the armor surrounding contract negotiations.

  6. First, on the idea that we need “transparency” on testing and instruction – that’s a new one. Hadn’t heard anyone saying that testing and instruction were the sticking points in DCPS reforms moving forward.

    Second, my tax dollars don’t pay the Washington Post salaries, but they do pay for public schools. As a taxpayer I have the right to demand transparency in teacher labor union negotiations – especially for a system that has delivered unacceptable results for children for so long.

  7. Sorry to chime in so late, but I’ve always believed that unions should negotiate with their employers. Thus, average, tax-paying citizens of the district should not only be in on the negotiations, they should have veto power. If the unions and/ administrators can’t convince average taxpayers the contract shouldn’t happen. And, since it is tax dollars, the negotiations should be treated as public meetings.

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