By Ben Velderman
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. – The Douglas County school district and the local teachers union appear headed for splitsville.
During last night’s meeting, “three board members proposed three separate ballot questions, each chipping away at what have been traditional district-union relationships in the affluent county south of Denver,” reports EdNewsColorado.org.
The tentative questions – which will be approved or rejected during next month’s board meeting – would ask voters if the district should be prohibited from: collecting union dues from employee paychecks; granting paid release time to teachers who spend their days conducting union business instead of teaching in the classroom; and engaging in collective bargaining with the union.
In other words, the board may ask taxpayers in November if they want to divorce the Douglas County Federation of Teachers. The district and the union are already going through a trial separation, so voters have a good idea of how the school system would run if the arrangement were made permanent.
The current board has already scrapped “the long-running practices reflected in the questions,” reports EdNewsColorado.org.
“So if those three questions are placed on the ballot, and they’re approved, voters would essentially be binding the district to the practices instituted by the current school board,” the news site reports.
Board President John Carson said he’d like taxpayers to “weigh in” on whether or not they approve of the board’s recent policy decisions.
Several board members said they needed time to think through the possible ramifications of enshrining current practices in law.
“First of all, you’ve got to decide whether you agree with the concept and, secondly, even if I do, is it important enough to codify it so the only way to undo it is to go back to the people?” asked board member Kevin Larsen. “I think we all have to do that very soberly.”
The board’s ballot idea is bold, but it’s not particularly unexpected. The contentious relationship between district and union leaders dates back at least to 2011, when the seven-member board passed a ground-breaking school voucher plan that was to be open to all families, regardless of income.
While the local teachers union refrained from publicly criticizing the plan, union supporters blasted it as an attempt to destroy public education and sued to prevent its implementation. The voucher plan is still being sorted out by the courts.
The latest district-union brouhaha involves whether or not the DCFT broke an agreement to re-pay the district for half the salaries and benefits their four union leaders received during release time for the 2011-12 school year.
There’s no reason the community should be subjected to this constant squabbling. Douglas County residents hired these reform-minded board members to run the school district. The DCFT seems unable to abide by that decision, which means the two sides have irreconcilable differences.
If the question is put before voters, a divorce seems inevitable.