Dougco schools pass on ballot issue; vote to end talks with union
The Douglas County School Board voted Wednesday night to end discussions with the union over the collective-bargaining agreement and to no longer pay union leaders’ salaries with public funds.
In addition, the board voted that the district is prohibited from collecting union dues from employee paychecks on the union’s behalf.
Originally, the board contemplated putting the issues on the November ballot but decided the measure would cost too much for actions on which the group could act on alone.
“This is a school district committed to education reform,” said board president John Carson. “We are committed to paying our teachers better salaries based on results in the classroom.”
Brenda Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, said after the meeting that the board realized that what it was going to attempt with the ballot was illegal and that is why they chose to vote on resolutions.
“What they did tonight has no future impact on our direction,” she said.
About 150 people were packed into the school board meeting waiting to comment on the proposed ballot questions, which some called anti-teacher.
It was standing room only at 7 p.m. as picketers brought in signs supporting the teachers union and opposing possible board action concerning the future of collective bargaining in the district.
During the public-comment section of the meeting, board president John Carson had to ask multiple times for decorum as some hissed and booed while others spoke.
Before the meeting, picketers protested a plan by the school board to ask voter approval to eliminate collective bargaining and other links to its teachers union.
Police were on hand, turning people away from the meeting room because it was overflowing.
As people attending the meeting filed into district headquarters, the protesters walked back and forth, carrying signs saying the school board’s attitude toward the union shows disregard for teachers.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with the district’s treatment of teachers,” said protester Randi Allison, who has three grandchildren enrolled in the district.
She said she has seen firsthand how important Douglas County teachers are to a child’s success.
Anne Kleinkopf, a director for Taxpayers for Public Education, said the school board overstepped its bounds even suggesting union matters go before the voters.
“It’s about the board’s flagrant violation of the specific legal limitations on its own power,” she said.
Those who favored the proposed union questions be placed on the November ballot addressed the board during public comment, praising the move.
“Paying for union activities is not in the best interest of our children,” Daniel Krueger said.
Protesters picked the Wednesday meeting because the agenda included board discussion of three potential questions for the November general election ballot.
The board convened briefly and then went into executive session.
The proposed questions discussed:
• 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?
• Should the district be prohibited from collecting union dues from employee paychecks on the union’s behalf?
Union members said the proposed ballot questions were illegal.
But the board members disagreed.
In addition to the opposition to the proposed ballot questions, protesters urged negotiations to resume between the district and union so a collective-bargaining agreement could be reached.
The district has been without a contract with teachers since June, when the union and board reached an impasse.
“The teachers are too busy educating our children to fight the district, so we will do it for them,” said Katie Gilliland, a district parent and protester.
When the ballot questions were first discussed at the Aug. 21 board meeting, members said the move made sense, as the teachers union was an outdated model for schools.
“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,” board member Craig Richardson said during the Aug. 21 meeting.
Ryan Parker, Photo