Who should be in charge of local education policy? Should it be parents and families, or labor unions?
This session the Maine Legislature is poised to fix another grave “emergency” troubling our state. The Legislative Council, controlled by House Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson, admitted LD 1879, “An Act Regarding the Adoption of Education Policies by School Boards,” into the second session for consideration. The bill would make local education policy subject to collective bargaining.
Under the procedure established in the bill, sponsored by Rep. Michael Brennan of Portland, education policies that are not currently adopted by school boards would be subject to collective bargaining. While policies currently in effect would be exempt from contract negotiations, the bill leaves the door open for major future decisions to be made behind closed doors, away from the public.
Consider that existing Maine law already protects secrecy in government union collective bargaining. In the Pine Tree State, these negotiations are not public. This means local education policy decisions that affect your children and family could be decided in secret and without your input.
Put differently, LD 1879 allows education policies that labor organizations cannot pass through local school boards to be negotiated behind closed doors between them and local districts — a win-win for the unions and a major loss for the public and taxpayers. It would, in effect, make the teachers union as powerful as your school board.
Parents and taxpayers have a vested interest in helping shape education policy at the local level. Labor unions merely have a vested interest in protecting the workers they represent, regardless of cost or consequence.
If a local school board decides to forego developing or adopting a new education policy, it should not be written into the next collective bargaining agreement – it should be reintroduced to the school board and open for public debate.
Under LD 1879, an education policy being considered by a local school board could fail due to mounted community opposition, and union representatives would still be able to use that policy as a chip in collective bargaining negotiations. This is beyond unfair to the public at large and taxpayers, and flies in the face of local control and representative government.
Union negotiations should remain limited to wages, hours, working conditions and contract grievance arbitration. Labor unions are labor experts, not education experts. Leave the policies that govern our local schools in the hands of our communities.