Before the meeting, a couple hundred protesting teachers and their allies marched outside the Douglas County school district administration building. They were making a statement in advance of the Board's final consideration of whether to place measures undercutting union power on the fall ballot for voters to decide. Protesters included some teachers from unions outside Dougco. Days after telling the Denver Post her union needs "to put kids front and center," new Colorado Education Association president Kerrie Dallman urged members to protest on behalf of adult priorities under the shared values of "collectivism" and "solidarity."
Without heed to the demonstration outside, the Board wisely opted to save taxpayers money and put the contentious issue behind them by formally prohibiting district collection of union dues and compensation of unaccountable union officers:
The approach is refreshing, since so many of the common teachers union perks have been doled out through the years in closed-door negotiations. (What if a state law required a transparent public vote to renew such taxpayer union perks? Just thinking out loud....)
The policy changes do contain "some real teeth," according to [school board president John] Carson, allowing any Dougco citizen who believes the board is not following the new policies to take legal action. If the citizen wins, the district will pay "reasonable" legal fees.
"If a future board wanted to change things, they would have to do that in a very public manner," he said.
Emotions in Dougco school circles understandably are high these days, in large part because an interest group's power has been sapped. The American Federation of Teachers certainly isn't inclined to let its local affiliate simply give up. While they schemed behind the scenes in the lawsuit that last year enjoined the groundbreaking Choice Scholarship Program (oral arguments before the Court of Appeals are scheduled for October 15), the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) has been out front in this year's labor wars.
When it became apparent that district negotiators wouldn't back down on issues like tax-funded union release time and payroll dues deductions, DCFT sought intervention from major campaign beneficiary and Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper and his labor department executive director, former state AFL-CIO leader Ellen Golombek. As hopes for state intervention slowly faded away, and with those hopes the rationale for placing union issues directly before Dougco voters, DCFT has fallen back on further threats.
With open negotiations winding down a few months ago, union president Brenda Smith declared that her organization reserved the right to sue for discrimination regarding the dues deduction issue. Yesterday Smith raised the specter of a lawsuit again, a course of action that only more clearly affirms school board president Carson's observation about DCFT's recent course of action:
"This union had demoralized the district and spread disinformation. They are no longer required," he said.
To do so will take rebuilding trust where seeds of fear and disinformation have been planted, since teachers' voices should play a crucial role in advancing the program. But a union monopoly or funneling money to union politics won't be needed to make it happen.