Accountability Time: Teachers Union Lobbying against SB 191 on Public Dime

A couple weeks ago I brought your attention to the fact that it was THE week for Senate Bill 191, the monumental effort to reform Colorado’s teacher evaluation and tenure system. Well, now that THE week is over and the bill passed the senate, this week really is THE week — as it goes up for a critical House Education Committee vote on Thursday.

In the meantime, the heated debate over SB 191 has brought attention back to a locally-negotiated special perk for many teachers unions — tax-funded release time from the classroom for teachers to lobby against the bill. I have asked the question before: Where is the accountability for school employee union leave activities?

In an op-ed published three (count ’em, three) places since Friday, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow says the latest experience with release time to rally against SB 191 makes the issue as relevant and as significant as ever. Take your pick:

Local school board members and state legislators alike ought to take a very close look at policies that allow tax dollars to release teachers from the classroom to perform union business. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: The least we could get is more accountability.

Colorado has a chance to be a cutting-edge leader in this area. First, we’d have to catch up to Utah — which this year almost passed a bill to prevent any sort of tax-funded union leave. But it’s going on in other places, too, such as Ohio — as very recently documented in a new report (PDF, pgs. 13-14) by the Education Action Group Foundation and the Foundation for Educational Choice.

Even if it’s not a lot of money in itself, it’s the principle of the thing. Besides, addressing the tax money given to union privileges seems like a major no-brainer, especially during the current budget difficulties faced by so many school districts. It’s about time for school employee union release time to attract some serious attention.