Colorado House Bill 1257 and the Quest to Stifle Local Education Innovation

Every once in awhile you see a piece of K-12 education legislation appear, and you just scratch your head. (Okay, really, it’s more often than every once in awhile.) Colorado’s latest example is the short and sour House Bill 1257, which I think should be called the Stifling Innovation Act of 2013.

HB 1257 as introduced says that any school district working to craft an employee evaluation system must work in collaboration with a local teachers union if:

The bill raises several small process-oriented questions (e.g., how do we know the union’s membership except by whether they the district is collecting dues through the payroll system? OR what sort of petition guidelines will there be to ensure it’s circulated in a timely and transparent manner?). But the big philosophical question underlying the proposal is this: Do you really need a union to collaborate?

Down in Douglas County, where the union has been bid adieu, district leaders are working to craft a performance-based evaluation and pay system that is truly cutting-edge. And guess what? They are doing so in collaboration with hundreds of teachers, making plenty of progress without the displaced Douglas County Federation holding veto power in an intermediate role.

As an example, more than a hundred teachers gave up a series of Saturdays to help the district develop World Class Education Targets:

No union was consulted. No petition was circulated. And this cutting-edge work continues to enhance the effectiveness of classroom educators in their work with students. Besides Dougco, what other districts’ promising changes would be stunted or prevented if this policy were in effect?

HB 1257 looks to me like a solution in search of a problem — unless the true goal is to stifle innovation.