D-11 Makes Open Negotiations Progress; Jeffco Board President Defends Secrecy

Finally, some good news on open union negotiations! The Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the latest developments from School District 11:

The board voted unanimously on a resolution detailing changes to the Master Agreement, including opening all steps of negotiations dealing with financial articles and at least some portions of other negotiations. Additional sessions could be open to the public if the district and CSEA agree.

The agreement adds a joint presentation at the conclusion of negotiations, also open to the public, to the school board and teachers.

Not perfect, but a healthy step forward to be sure. Just a couple questions, though. First, were any changes made to the union perks in Article III of the master agreement? In either case, will the public be able to observe this part of future negotiations?

Second, if Jefferson County Public Schools were legally compelled to open up a bargaining session, and 65 members of the public showed up (as in District 11), would the board of education and teachers union in Colorado’s largest school district finally get the message?

Because right now, the message from board president Dave Thomas — written for the Denver Post in response to Mike Rosenfalls pretty flat before the average taxpaying reader. Except for that first paragraph, which quotes a 2010 Education Policy Center backgrounder that praised Jeffco’s leadership in the area of online financial transparency.

But praising Colorado’s largest school district for one area of transparency does not exempt them from a lack of transparency in another area. Mr. Thomas’ argument goes downhill from there. After making points that aren’t in dispute (such as that the school board hasn’t violated state law by voting to close negotiations) and raising arguments that have no resonance outside the administrative building and union office, he concludes with a stupefying statement:

Keeping some government discussions private is nothing new and nothing for which to apologize. After all, the framers of the U.S. Constitution spent four months behind closed doors writing that document . . . which turned out pretty well.

Fellow board member Paula Noonan raised the same objection at the May 5 board meeting in objection to open negotiations. But seriously… is that the best counter-argument? Or better yet, Huh? My head is spinning with the painful irony. How about a little civics education? Anyone?

I think Mike Rosen was right: This issue of closed negotiations may require a state-level solution.