No More Middleman: Find Your Colorado School Bargaining Agreements

I am young and energetic, and have pretty keen eyes. But sometimes things slip past me. I admit it (or maybe I just could cast the blame on my Education Policy Center friends… they have pretty big shoulders). In this case, it slipped through during Colorado’s recent legislative session. House Bill 1240 was advertised as “clean-up” legislation for various education laws, to get up with the times, or something like that.

The final version of HB 1240, which Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law two weeks ago, included a provision that means one less thing for the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to do, namely that they no longer must “post copies of all of said current collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) on the department’s web site.” [link added] But I just noticed it this week!

Colorado’s 2001 School Collective Bargaining Agreement Sunshine Act was perhaps the first of its kind in the nation, designed to ensure that both the local school district and state department of education kept true copies in print and online. Now that CDE is out of that business, the Education Policy Center has updated the information in a one-stop central repository for taxpayers, teachers, researchers and others to see what’s in the state’s known CBAs. The page also explains why it can be tricky to make a definitive list:

Colorado is one of nine states in which local school boards have latitude and discretion regarding whether to recognize unions or other organizations as exclusive representatives of employee groups. Of Colorado’s 178 school districts, currently 41 are known to have one or more collective bargaining agreements. The industrial labor model is used in these 41 districts to negotiate education employee pay, benefits, and working conditions, in addition to various union perks and privileges.

If there’s a better list out there, I’d sure like to know. Currently, the list includes 72 agreements with union exclusive representatives among the 41 school districts. (This leaves out less formal documents like policy handbooks, MOUs or “meet and confer” agreements. While it certainly can’t hurt to have transparency for those items, too, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.) Though given a momentous decision facing the Douglas County school board, that number soon may drop by one. Stay tuned.

As I understand it, Ben DeGrow was mostly the one who kept an eye to make sure the collective bargaining transparency was working. On several occasions he contacted school districts to find out why their CBA wasn’t online. More than once he updated the links to Colorado school district CBAs and passed them along to CDE staff to make sure they pointed to a live and active copy. Well, now the middleman is gone. And since districts seem to be doing a better job than ever making sure their CBAs are current and available, failure to update the master spreadsheet list belongs to Ben alone.

The way I’m shirking responsibility here… it’s awful, isn’t it? Let’s blame it on the “lazy” days of summer or just the fact that I’m so young. But hey, I at least bothered to tell you about it, n’est-ce pas?