Traverse City (Mich.) Schools Open Door to Negotiations, Good Government

The Mackinac Institute for Public Policy’s Michael Van Beek — who is essentially the Michigan equivalent of my friends in the Education Policy Centerbrought some interesting news to my attention with a recent posting:

The Traverse City Area Public School district is raising transparency to a new level by posting on its website the contracts it proposes to unionized employees. At present, only the proposed transportation employee union contract is available, but eventually, all of them will be.

So what, you say, that’s more than 1,000 miles away. Why should little Eddie in Colorado care? Glad you asked for me. Several months ago my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow wrote an issue backgrounder called “Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargaining.” He noted that only one of 42 bargaining districts in our state have policies that ensure public access to the union negotiating process.

Still having a “so what” moment? Let’s think a little more deeply. Making the entire bargaining process transparent is good and healthy because, as Van Beek writes, “negotiations between democratically elected public officials and government employees directly impact the allocation of taxpayer resources.” And as DeGrow closed his report:

In addition to helping fulfill a more democratic process in local school governance, greater bargaining transparency holds the potential to improve negotiated policies. Ultimately, open bargaining could help achieve fairer and more responsible outcomes that align with the broader mission of public education.

Only 1 district out of 42, Colorado? For the sake of the students and the taxpayers, we can do a lot better.