Weld County Re-1 Dispute Raises Questions about Union, Bargaining Issues

Interesting new story out of northern Colorado… Sherrie Peif of the Greeley Tribune reported yesterday on some turmoil in the Weld County Re-1 School District as the local school board considers changing the process of addressing teacher policies:

On Friday, Jo Barbie, the district superintendent, sent an e-mail to teachers telling them that the board was considering a policy change that would affect the Valley Education Association. Barbie attached a copy of the changes to the policy that struck all wording in the current policy and added two sentences that VEA members said essentially take away their right to choose their own union representation.

The story goes on to explain that just over half (52 percent) of Weld Re-1 teachers belong to the union, and that a lot of teachers may feel left out of the representation:

“In the past year, the board has been contacted that the views that are being expressed aren’t always the views of everybody,” board member Steve Reams said. “We want to make it where every teacher can come in here and engage in that.”

Of course, Colorado teachers have the option to join and pay dues or to not join and not pay a union or professional membership organization. In fact, our Independent Teachers website points out a variety of membership and related options available to the state’s public educators. There will be plenty more to address on this issue as it unfolds, and I’m sure my friends in the Education Policy Center will be following it closely.

But for now, the union’s negotiating status in Weld RE-1 is not precisely clear. The current policy (PDF) proposed to be changed suggests that the school district is engaged in collective bargaining. But no bargaining agreement has been publicly filed with the State Board of Education, as required in Section 22-32-109.4 of Colorado Revised Statutes.

Have the union and district been bargaining for years without being reported? How exactly do we define bargaining? What prerogatives do the School Board have? Where do the rights of individual teachers fit in? When will the lawyers start duking it out?

From where I sit, it looks like this story from northern Colorado is just unfolding. It will be interesting to see what happens next.