A clever wag once famously said: “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to eat for lunch.” Some other smart-aleck might have reason to make a similar remark about K-12 education: “Collaboration is district leaders and union leaders deciding how to spend taxpayers’ money.” Except that those taxpayers too often are left in the dark.
Education Week‘s Stephen Sawchuk recently offered up a glowing report on how the superintendent and then-union president of Colorado’s largest school district “teamed up to solve a budget crunch” in 2011. High praise for Jefferson County‘s Cindy Stevenson and JCEA’s Kerrie Dallman, but there is more to the story.
A critic in the Ed Week piece notes, however, that the process lacked needed transparency even as negotiators rejected the ideas brought forward by parents and community members. Two years of furlough days came that hurt families, while calls to ask a little more in retirement contributions from employees fell on deaf ears.
That reticent likely had something to do with anticipating what since has played out to the north in Adams 12. Last year, after cutting middle school sports and transportation without union protest, the school board there asked all the employee groups to pick up a little more of their PERA costs to avoid layoffs and increased class sizes. Everyone signed on except the DTEA. The union waited months to communicate this disagreement over PERA with the teachers they are supposed to represent. Continue Reading »