Prop. 104: Transparency or an assault on local control?
Should collective bargaining between local teachers unions and school districts be open to the public?
It is a question Coloradans will decide on the November ballot when they consider Proposition 104.
Proposition 104 states, “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”
“We are for local control,” said East Grand School District Superintendent Jody Mimmack, Ph.D. “Prop. 104 takes that control away. The Colorado Association of School Boards opposed 104. The Colorado Association of School Executives also opposes the proposition. I cannot speak for the Board but I personally oppose Prop. 104 because school districts in the state of Colorado are supposed to remain under local control and this puts control further back into state mandates.”
Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute, the organization that got Prop. 104 on the ballot, spoke in favor of the measure.
“Secrecy is the enemy of good government,” Caldara said. “Colorado has a long tradition of demanding transparency in government. About 85 percent of what school boards spend is decided in contract with the union. Done often behind closed doors. This is not a constitutional change. It is a change in statute.
“Sometimes when a school district and a teachers union don’t come to an agreement there is a strike,” he added. “If there is a strike we don’t know what went on. If we pass Prop 104, should there be a strike we would have a better sense of what drove the strike.”
Ranelle Lang, a retired former Colorado school superintendent and official spokeswoman for the group Local Schools, Local Choices, which opposes Prop. 104, spoke in opposition to the measure.
Lang said, “It (Prop. 104) is not what they represent it to be when you read the ballot language. It is being presented by those that favor it as being “open negotiations.” Actually the ballot language is different than just open negotiations. Because the breadth of the language is not particular it is hard to imagine what that will mean.”
Lang also touched on a recurring theme amongst opponents of the measure, local control. Lang said, “This is a Denver-centric initiative. Put forth by the independence institute. It takes away local control.”
To place Proposition 104 on the ballot this year required organizers gather at least 89,105 signatures. The Independence Institute managed to gather 129,850 qualified signatures for application to the ballot.
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Grand County voters will be deciding on a number of issues this November from tax increases to school board memberships. Ballots were mailed out last week and Election Day is Nov. 2.