Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bill Proposes Collective Bargaining -- Just for Schools

It's bad enough that the Beshear administration has proposed cutting school funding for such frivolities as teacher training and text books. Now, a proposed bill would force schools -- and only schools -- to enter into collective bargaining.

The proposed bill that Joni Jenkins and Rick Nelson (both Democrats) introduced in the General Assembly differs from other collective bargaining bills in that this one only applies to schools rather than all public employees. As if Kentucky school districts have extra money to spread around to the teachers' unions.

Perhaps the most offensive aspect of House Bill 650 is its utter contempt for local school boards. The bill would gut the ability of those community members who sit on school boards -- whose children attend the school -- to make fundamental decisions about the cost of labor, even though that constitutes nearly 75 percent of a typical school district's budget.

Specifically, the Bill would destroy a local school board's right to decide whether it wants to enter into contract negotiations with employee unions. At present, according to the Kentucky School Board Association, fewer than a dozen of Kentucky's 174 school boards have chosen that option. If House Bill 650 is enacted, collective bargaining for schools will no longer be optional.

The bill suffers from numerous other flaws. It fails to define what constitutes an illegal strike. It forces any contract negotiations that cannot be resolved within 30 days to be mediated by the Department of Labor. That's a pretty short fuse, given that school boards meet monthly. It allows teachers to strike over non-contract issues, such as sick leave and refusal to perform assigned duties.

Given that our state government, for all practical purposes, has ceased to function, this is not the time to take away local control. House bill 650 is poorly written and poorly reasoned. It is a disservice to our students and an insult to local decision-making. Republicans need to ensure that it does not become law.

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