It’s Parents v. Union in Douglas County

www.IStandWithDougcoKids.com is a community driven campaign by www.ParentLedReform.org

Please Note: The views expressed here represent the views of the author only. They shall not be construed as to represent the views of OGI or to advocate for or against any ballot measure or political candidate.

By Karin Piper, Open Unions Project/Parent Led Reform

Education reforms are once more being challenged in Douglas County.

The ACLU is already suing the district to stop Douglas County’s innovative scholarship program. And now a campaign has been activated by the teachers union to oppose the School District and its reforms.

I find it disappointing that an organization designed to serve education professionals would engage in this type of activities.
Dividing our community may be good for political maneuvering, but it’s hardly the best approach to a collaborative education climate.

So in response, we, the parents and community members have launched our own campaign in support of Douglas County Schools, our teachers, and our kids: I Stand with Dougco Kids.

Sure, I admit my own bias: As a Douglas County parent myself, I am delighted over our teachers and school system’s achievements.
And I am not alone.
Many of us moved to Douglas County specifically for the innovative education approach and the teachers who are unafraid to implement them.

However, I must  confess I don’t really care whether or not a teacher is a member of a teachers’ union.

They may be a member of Costco and a gym too, for all I know. Just like these memberships, the decision to join a union is a personal one. It does not concern me unless such association affects my kids and their schools.

That’s why I’m so frustrated that the Douglas County teachers’ union and its allies are trying to derail the reforms our school district needs to succeed in the 21st century. The 40-year strong collaborative relationship between the district and the union has become increasingly contentious—all due to a political tug-of-war.

The tension was evident months ago while Douglas County School District was still negotiating the new employment contracts behind closed doors with the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT).
On the brighter side, those who are the most affected by the collective bargaining process—teachers, parents and students—can now witness the discussions. The district and the teachers’ union mutually agreed to open the contract negotiating sessions for public viewing after our group, Parent Led Reform, requested it.

We are sincerely thankful that both sides honored the public by inviting us to better understand where the conversation is stuck.

And boy; is it stuck!

It is apparent that the multiple sessions, both closed door and openly transparent, have yielded little progress.
But at least we are keenly aware of each side’s priorities and the reasons for the stalemate.
It is not possible for either side to present one face in public and another behind closed doors while negotiating the collective bargaining agreement.

Both parties are in their respective corners: DougCo school district is pushing for reform-friendly contract terms like pay-for-performance and additional school choice; whereas the Douglas County Federation is mostly mulling over why DougCo is no longer wishing for an exclusive relationship between one-district-and-one-union, nor willing to keep union leaders on district payroll.

Chances of bridging this delta and getting a contract agreed upon appear dimmer as the June 30th contract settlement deadline draws near. Parents and teachers alike are getting antsy about possible changes in the classroom for next year.

Clearly, this is the wrong time to further drive a wedge between our district and teachers.

Yet the union has brought in outside organizers in attempt to put pressure on the District’s popularly elected leadership, teachers, and–yes– even parents!

To the point, the minutes of the Union’s January 2012 executive board meeting seem to outline clearly a multifaceted plan to divide the District. Off-putting letters from the union to District employees have surfaced. And misinformation by the Union and its local groups in the media directed at our schools and leaders causes one to pause and question the union’s intent.

Perhaps this should not be much of a surprise as DCFT has reportedly hired a political consulting firm, to perform “grass roots organizing activities.”

The result is a full-blown campaign opposing Douglas County Schools, complete with angry social media activity and materials such as door-hangers and yard-signs.
There are even rumors of a recall attempt of the twice elected pro-reform school board has been mentioned more than once .
If only this enthusiasm was applied toward creating solutions and employing forward-looking education solutions for our kids.

This kind of politics is not good for our community, our teachers, and certainly not our kids.

That is the reason Parent Led Reform has decided to spearhead an effort to support Douglas County Schools, teachers and kids.

We invite you to our campaign www.IStandWithDougcoKids.com, support our organization www.ParentLedReform.org, and stay tuned to the blog at http://ogicolorado.org/why-ogi/staff/karin-piper.