A huge fight between the reformist Douglas County School Board and the obstructionist local teachers union is brewing — and it is getting ugly, fast. Negotiations between the school board and the local Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) are down to their last week and without a settlement the teachers union will find itself conspicuously irrelevant, whether they continue to send their blue-shirted goons to future school board meetings or not.
Should a settlement not be reached, almost every teacher will still have a contract, only the teachers union won't be able to take credit for it.
A lot has been said about the Douglas County School Board, and their rock star Superintendent Liz Fagen.
But less is known about the villain in this drama, the DCFT and their Head Honcho, Brenda Smith (see right).
DCFT is a chapter of the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — the second largest in the country — a union most recently embarrassed by its loss in Wisconsin after dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Normally that kind of campaign cash gets them something, but not in Wisconsin and not in Douglas County.
AFT spent $1.9 million on Obama's campaign in 2008, and in return its New York City affiliate, UFT, was the recipient of the largest Obamacare waiver in the country.
That's why the Douglas County School Board seems to stick in AFT and DCFT's craw — they can't be bought and they don't want the unions' money. A more serious problem is the union doesn't seem to have the strong backing of Douglas County teachers either.
Reports Ed News Colorado:
As of last Friday, the June 15 deadline by which the district required teachers to return individual contracts and receive a 1 percent retention bonus, only 51 of the district’s 2,979 teachers had not signed on to return for another year.
So there are, at most, only 51 loyal union foot soldiers holding out, willing to risk their jobs over the union concessions? That's probably because what the school board wants isn't unreasonable to the rational mind.
What does the school board want? Vincent Carroll explained in a recent post:
Board members don't like the fact that the district serves as a collection agency for union dues, a major part of which are siphoned off to the union's national headquarters. There they are used to stifle school choice and other reforms as well as shore up the Democratic Party.
They don't like having an exclusive bargaining unit that has become increasingly hostile to the district's agenda even though that agenda has been endorsed by voters in two elections, including last November.
They don't like paying salaries of union officials who aren't in the classroom, or listing them as employees so they'll be eligible for a public pension.
They want to base teacher salaries more on performance and market demand — paying a premium for hard-to-find specialists, for example — not on longevity in the classroom or advanced degrees that don't seem to correlate with better outcomes.
As The Denver Post recently noted, Douglas County would be one of the few districts in the state even offering a raise. But it's not enough for Brenda Smith and DCFT. They want a 2 percent raise, plus a 1 percent signing bonus, and DCFT demands they retain exclusive rights as the negotiating agent for teachers.
They're not going to get it.
What appears to be the biggest issue for Brenda Smith and the union goons is the very real threat to their singular power among teachers. Here is what Smith had to say about the idea that DCFT will no longer have complete power as the sole representative of teachers at the bargaining table:
"Exclusivity for a union with majority support is not a monopoly, it is democracy,” she wrote. “It is order rather than chaos. It allows employees to select their representative freely, without coercion from the employer. It allows them to amplify their voice through collective action under our constitutionally protected right to freedom of association."
Let's get this straight — allowing only one organization to represent all teachers is democracy, but allowing teachers multiple options for representation, including themselves, is a monopoly? Please tell us Brenda Smith wasn't previously a civics teacher.
Regardless of this latest obstructionism, school will go on and DCFT's behavior will continue to impact actual education policy less and less. It seems to be the singular narrative around unions lately, doesn't it?
(Photo Credit: DCFT.net)