The President of the Knox Federation of Teachers, Dick Wagner, has been with us this week, looking at school reform through the eyes of the teachers.
Today, Mr. Wagner looks at collective bargaining. Mr. Wagner do you think that the changes proposed in the state legislature that pertain to collective bargaining are a threat to teachers, and if so, why?
“Yes I do,” he replied. Collective bargaining is in two parts. Right now we are under Public Law 217 and it allows teachers unions to negotiate wages and wage related fringe benefits such as insurance, pensions, sick leave, etc. The other part of Public Law 217 is called discussable items and that would be working conditions which includes learning conditions. Remember that a teacher working condition is a learning environment condition for their students so the corporation right now is obligated to discuss with us changes in working conditions.”
If the School Board can do what it wants with discussable issues, why is it important to teachers?
“We felt that a change in the Middle School program this year that the Administration wanted was not the right way to go. We fought that through a discussion and we lost. The Board decided to change the Middle School scheduling and concept, but they had that control. So, Public Law 217 doesn’t give teachers ultimate power to change local educational policy, it simply gives us a voice.”
Incidentially, Mr. Wagner told us that the union members in the Knox School District will be wearing black on Fridays in solidarity with other teachers around the state. He also said some of the members would be meeting at the Statehouse tomorrow, joining teachers to express their disagreement with aspects of education reform being brought before the legislature.
Knox Community School Board President Harold Welter will be in Monday to give his views on school reform.