KASB idea given frosty reception

By Bryan Richardson

USD 383 school board members voiced their displeasure about a potential change in collective bargaining policy Wednesday.

A policy change proposed by the Kansas Association of School Boards would limit the subject of negotiations between teachers and school boards to compensation, fringe benefits, hours and amounts of work (not including scheduling of the work day), leaves and number of holidays. Items not on that list could not be included in future negotiated agreements unless agreed to by both parties.

Among potential areas of negotiation that would be stricken by that change are teacher evaluations, layoff policies and other issues related to school operations. The Kansas Legislature considered a similar proposal during its last session, but did not approve it.

KASB representatives are expected to take a formal position on the proposed changes during the KASB Convention on Dec. 8. The actual change would, however, require legislative approval before going into effect .

Board vice-president Leah Fliter said she didn’t understand why the KASB would follow the lead of a legislature that is “actively trying to shut down public education.”

“If they’re naive enough to think we have to work with a legislature that would really be happy to shut us down and very happy to shut the teachers’ union, we don’t need to have any part of that,” she said.

Board member Dave Colburn, selected Wednesday as the board’s delegate to the KASB Convention, said the legislature wants to hear the school boards out on this particular issue because the boards then would be doing the “dirty work.”

“We have talked and talked and talked for decades about funding and other issues, and they’ve paid zero attention to us,” he said. “The notion they need to hear from us in this issue … I can’t come up with words to explain the irony, the hypocrisy and the ludicrousness of that.”

Representatives for the USD 383 chapter of the National Education Association also addressed the proposal. “To me, if that’s what we’re going toward, I’m scared,” said co-president Lisa Heller.

Co-president Gordon Thornton said the change would create a “we/they” environment at a time when teachers and school boards should work as a team.

“I’m sure this will create an environment in the long run that’s not healthy,” he said.

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