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March 28, 2013 at 9:50 AM

Seattle Public Schools’ talks with teachers union are rightly influenced by parents and community groups

This Times editorial captures what could serve as a new model for community groups seeking a more influential voice in public education. The efforts by an umbrella organization, Our Schools Coalition, to influence the next contract between the Seattle Public Schools and its 3,000+ teachers is worth watching. The coalition’s 2013 platform is a large list of education goals, ranging from better training and compensation for teachers to broader student access to summer learning programs.  The  teachers union and district officials have been open to the coalition’s proposals. Indeed, the coalition successfully lobbied for changes in the district-Seattle Education Association contract inked three years ago.  That’s a testament to improved relations between the district and the union, but also the coalition’s careful balancing on the line between influencing negotiations and demanding a seat at the table. The latter is verboten under collective bargaining rules.

Labor talks are private, workplace-oriented negotiations between employers and unions. But more visibility can serve public transparency and accountability efforts. As I’ve said, no one can sit at the negotiating table except representatives for the union and the employer. But that does not mean parents and taxpayers do not have a vested interest in how negotiations will impact classrooms. Once a contract is ratified it is public knowledge, but most of us probably don’t know what’s in our district’s teachers contract, even though it directly impacts the success of our students. The Our Schools Coalition delved into the 2009-10 teachers union contract and offers in-depth comparisons with the 2010-13 contract. One doesn’t have to agree with all of the coalition’s goals to see it as an important resource on Seattle education issues.

The coalition is an interesting and diverse mix of 40 groups anchored by the Alliance for Education.  Here’s a complete list and below a few of the more visible organizations:

  • Democrats for Education Reform
  • East African Community Services
  • El Centro de la Raza
  • Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce
  • Horn of Africa Services
  • Kevin Washington, Chair,  Tabor 100 Education Committee
  • King County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • League of Education Voters
  • Moderate Voice of Parents (MVP)
  • Partnership For Learning
  • Powerful Schools
  • Rainier Scholars

0 Comments | Topics: children, Education, Seattle

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