Sen. Ford has introduced SB 62 which would require schools (through their superintendents) to meet and discuss certain items with teachers’ unions. The specified topics are class sizes and pupil/teacher ratio; hours and prep time; selection of curricular materials; student supports; and instructional materials. These discussion topics are not a bargaining session. Neither side has to make any kind of commitment, and an impasse doesn’t trigger the collective bargaining rules.
There is a provision in the executive session portion of the Open Door Law which permits collective bargaining to take place in executive session. That provision specifically excludes “discussion” as a type of collective bargaining that can take place in executive session. While the proposed legislation strikes that exclusion, I don’t know that it actively says that discussion can take place as part of an executive session. However, it does strike the provision that requires a discussion session to be open to all teachers. It also strikes a provision that says that such discussions are not subject to the open door law. (On the other hand, if it’s just the superintendent and union reps, I don’t think it would qualify as a “meeting” under the Open Door Law in the first place.)
For the most part, this rolls back elimination of teacher discussion obligations passed last year. The proposed version has a more limited list of discussion items than the pre-2023 law. Given the partisan makeup of the Senate, I don’t expect this proposal to gain my traction. But, as a matter of policy, I think it’s good for the reasons I expressed last year.
The new law would strip the requirement that a school discuss the matters at all. It would now say that the school employer may conduct discussions and, furthermore, may do it with a non-representative group of teachers behind closed doors if it so chooses. That last part gives away the game. Cherry pick your teachers, hot box them, and/or play them off against each other to get the answers you want.
School privatization has three main goals: subsidize religious education, weaken teacher’s unions, and divert public funds to private interests. This isn’t privatization, but it’s clearly in support of goal #2. Requiring discussion with someone who represents teachers as a group has been in place for 40+ years. Having teacher representatives and administrators talk regularly is a good way to make sure that issues don’t turn into problems and that small problems don’t turn into big problems. During my stint on the West Lafayette school board, I was one of the board representatives to a discussion group that met once a month. It was not uncommon for those discussions to, among other things, allow administrators to float plans they had and to tweak those plans in a way that helped teachers do their jobs better.
This is anti-teacher, union busting; plain and simple.