DENVER – Simmering tensions between the Adams 12 School District and the local teachers union are heating up, with the union rejecting the district’s offer of open and public negotiations.
In rejecting the offer, which must be agreed to by both parties according to the current collective bargaining agreement, the District Twelve Educators Association (DTEA) claimed that the offer was nothing more than the “school board intentionally polarizing the open negotiations.”
Collective bargaining agreements between unions and public school districts regulate virtually every aspect of school operations and have far reaching fiscal consequences.
In a letter to employees, the Board explained that, “much of the desire for open negotiations stems from the rumors and misinformation that circulated during the course of closed negotiations for 2012-2013…[closed negotiations] does not serve our employees well nor does it respect their right to know what both parties are talking about and their position on the issues.”
As of April 25th, the DTEA has still not agreed to open them. “[A]t this time, we do not wish to entertain the District’s suggestion for this year’s negotiations,” wrote the union’s president Dorian De Long in a letter sent to union members April 11th.
Since last year, the union leadership has complained that the district has taken advantage of the union, and accused the district of poor financial management.
A parent in the Adams 12 district, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution against their children, said, “this whole time the union has been accusing the district of not being transparent, and now, they are the ones who refuse to open up negotiations. As a parent, I want to go and sit and listen and hear what they’re talking about and see if everyone’s getting a fair deal.”
An Adams 12 teacher, who is also a member of the DTEA, said she too believed open negotiations should take place.
“For a year they’ve been saying they want everything to be transparent, but now they don’t want to come up with their end of the bargain. To me it seems pretty obvious, if you want transparency you need to provide transparency. I don’t know what they would have to hide, or what good comes from having closed negotiations,” said the teacher.
The dustup between the district and the union stems from a recent disagreement over pension funding.
In 2012, the Adams 12 Board of Education asked teachers to contribute more to their own retirement in an effort to help address budget shortfalls. That included a requirement that teachers pay an additional 1.5 percent of their own salaries to their pensions through the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA), the state pension system that covers all Colorado teachers.
Commentator Mike Rosen went one step further, suggesting in a recent Denver Post column that the union is also taking aim at the district because the board has publicized large, taxpayer funded retirement bonuses paid to teachers in the past.