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Local education organizations should be required to prove they can negotiate

Local education organizations should be required to prove they can negotiate

Lindsay Russell Dexter
December 16, 2016

Every government agency, licensing board, school district, state employee, any entity that receives state funding or is regulated by state statute must be accountable. Elected officials who are especially beholden to their constituents should build accountability and transparency into every word of new legislation.

To this end, state legislators should address old laws that allow government entities and special interests groups to bypass accountability measures or simply ignore statutes requiring governing oversight.    

Especially egregious statutes allow special interest groups like the Idaho Education Association to circumvent accountability measures. State law allows its local education organizations (LEOs), representing most teachers and educational professionals in the state, to essentially choose for themselves whether or not they will provide information required in 33-1271 of Idaho code.

This chapter of the code obligates LEOs to provide written evidence they have gotten the signatures of 50 percent plus one of anyone certified by the school district to form the school district’s bargaining unit. LEOs, however, do not have to provide school districts or make public the required signatures unless the school district requests them.

School districts are often too intimidated by the clout and the potential backlash to ask the LEOs for those signatures.

Additionally, how LEOs go about obtaining their majority is not defined by state law. Often, an LEO will gather signatures only until it reaches the minimum required amount. In some districts, the LEO uses bullying tactics to gain the required percent of signatures.

Because state statute does not precisely describe the signature process there is no standard among most of the 115 school districts in Idaho with separate master contracts between their school boards and their bargaining units.

Idaho Falls School Districts 91 and 93, for example, have different master contracts. Neither districts’ master contract defines how their LEO must collect the 50 percent plus one. Including the process for gathering the required signatures would hold the LEO more accountable to the bargaining unit, while school districts could ensure the LEO is following state law.

Teachers, administrators, school board members and local LEO members in those  districts admitted the public had no real knowledge of how the signature process worked. This lack of transparency takes the power out of the hands of the bargaining unit and gives it solely to the LEO.

The Idaho legislature could provide accountability and transparency by striking just eight words in 33-1271, “If requested by the board” and “upon board request.”

Eliminating the option and requiring LEOs to produce proof to the school boards they have gained the required signatures giving the bargaining unit permission to represent them would provide the kind of accountability and transparency that should anchor all state statutes.

Without the requirement, a LEO should not be handed the power to negotiate any master contract.

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