Time for School Board Transparency

OCTOBER 20, 2008 | News Release by COMMONWEALTH FOUNDATION

Commonwealth Foundation launches "sunshine" project on school district labor negotiations

HARRISBURG, PA —   Today, the Commonwealth Foundation announced the launch of a new project engaging in an effort to provide greater transparency in negotiations between school boards and labor unions.
 
As part of a year-long campaign to provide greater transparency in school district labor negotiations, the Commonwealth Foundation has unveiled a new website and blog, SchoolBoardTransparency.orgSchoolBoardTransparency.org will offer insight and advice in the labor negotiations process for school boards and citizens.  The site will provide regular posts on issues, news, and best practices in school district labor negotiations, and allows users to comment and create posts on a moderated blog.
 
The project will also include a "how-to" manual for school board members looking to provide greater transparency during union negotiations and a resource for media covering public school labor negotiations. The guides will provide the important questions to ask and explain the key issues typically involved in labor negotiation contracts.
 
Fred D. Baldwin, a school board member of the Carlisle Area School District in Pennsylvania for 14 years and board president for 12 years, is spearheading the project.   "Bringing transparency to the board-union bargaining process would encourage both boards and unions to make more realistic proposals," Mr. Baldwin said.  "When both sides tell the public what they're proposing and why, the result will be fewer misleading rumors, shorter bargaining periods and fewer teacher strikes.  This doesn't require changing the law, just school boards acting on the principle of 'no taxation without information.'"
 
"The frequency of teacher strikes and long-unresolved labor negotiations in Pennsylvania is partly the result of a lack of openness and public understanding of the underlying issues," said Matthew Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation and a former teacher and public school board member. "Transparency in the negotiation process is crucial if we are seriously committed to improving education and safeguarding taxpayers."
 
Transparent school labor negotiations and openness in how school districts spend taxpayer money will provide for a more informed debate during contract negotiations, teacher strikes, and school budget discussions.  The Commonwealth Foundation's goal is to ensure that citizens have the tools they need to evaluate how their property taxes are spent and to decide on future property tax increases.  More transparency in labor negotiations will also make sure the public has adequate information to help school boards and unions set spending priorities during contract negotiations and their annual budget setting.

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The Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org) is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA. For more, visit SchoolBoardTransparency.org.

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