Campaign for Contract Transparency Continues

CF has written at length about the lack of collective bargaining transparency in Pennsylvania’s school districts. Generally, school boards refuse to reveal the details of a collective bargaining agreement until it is ratified. But not all boards operate in this manner.

The Pittsburgh School Board—in a joint decision with the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT)—published the details of its agreement with the PFT before voting to approve the deal. This effort to make government more transparent is commendable.

Conversely, the Tribune-Review reports the nearby Highlands School Board has decided to withhold details about any bargaining agreement until both the board and the teachers union can agree to a deal. Contract negotiations in the suburban school district have been tense, with district employees striking for four days back in April. 

This comparison isn't meant to portray the Pittsburgh School District’s transparency efforts as perfect. While the school district provided some of the details about the new contract, it did not include a statement about the additional costs. A contract’s price tag is an essential piece of information for taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill. Still, this measured level of transparency is a step closer to the accountability Pennsylvanians deserve.

Senator Pat Stefano’s legislation, Senate Bill 645, would go a step further. It requires public employers to publicize the costs of their contracts with government unions, in addition to a statement of terms, before a ratification vote.

The General Assembly and Gov. Wolf have already made state government more transparent with the passage of Senate Bill 644. They now have an opportunity to expand good government practices by embracing transparency at the state and local level.