Local School District Leads the Way on Transparency

The Quakertown Community School Board (QCSB) is scrapping a conventional collective bargaining practice.

Normally, unions and public employers don’t reveal the details of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) until after the final vote. The QCSB decided to do things differently. The board published an online summary of its agreement with the district’s union weeks before the final ratification vote.

The Pittsburgh School Board made a similar decision last month. Both instances prove to be the exception rather than the rule. In case after case, labor pacts are usually ratified without any public debate.

Lack of transparency was also a staple of collective bargaining at the state level. That’s about to change. With the passage of SB 644—now Act 15—state contracts cannot be ratified until the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) assesses their costs. The new law represents a welcome change for taxpayers who have been kept in the dark about the components of state contracts for far too long.

Act 15 takes effect today and the timing could not be better as the Wolf administration is currently negotiating labor contracts. An IFO assessment of these contracts is especially important as state government’s costs continue to balloon. While public employee pay has risen by 5.6% since 2006, average benefits per employee have increased by an astonishing 71.2%, bringing the total average compensation to nearly $93,000 per employee. Transparency can help control these costs.

These recent developments are encouraging, but further reforms are needed. SB 645—requiring the public posting of school district CBAs before they’re ratified—is once such reform.

Quakertown and Pittsburgh schools show local officials don’t have to seek permission from state lawmakers for this commonsense reform.