The school board and the local teachers union in the West Shore School District are in conflict. The two sides have been unable to agree on a contract for two and a half years, and now the negotiation process itself is in dispute.
In a nod to transparency, the school district decided to publicize its contract offer to the West Shore Education Association (WSEA). The union—upset with the move—accused the district of hijacking negotiations. The president of the WSEA claimed the district promised not to negotiate in public.
Ideally, all public-sector contract negotiations should involve the public. After all, the taxpayer is footing the bill.
Instead, the typical collective bargaining process is conducted in secret, shutting out the very people who make the process possible.
To give communities a greater voice, Senator Pat Stefano introduced SB 645—legislation that would require public employers to provide public notice of collective bargaining agreements two weeks before they’re approved. Releasing the details before final approval gives taxpayers the ability to advocate for changes to contracts they deem unacceptable.
School boards could go even further, opening up negotiations to the public and providing a summary of each contract. Of course, the district should make it clear these steps will be taken before the process begins to avoid accusations of negotiating in bad faith.
Pennsylvanians are already benefiting from transparency over state contract negotiations. Lawmakers now have an opportunity to build on their good work.