Despite a buzz of last-minute union activity, the Douglas County School District (DCSD) proceeded in its budget plans without a contract from the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT). Midnight on June 30 was the final deadline for negotiations between the school board and the local teacher’s union, but no deal was struck due to non-compromising disagreement on collective bargaining rights, allocation of dues, and compensation of teachers.
The district is without a union contract now for the first time in 47 years since the Federation of Teachers began in 1965. Brenda Smith, president of DCFT, noted that her members were increasingly worried about the situation following the last meeting between the two parties. “People are nervous that they’re losing a collective bargaining agreement,” she said. “We’re getting a lot of questions.”
Teachers, however, will receive a 1 percent pay raise along with other standard benefits packages. “DCSD will not dramatically change the way that we work with our professionals,” wrote school district spokesman Randy Barber. “In fact, moving forward our goal remains the same as it had been in negotiations to improve their quality of life.”
On Tuesday, the Board of Education in Douglas County officially set forth its resolution, publishing the final word on current negotiations. The findings of the board cite Article IX, Section 15 of the Colorado Constitution as “uniquely vest[ing] in the Board of Education the exclusive authority to employ, and to fix the salaries of, District employees and to implement, guide and manage the District’s educational programs without outside interference, encroachment, or entanglement.”
The resolution also drew on the 1982 Lujan v. Colo. State Bd. of Education case where the Supreme Court of Colorado recognized that “public education in Colorado has been centered on the philosophy of local control.”
This was in direct response to the union’s central claim that the county had entered into “bad faith negotiations” by not acceding to the union’s demands. DCFT later filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment asking for an outside mediator to help with negotiations. In a letter to her union members, Smith called the complaint a last resort. The filing with the Department of Labor also noted that tentative agreements had been reached on approximately 23 of 28 proposals, but that external help was needed for the remaining items. No action was ever taken by the state.
“We’re going to continue to fight for a collective bargaining agreement,” said union president Brenda Smith, “because that’s what our teachers want.” In a press release following the last meeting, school board president John Crawford said, “Our actions tonight should not be seen as a signal that talks…have ended. We remain open to further discussions.”
The actions legally taken by the board early this week were the nullification of the collective bargaining agreements and the approval of the 1 percent increase in base compensation for teachers in the county. There are rumors that the DCFT will be proposing a new contract retroactive to June 30 in the near future. The next board meeting is scheduled for July 17.