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Bill Would Make School Collective Bargaining Talks Open To Public

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An image from the state Capitol (credit: CBS)

An image from the state Capitol (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – A bill requiring school districts to hold collective bargaining talks in public is heading to the Colorado Senate.

It’s a new practice at the Douglas County School District, headed up by parent Karin Piper.

“Rumors have been rampant,” is how she described the situation as the district struggled with budget cuts. “Tough times are tough times and it’s even more difficult when you don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

It was that worry that prompted the teachers union and school board to do the collective bargaining talks in public. That effort has state lawmakers looking to expand the practice.

Rep. Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, is pushing for the reform.

“Fundamentally it’s about transparency,” he Beezley. “At the end of the day we’re talking about state’s money, taxpayers’ money, and how this is handled and these decisions being made.”

Mike Wetzel with the Colorado Education Association sees the public bargaining from a different viewpoint.

“We know one size fits all doesn’t work in public education,” he said.

In fact, Wetzel said the bill will backfire, making both sides less open.

“When we’re in the room talking about what to cut, making painful choices, we want to be as open, honest and transparent as possible,” Wetzel said. “In some cases, inviting the public in would hinder that.”

Still, Beezley said sometimes people need to hear everything under discussion.

“Yes, there may be things folks don’t want to have heard,” he said. “But those may be things we actually want to hear.”

Douglas County is not the only district with open collective bargaining. It’s been the practice in the Poudre School District for 20 years and Colorado Springs opened its negotiations to the public last year after a lawsuit.

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