Public Input on Contract Negotiations

The Our Schools Coalition is gearing up again to give input on the contract negotiations between Seattle Public Schools and the teachers' union, the Seattle Education Association.

They have provided their rationale for why they should kibbitz in these talks.

I disagree. I'm a fan of democracy and representative democracy in particular. I believe that the public IS represented in the negotiations by the School Board, the duly elected representatives of the public.

I prefer the duly elected representatives of the public acting as the public's voice to each of us individually contributing our comments (a confused cacophony of tiny voices) or any self-appointed voices who claim to represent the community despite lacking any legitimate claim to that title.


Anonymous said…
How is this any different than having members from society who are not eduacated in advanced education giving input on the ALTF or for that matter having not educated been in facilities working on BEX?

-Confused, discuss or really srgue

Charlie Mas said…
An excellent question!

I would say that the difference lies in self-appointed vs. appointed by the superintendent.

If you were to ask what's different between the labor negotiator chosen by the superintendent and the Our Schools Coalition, the answer would be obvious: the labor negotiator was hired by the superintendent for the job. The same is true for members of advisory committees - they were hired by the superintendent for the job.
Anonymous said…
But isnt this group just 'hiring' people for their opinion re the particular groups issue.

Charlie Mas said…
Yes. The Our Schools Coalition is selecting people (themselves) to offer opinions on the process.

I have no problem with their speaking up and speaking for themselves. I certainly do that all the time.

What irks me is how they assume the mantle of speaking for the community - not just themselves. They have no right to lay such a claim and their claim has no merit.

It is not only arrogant, it is a usurpation of the community's voice and it is dismissive of the school board's role as the voice of the community (and therefore dismissive of democracy and the democratic process).
Anonymous said…
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Unknown said…
"What irks me is how they assume the mantle of speaking for the community - not just themselves."

Absolutely. This all started through LEV who, to their credit, was trying to reach out and create a group with really credibility. Many of us, from various groups and backgrounds, worked for MONTHS on this issue only to have the Alliance for Eduction co-opt our work and shut out some of us.

It was a nasty little behind-the-scenes machination.

I'll write more on this as it seems there is definitely a surge of grouping to control public education in Seattle (without really asking parents or educators what they think).
Anonymous said…
I think Confused brings up a good point. Charlie, you seem to want your cake and eat it too. Or more precisely you want to have input but not for others to have input

mirmac1 said…
As further evidence of the Our Schools Coalition/LEV/A4E clubby atmosphere (and in case you were wondering if all that crap about Perkins Coie 100 yr Jubilee was true), here's how planning for last year's "State of the District" fĂȘte went down. Funny, I don't Jane Q. Public on the list...
Someone said…
Hmmm...maybe I'm missing something but my sense is Charlie is questioning the validity of "coalition" in Our Schools Coalition. It doesn't take very long to research that OSC is not really a community effort (at least now) and to question why that particular entity should have a seat at the table. I don't necessarily agree that the Board is the right alternative - they do not collectively make great decisions frankly. But I think it's perfectly understandable why Charlie would question this entity's motives.
I think the point is that the Our Schools coalition want to say they represent "the community".

They don't, not by any stretch.

They represent some communities (and few parents). When they walk around saying they represent everyone, that gives the wrong impression.
Anonymous said…
-Annie - the difference is that "Our Schools Coalition" is a public relations invention of Strategies 360, claiming to be the mouthpiece of the community, while Charlie is Charlie - who freely admits to representing himself.

Our Schools Coalition has an expectation to have a greater voice in things because of their being a "coalition". OSC is a political power play by a few under the disingenuous cover of claiming the names of many groups.

Anonymous said…
Hmmm, I think members of this "coalition" were meeting with district people yesterday...

Where's My Seat at the Table
Anonymous said…
According to Our Schools Coalition:
"We express the community’s voice in teacher contract negotiations, to advocate for our children, and to support teachers as professionals."

A search for website domain information reveals the following:

Admin ID:CR100177583
Admin Name:Jen Olson
Admin Organization:Our Schools Coalition
Admin Street1:1505 Westlake Ave N
Admin Street2:
Admin Street3:
Admin City:Seattle
Admin State/Province:Washington
Admin Postal Code:98109
Admin Country:US
Admin Phone:+1.2062821990
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX:
Admin FAX Ext.:
Admin Email:

And who does one find at that address and phone number? Why, Strategies 360, of course!

And from the Strategies 360 website:

About Strategies 360 -
Strategies 360 is one of the country's leading strategic positioning firms. With offices across the Pacific Northwest and in Washinton, DC, we are experts at negotiating the political landscape, crafting content, building coalitions and targeting communications. How can we create an environment for success for you?

So why does a little old homegrown bunch of folks just out to help schools in our community need this kind of political guidance and positioning? Sure as hell ain't cuz they're just lookin' out for the kids, that's for sure!

Anonymous said…
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Charlie Mas said…
Annie, I do want to have input, but when I give my input I don't claim to represent anyone but myself. And I give my input to the Board, my democratically elected representatives in the District.

I have no problem with it at all if the members of the Our School Coalition wanted to do that. In fact, they do it all of the time and I never utter a peep against it. I fully support it.

However, when they claim to represent the community and when they try to directly influence the negotiations through strong-arm tactics in the press, I have a problem with it.

There is a path for public input on the contract negotiations. That path is through the democratically elected representatives of the community, the School Board Directors.

Is anyone trying to say that the School Board has been ignoring the members of the Our School Coalition? Has the School Board shut them out? I don't think so. In fact, it often seems that the School Board directors - at least some of them - are eager to do the bidding of the members of the Our School Coalition.
Jan said…
Anonymous (who needs to find a moniker to avoid being deleted) "The Our Schools Coalition has every right to express their opinions about how they want negotiations to play. It's part of their freedom to assemble, and freedom of speech.

But, they do not have any claim to a seat at the negotiation table. The negotiations are between two parties who are responsible to each other. OSC wants to make demands, and set guidelines, but they don't have anything to offer in return."

I agree that OSC should be able to take, and support a position -- just like any other group out there that has an interest in the outcome of a public controversy -- but they have no right to claim they represent the public, speak for parents, etc. It's a lie, and is patronizing and offensive to boot. They represent a number of ed reform organizations, most of which represent business interests -- and they should say so.

As for who gets a "spot" at the table, I agree that they don't deserve one. Ordinarily, in labor disputes, the only parties at the table are management (representing shareholders) and labor (representing employees). But in a private industry dispute, the idea is that if customers don't like the outcome (too expensive, working conditions too horrible, etc.) they can vote with their feet and leave. That is not the case with public employees, mahy of whom have a monopoly on the provision of services. Thus, I think that taxpayers deserve their own "seat" at the table. You can argue that the government "represents" the taxpayers, but that is clearly not always the case. Sometimes labor forms such a large constituent for the government side of the table that taxpayer concerns (quality of services, cost of providing them, etc.) seem pretty squeezed out. Exhibit A, in my opinion, is the King County law enforcement contract, negotiated by Ron Sims during the height of the financial crisis -- where the excuse later was that none of the King County Council had "added up" the cumulative effect of the pay hikes over the term of the contract.

I would love to see some true community/children's/taxpayer representation in school labor negotiations (and even more so in principal contract negotiations), because I think it would lead to better contracts for both teachers AND kids. Teachers fail to realize, I think, that parents/taxpayers can be their best allies. Parents place a very high value on their kids' teachers. They don't see them as "expendable" the way school administrators often seem to.
mirmac1 said…
What happened the last time OSC inserted itself into contract negotiations? Stuff like this;

Hey, "we" were supposed to have 320 career ladder positions by now! WTF! (who the hell needs 320?)

Hey, how's that $500 stipend given to teachers performing at "basic" being used effectively. Let's micromanage already.

You better not be spending that supplemental levy on anything but our...I mean...your CBA.

It appears District admin is answerable to Korsmo, Morris, and OSC

We can expect just more of the same unless the REAL voice of the community says OSC does not speak for us.
mirmac1 said…
I like Director Peaslee's suggestion that the current contract be extended one year. That give Banda some time to clean house. Also give the board time to do the vision thing (new Strategic Plan) with lots of (real) community input. Gets special education and other programs a chance to FIX things. Tweaking the CBA a little here, a little there, without a strong foundational philosophy about what public education looks like for all children in Seattle, is just whack. Furthermore, entering negotiations at this juncture gives the LEVites and byStanders a boost in their efforts to deconstruct the union. We need to build up, not tear down.
Anonymous said…
As year three of the last contract kicks in, I can tell you that those who voted for it just to avoid a strike are sure sorry they did. Cranky teachers having to do pre/post observation conferences and lengthy write ups for before and after each conference for that much needed documentation of evidence. We are talking HOURS of time none of us had any extra of before. Yeah, that career ladder is a bit of a joke since there really isn't any real hierarchy in the profession like there is in others (assistant manager, senior sales, lead sales, could you imagine a CET Chief English Teacher?). Department heads get a stipend and are not necessarily in the position because they are good teachers or even the most knowledgeable on staff. In my last placement, it was more of a "not it" job because no one wanted the extra work of ordering materials, attending meeting downtown, leading a group of people who distrusted each other in collaborative meetings, and coordinating PD many staff felt was being forced on them. What ladder is there for a teacher? What "promotions" are there? We get promoted to let people come into our rooms and watch us teach? It happens for free. Don't pay us for it. We get promoted to work downtown? No thanks.
Personally, my expertise is still provided w/o extra money for opening up my classroom to others for observations or consulting with other teachers who needed some tips just the same as I did before this contract. If I could have only charged admission for every visitor or a fee for every consult...
-Just let me teach

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