Adjusting to the Spotlight

Collective bargaining agreements between school districts and teacher unions have rarely made it into the public spotlight—at least until now. The Washington-based National Council for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) recently launched its new online database bursting with details about union collective bargaining agreements, school board policies and teacher handbooks for the country’s 50 biggest school districts. NCTQ director Kate Walsh contends the site will help stakeholders--from parents and taxpayers to lawmakers--understand teacher contracts and working conditions, including salary and benefits information. The one Ohio district featured is Cleveland Municipal Schools (CMS), which turns out to be a wonderful place for the sick and ailing. Teachers receive 18 sick days per year under their collective bargaining agreement (and unused days carry over to subsequent years). Union leaders are understandably disconcerted by the new database. National Education Association’s Bill Raabe is concerned folks could draw “erroneous conclusions” from the information (for instance, CMS teachers may not be sickly, just easily fatigued). “The contract is really just a piece of the picture,” he added. Perhaps, but for taxpayers (especially Ohioans facing perennial school tax levy votes), any piece of the picture is better than none at all.

Online Database Opens a Window for Parents to Compare Schools,” by Greg Toppo, USA Today, January 3, 2007.

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