Negotiating for Change: Modifying Collective Bargaining Agreements for School Turnarounds

Alicia Goldberg

This set of papers from Mass Insight may start
the most honest conversation about school turnarounds to date: In order to fix
failing schools, it reminds us, collective-bargaining agreements must be
fundamentally redesigned. To that end, the report package provides useful
guidelines as to how states, districts, unions, and advocates can negotiate and
draft CBAs that advance turnaround efforts. It also identifies contract
elements that must be bargained to clear room for turnaround success. For
example, instead of CBAs that reward seniority and allow a centralized,
inefficient authority to make all school-based decisions, the authors push for
contracts in which key decisions are made by school leaders and staff in
exchange for accountability. To attain this revamped CBA model, the authors
outline several approaches to negotiation (e.g., “living contracts” and
third-party facilitation) as well as suggestions for specific contract
modifications. The report even provides sample language for model contracts.
One interesting proposal (seen today in places like New Haven, CT) allows
individual schools to amend their district-wide CBAs, exempting them from
certain bureaucratic roadblocks, and allowing them to create their own contracts,
to which their teachers voluntarily commit (they remain members of the local
union, however). There’s much important information in the five short papers
for districts seeking to gain turnaround traction.

Rebecca Weinberg, Michael Contompasis, Dalia
Hochman, and Meredith Liu, “Negotiating
for Change: Modifying Collective Bargaining Agreements for School Turnaround
(Boston, MA: Mass Insight Education, June 2011).