By Steve Gunn

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – There’s the foolish old way to conduct teacher union contract negotiations, and a much smarter and fairer process that’s catching on around the nation.

They’re using the tired old approach in the Framingham school district, where negotiations still take place behind closed doors and the taxpaying public is left out of the process. Well, almost.

The Framington teachers union has been distributing a flier, asking parents to attend an upcoming school board meeting and support their effort to negotiate a new contract that incorporates their demands. But they don’t say what their demands are or how much they will cost the district.

“We, the teachers and education professionals of the Framingham Public Schools, are in a difficult contact struggle with the Framington School Committee. Every day in classrooms all over the town, we work hard to give our students – your children and ours – the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. We aren’t asking for the sun and moon, but some basic tools and protections,” the flier says.

They say they don’t want the sun and the moon, but they aren’t telling naïve citizens precisely what they do want.

Meanwhile, as the news story reported, “the school committee (school board) will not speak publicly on negotiations.” That’s because the board pledged to keep negotiation details private.

This is a grossly unfair situation for the school board and citizens. The board can’t tell the truth about union demands, and citizens have no idea what they might be supporting if they express sympathy for the union.

There’s a better way.

Contract negotiations have reached an impasse in Florida’s St. Lucie County school district after five months of negotiations. In response the school board has posted details of the two proposals on its website for everyone to see.

The school board obviously knows that the only way the public will understand its point of view is to share the details of union demands and what the district can afford.

That sort of disclosure will take away the union’s ability to mislead the public by asking for support without saying what that support is for. The facts are there so citizens can read the proposals from both sides and decide for themselves who deserves what, based on the amount of money the district has available.

Open contract negotiations should be standard practice in all school districts. The taxpayers fund the schools. The idea that they should be locked out of the room where the use of their tax dollars is being discussed is preposterous. That would be like Congress debating the federal budget in private.

Open negotiations are also smart policy for school boards. They show the public just how greedy the unions really are. That ugly fact has been hidden from citizens for far too long.

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