A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

While all Michigan public schools are legally bound to post their union contracts on their web site, Traverse City school administrators have gone a step further. They are posting their proposals to their bargaining units online.

Traverse City Superintendent Steve Cousins said posting the proposals was a “logical extension” to the state law that went into effect more than a year ago. The new law requires schools to post union contracts as well as some budgetary information online.

Cousins said the community can now see where the starting point begins on discussions with unions. The first of the five union proposals went up this week and Cousins said the rest should be up within a couple months.

"All other districts in the state should follow Traverse City's example,” Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s director of education policy, wrote in an e-mail. “There's absolutely no reason why these negotiations between publicly elected officials and government employee unions should remain hidden from taxpayers. Since these negotiated contracts dictate about 85 percent of the tax dollars schools spend, this is a necessary step towards achieving real transparency and fiscal accountability."

The Traverse City Education Association said it was fine with the increased transparency.

“The Traverse City Education Association has nothing to hide.  As you know, all of the employee contracts are already posted online,” Mary McGee-Cullen, President of the TCEA, wrote in an e-mail.

According to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Don Hakala, UniServ director with the Michigan Education Association, filed an unfair labor practice violation with the state when it was learned school administrators first released details of bargaining sessions back in June.

Also in the Traverse City Record-Eagle, MEA Spokesman Ron Parkinson later said that there were some drawbacks to posting the contracts. Parkinson said the process could be slowed down if negotiators know their rebuttals will be made public and participants could be pressured to explain how they negotiated.

“What we have, it feels like, is traditional bargaining with additional speed bumps,” Parkinson said.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Education Policy Audrey Spalding describes her latest study on right-to-work law violations in public school contracts and suggests why districts and unions are ignoring the law.


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