House Bill 575 is one of the bills being heard in this year’s legislative session and it pertains to collective bargaining for teachers. In this bill, teachers would be prohibited from bargaining over anything but salaries and a few basic benefits. Bargaining would last 60 days before going to arbitration. The arbitrator would have the final word. Knox Community School Board President, Harold Welter, was asked to talk about collective bargaining at the Knox Community School Corporation.
“Collective bargaining at the Knox Community Schools really has not been a huge problem in my tenure on the Board, which goes back to the 1970s, because we only bargain on salary and benefits,” explained Welter. “We have not gotten into bargaining about the color of paint in the teacher’s lounge, for instance, like they can in some school corporations. Any changes in the collective bargaining law is probably not going to have much effect on the way we do business anyway because we’ve said all along that we’re going to bargain with the staff on salary and benefits. We’ll continue to do that under the new law.”
Knox Federation of Teachers President, Dick Wagner, said last week that there is a section of collective bargaining now that allows for discussions between the Board and the Union over areas of concern.
“I don’t see this as a minus and I don’t see discussion being stifled,” countered Welter. “I see it being enhanced by the new competitive nature of public education.”
In the bill, contracts would last two years to coincide with the state budget cycle. Welter was asked about acrimony in contract negotiations since he has been on the board, and he downplayed that by saying both sides always negotiated in the past, trusting each other.
“There’s never been a question about Mr. Wagner and the people he works with on the Union side about their concern for kids. We hope that people view us the same way because we’re all in this together. There are always going to be some issues, but it has not been acrimonious. Both sides have always had, in my estimation, the good of the students at heart.”