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SFC & SB 130: “Innovating” Around Teacher Voice?

What a bunch of populists we have working on “our” behalf in the Colorado State Legislature!

A few months ago, I wrote about how the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education may have violated Colorado’s so-called Innovation Schools Act by voting 4-3 in favor of granting Innovation status to several schools that didn’t yet exist. As currently written, the law requires that a majority of a school’s faculty vote in order to opt out of certain parts of its home district’s policies and its collectively-bargained Union-District contract. In their quest to push their sponsors’ corporate education policy agenda, though, our Board majority decided that building-level democracy was an inconvenience they’d prefer to throw away. (DPS and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association are now involved in legal action as a result.)

Pushing things even further, it now appears that Colorado’s chapter of Stand for Children is lobbying to amend the law so that brazen actions like these will no longer be even potentiallyillegal. According to Colorado Pols,

Under a new bill we’re told will be introduced by Republican Sen. Nancy Spencein the coming session, any new school opened in the state could opt for “innovation status” without a vote of affected staff. Given the advantage this would give administrators over teachers in negotiations as school districts grow, what we’re talking about is a massive hit on the rights of teachers to negotiate the terms of their employment.

I’m always angry whenever I witness the arrogance and disrespect some self-appointed “child advocates” display each time they move to limit educators’ influence over classroom- and school-level decision-making. But I’m increasingly baffled by their disregard for how silencing teachers’ voices hurts students. By undermining teachers’ right to collectively bargain, they’re attacking teachers’ ability to insist upon contract terms that directly benefit children, like reasonable class sizes, safety provisions, adequate planning time and more.

It’s a rare thing to meet a public school stakeholder who honestly believes politicians and corporate-funded lobbying groups should have more say over education than educators do. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening here—under the guise of “standing for children.”

I sincerely hope this law doesn’t get very far. Between our inadequate and unconstitutionalfunding system and onerous state and federal mandates, Colorado’s schools are struggling enough. Let’s not make a bad situation even worse.

Disclosure: In the past year, I have done paid communications work for the DCTA. Opinions presented on this blog are exclusively my own.

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Sabrina Joy Stevens

Sabrina Joy Stevens is a teacher, writer, and activist who has worked with students in struggling communities in Philadelphia and Denver. She recently helped to o...