Is Your School Board Signing Contracts Without Reading Them?

In April the Palatine Township Elementary District school board in Illinois approved an unprecedented 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the local teachers’ union. The union also approved the contract. But there were two more details about the negotiations that were also unusual, as reported by the Daily Herald:

“District Superintendent Scott Thompson said specific dollar amounts in the contract are still being worked out, but a news release from the district says annual increases for most teachers will average about 2.5 percent for the first four years and about 4 percent for the last six years.” (emphasis added)

“The District 15 negotiating team included Thompson, Chief School Business Official Mike Adamczyk, and Lisa Nuss, former president of the teachers union and now head of the district’s human resources department.”

People often claim that because of their campaign support for school board candidates, teachers’ unions can negotiate from both sides of the table. In this case it was literally true. But how did the board and the union approve a contract without knowing the “specific dollar amounts”?

Simple. A little more digging by the Daily Herald revealed the school board never read the proposed deal while unanimously approving it. Board members were briefed in closed session by the negotiation team and given a three-page summary of the contract. They then discussed the agreement for “about four minutes” in open session before ratifying it.

This discovery calls the legal validity of the contract into question, since it is unclear whether the two sides ratified an actual collective bargaining agreement and, if they did, if they both ratified the same document.

The Daily Herald found four other local school districts whose boards had ratified contracts without having the final document. One district still doesn’t have a final document even though it was ratified last December.

For a document that dictates the daily operations of a public school system to be treated so cavalierly defies belief. But it wouldn’t surprise me if this was common across the nation.