Mon February 20, 2012
Austin School Board Examines Contract With Union Tonight
Education Austin, representing members of several education unions, has consulted with the AISD board on labor issues since its inception in 1999. The school board has recently proposed the idea of changing this arrangement – amending their agreement with Education Austin, bringing other groups to the table like the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE).
Several options will be hard by the board tonight:
- One option would preserve the current arrangement, which provides for election of a consultant.
- Another option would implement some changes while preserving a single consultant, including a requirement to regularly meet with leaders “of any other employee organization that can document membership of 5% or more current District employees in the non-supervisory professional category.”
- Yet another option, coined the “inclusive model,” would open up seats at the table to multiple education groups; The Austin Chronicle notes this could mean Education Austin and ATPE joined by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association and the Southwest Workers Union. This system does away with elections; instead, groups would petition to be recognized.
The AISD-drafted description of tonight’s consultation items offers some background on the discussion:
The Austin ISD is but one of 18 school districts in Texas that has a policy providing for consultation. The Austin ISD, as well, is but one of four districts of the 18 districts that has a policy providing for an exclusive consultation agent. And further, almost 60% of the District's total non-administrative staff is not represented by the current consultation agent or any other employee organization. These facts give rise to the need for the District to review current policy to ensure ample employee input is considered when addressing key District issues.
However, the Chronicle says the move comes in the midst of an increasingly strained relationship between AISD and the union, exacerbated by the board’s controversial approval of a charter program with lDEA Public Schools in East Austin, which Education Austin opposed. “The backroom suspicion is that this delay in re-upping the consultation agenda agreement [with Education Austin] is either vendetta politics or, more simply, divide-and-conquer union-busting intended to dilute the influence of one of [Superintendent Meria] Carstarphen's toughest critics,” the Chronicle writes, an assertion Carstarphen denies, calling the timing of the item coincidental.
The board’s work session begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. at 1111 W. Sixth St. A vote on modifying the consultation policy is currently scheduled for the board’s meeting next Monday, Feb. 27.