Initiative to open school board labor negotiations certified for November ballot

A statewide initiative that would require school boards to let the public observe collective bargaining negotiations will appear on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced Wednesday.

Proponents of the measure, which is backed by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, submitted 129,850 signatures earlier this month. An analysis by the Secretary of State validated more than the 86,105 signatures needed to make the ballot.

Barring a successful protest, the initiative will numbered Proposition 104.

The CFOIC wrote about the proposal in June. Under the current wording of the state Open Meetings Law, collective bargaining negotiations already would be open to the public if they involved a quorum or at least three elected members of a school board. But negotiations may be held behind closed doors if that responsibility is delegated to administrative staff, as typically happens, and/or a smaller number of board members.

If Proposition 104 passes, an open meeting will be required if “members of a board of education, school administration personnel, or a combination thereof” discuss a collective bargaining agreement with a representative of an employees’ group.

Because personnel costs constitute much of a school district’s operating budget, Independence Institute President Jon Caldara says that negotiations with labor unions “should be transparent and open.”

The Colorado Education Association, which represents teachers throughout the state, has come out against the measure for local-control reasons. It argues that each school board should decide whether to open collective bargaining negotiations to the public.

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