School districts across state finding ways to skirt the intent of Proposition 104

From The Complete Colorado:  In November 2014, 70 percent—nearly 1.4 million—Colorado voters told local school boards and K-12 employee associations across the state that it was time to start negotiating taxpayer money in open forum.

On a ballot where the three other statewide initiatives were defeated, the overwhelming majority of Coloradans said no more collective bargaining on teacher contracts behind closed doors. The clear intent of a Yes vote for Proposition 104 was to hold all such meetings in public view.

However, it appears that lawyers and administrators across the state have found new terminology to skirt the spirit of the law.  At least until a judge is asked to determine otherwise, some are interpreting Proposition 104 to mean that not all negotiation meetings are to be open.

“We have to start by understanding that what Proposition 104 did was modify the Colorado Open Meeting Act for both state and local public bodies,” said Jim Branum, a Boulder-based attorney from Caplan and Earnest, LLC. He provides legal counsel for several Colorado school districts, including Jefferson County Public Schools, which has created its own procedure to effectively get around 104.

“It revised the definition of a local public body to include the district bargaining team when involved with representatives from the association it is bargaining with,” Branum added.

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