The mere talk of reopening a labor contract midway through its term borders on treason in this once union-strong town.
Certainly, there are reasons to reopen talks on collective bargaining agreements such as when a judicial ruling orders negotiations or due to an ongoing dispute that can’t be resolved by mediation. There are few other justifiable reasons to break open a contract.
The Anderson Community Schools Board of Trustees voted 6-0 recently to reopen the collective bargaining agreement with the Anderson Federation of Teachers. The seven-year contract expires in 2018. Discussions will now begin with the Anderson Federation of Teachers to discuss the board’s action.
The board claims the contract needs to be re-evaluated to address the grades that local schools received from the state. In December, Anderson High School and Highland Middle School received “D” grades from the Indiana Department of Education. Highland had an “F” the year before.
The state’s grading system is intended to hold Indiana school officials accountable by using standardized ratings. The system has gone through numerous rewrites. It is far from perfect, as was evidenced when in 2013 controversy blew up over grades reportedly manipulated by former state schools superintendent Tony Bennett. In September, state legislators asked for a review of the system.
Beyond that, Indiana was the first state to pull out of the Common Core. The decision, signed by Gov. Mike Pence, begs the question: Can Indiana do better than the rest of the country? Maybe it can, but certainly not with proven results by 2018, the year the local contract would be renegotiated.
Speaking directly to the Anderson dilemma, Indiana teachers are being evaluated by a performance system. The first results of the review were just released; only 2 percent of Hoosier educators are in need of improvement. Critics, and even some supporters, of the system said the results were too good to be true.