Bill setting teacher contract deadlines hears heated debate in committee

Local News

A bill setting deadlines on teacher contract negotiations has unions and school boards at odds.

Senate Bill 2215 says negotiations must be completed by July 1, unless both parties agree to extend the timeline. Currently, there’s no set end date for negotiations, which Fargo School Board Member Jim Johnson says has led to teachers using delay tactics for leverage.

Johnson says the bill would streamline the process and be best for teacher morale since they’d have contracts finalized before the new school year starts.

“In 2017, the process took seven and a half months. In 2018 it took eight months. In 2019, it took 14 months. I have no clue what it’s going to take this year because as of yet the teachers have not yet even petitioned to negotiate,” Johnson, who’s also the North Dakota School Board’s Association President, said.

An earlier version of the bill pinned June 1 as the negotiation deadline, but even with the extra month added, teacher’s groups say it’s still not enough, and deadlines aren’t needed. North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta says the current process works without deadlines, and adding a date rushes the process at a very busy time of year for teachers, giving schools the upper hand.

“Senate Bill 2215, should it become law, would further put the heavy thumb of the state on the scales of fair negotiations in favor of the school boards. That is the antithesis of the light touch of government,” Archuleta said.

The bill first passed the Senate last month. The House Education Committee that heard the bill Wednesday did not yet vote on whether to recommend it.

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