ED to unions, districts: Can’t we all just get along?

Raising student achievement won’t be possible without school district labor and management teams working together, Sec. Duncan said.

Despite frequent reports of labor-management strife in the nation’s schools, there are many school systems in which teachers and district leaders are working together to improve public education—and some of the best examples of this type of collaboration were on display during a first-of-its-kind national conference in Denver Feb. 15-16.

Organized by the federal Education Department (ED), the event—called “Advancing Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration”—brought together teams of superintendents, school board presidents, and union presidents from 150 school systems around the country to explore how all sides can successfully navigate what are often quite contentious, politically charged issues surrounding school reform … and ultimately act in the best interest of students.

In opening remarks, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said raising student achievement won’t be possible without school district labor and management teams working together.…Read More

How to raise student achievement through better labor-management collaboration

Labor-management collaboration in California's ABC Unified School District has led to gains in student achievement.

Laura Rico, union president for southern California’s ABC Unified School District and national vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said the idea of collaboration between labor and management was “very risky—even political suicide” when union leaders began working more closely with district leaders in the late 1990s. But the partnership has paid off in a big way, she said—demonstrating that when both sides come together in the interest of students, better achievement can follow.

For ABC Unified, the timing was right to take such a risk. In 1993, the district’s teachers went on strike over cuts to their pay and benefits. The strike lasted eight days, and it taught Rico and her colleagues that “it’s better to be in a labor-management partnership than it is to be out on the street,” she said—better for the students and for everyone involved.

The hiring of a new superintendent in 1999, coupled with the election of three new board members that same year, opened the door for greater collaboration between teachers and district leaders.…Read More