After a potential strike this fall, the Burlington School Board and teachers’ union have yet to exchange proposals for a fiscal year 2018 contract, according to a Jan. 24 news release.
The board had asked the Burlington Education Association (BEA) in October and November to set ground rules for talks with the goal of exchanging proposals prior to the end of 2017. Neither has happened to this date.
“The Board agrees that sharing each side’s proposals and rationale with the community earlier in the negotiations process will help make the public more knowledgeable about the important issues at stake,” the release states.
The board indicated four main goals for the talks of operational effectiveness, fiscal sustainability, transparency and expediency. Included in the transparency area was conducting public negotiations, a proposal that the BEA has rejected.
Fran Brock, president of the BEA, said that public negotiations weaken the necessary exchanges that take place in the process.
“When public negotiations have been tried, they have resulted in teams of the public cheering or jeering proceedings, which is distracting,” Brock said. “In addition, there is the concern that folks will focus or play to the audience rather than be honest and earnest in negotiating at the table.”
If no settlement is reached by Feb. 15, both parties may declare impasse, or official recognition of a deadlock, according to the contract. This often requires a third party settlement, known as binding arbitration. The board believes this action is likely.
In response, the board has asked the BEA to schedule a two-day negotiations period this spring, according to the release. The union has rejected this request.
Brock said that the board’s claims of slow negotiations are deceiving. Negotiations for the fiscal year 2017 contract extended into October, and the union just signed the agreement on Jan. 5, according to the board’s negotiations timeline.
She said that the BEA has been waiting for the accurate data and information to develop an initial proposal.
The two sides agreed to exchange proposals on Monday.
“Hopefully the teams can meet to efficiently hammer out a fair, respectful contract that will insure that Burlington is able to attract and retain excellent teachers so we can provide quality education to all of Burlington’s students,” Brock said.