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House committee mulling time limits on teacher negotiations

A House committee is now studying a bill designed to put time limits on teacher negotiations.

SB 2215 would require that teacher’s organizations file for negotiations no later than March first. And it requires an impasse be declared by July first, if no agreement is reached.  But the school board and teacher’s group could agree to extend the negotiation period.

Supporters of the measure told the House Education Committee they’re concerned about efforts to stall negotiations. Fargo school board member Jim Johnson said over the past few years, the time for negotiations has continued to drag on. He told the committee it affects employee morale.

"Teachers deserve to know what they're going to be paid before they start the new school year," Johnson said. "Having to start the new school year without that certainty just puts them at a disadvantage."

But teachers’ groups say the bill gives the school board more of an upper hand than it has now, because after impasse is declared, a fact-finding commission is brought in. The commission makes a recommendation, but it is not binding on the school board.

Grand Forks Education Association president Melissa Buckhop called it a “power grab” by the school boards.

"If negotiations are limited, how many more teachers are we going to lose across the Red River, where they have more teaching rights?" Buckhop said.

The Committee did not take immediate action.

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