The Courier-Journal reports that the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is now advertising for legal help to dig into collective bargaining contracts with Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) as part of the department’s ongoing and massive management audit of this troubled school system.
According to the Courier, the KDE
“…said it wants an analysis as to whether the contracts were negotiated in good faith, followed best practices and focused only on areas that were permissive subjects of bargaining, among other things.”
It certainly seems like KDE already smells smoke here and wants to see if there is a real fire behind it.
The Courier indicates the current chair of the JCPS school board complained that this request seemed like a political move to question and undermine the credibility of the local school board. That seems a bit strange as the current chair was only recently elected and so far has had limited contact, at best, with contracting. Any problems that the KDE might uncover are probably going to be due to actions of the previous school board members.
The local board chief also lamented that this on-going investigation would likely hamper his board’s ability to hire a new district superintendent, pointing out that the audit would be a deterrent to attracting top-quality talent.
Since the legal contract KDE is advertising would last until June of 2018, it seems increasingly likely that the audit is going to run longer than originally anticipated. Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt had indicated he doesn’t want to do a shallow, rushed job on this, and it looks like he intends to take whatever time is necessary to get an accurate picture of JCPS management – and that now clearly includes the management of all the union contracts, as well.
By the way, this isn’t the first time that concerns have been raised about collective bargaining in Jefferson County Schools. Some earlier BIPPS blogs about problems with the collective bargaining agreement in JCPS include:
Note that some of the links in these blogs are to an approval draft of the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability’s 2010 report on collective bargaining. That report, LRC RR #377, is now available in final form here.
Based on what we have already written about, the rather formal legal investigation of JCPS’ union contracts now being contemplated by the KDE could make for some very interesting reading.