No one who follows education news can ignore the spate of surveys showing that students in the United States lag behind many of their international counterparts in their understanding of basic academic subjects. This trend has led to a general disenchantment with America's public school system. In Michigan as in other states, reform of this system has become a hot topic of discussion among parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials, and other concerned citizens. These discussions take into account many issues involved in the quality of public education services, but one issue frequently neglected is the critical role that collective bargaining plays in the delivery of those services. Every hour of every school day, collective bargaining makes a difference in a school's operations, its educational environment, and the ability of children to learn there.

Effective delivery of education services requires that school administrators be able to put the right person with the right training in the right place at the right time. A collective bargaining agreement which unreasonably restricts school administrators' ability to meet these obligations in a timely and effective manner impedes the delivery of quality education and handicaps not only administrators but also teachers themselves. Every hour of every school day, collective bargaining makes a difference in a school's operations, its educational environment, and the ability of children to learn there.

The discussion of education reform will be productive when Michigan citizens understand the impact of collective bargaining and are willing to participate as knowledgeable and informed consumers of public education services. What is negotiated at the bargaining table between representatives of school boards and teacher unions will powerfully influence the direction of public education for the foreseeable future.