The adversarial and political nature of the collective bargaining process frequently distorts or stifles communication among key groups in a school district. School board members and administrators, fearful of being charged by the union with unfair labor practices, are often wary of speaking openly and directly with teachers. Taxpayers and members of the community are frequently unaware of, or misinformed about, what is negotiated between their elected school boards and the teacher unions.
For example, unions (and sometimes district negotiators) often make a concerted effort to communicate only the general employee salary increases and not the total bargained increase in compensation. Consequently, Michigan citizens tend not to have a clear understanding of the true employee compensation costs for their districts, which typically range between 80 and 90 percent of a school district's budget.65
This lack of communication has led analysts to argue that collective bargaining has resulted in too much of the public interest being given away or ignored.66
More public and parental involvement in the bargaining process is key to ensuring that schools continue to deliver a high quality education. But while the state of Michigan does permit bargaining to take place publicly, few districts open their negotiations to the entire community. Many other states are now requiring collective bargaining to be done in public. William Keane notes that
The public may tolerate being left out of the process when things are working smoothly. When trouble results, they will be heard. So-called sunshine laws in Florida and other locations, which require that collective bargaining be carried out in public, are on the books because the public interest can be ignored only so long.67