Ignores state laws regarding seniority, evaluations
Under media scrutiny, Ferndale officials said they "somehow missed" the discriminatory language. Fortunately, they have now removed it.
But large portions of Ferndale's contract still appear to be in violation of other state laws. Ferndale is one of an estimated 60 percent of Michigan districts that have worked to preserve collective bargaining language that is prohibited by state law.
A series of recent reforms were passed in an attempt to make it easier for district officials to retain and reward effective teachers. Under Public Act 103, a state law that went into effect in July 2011, districts and their unions may not collectively bargain over teacher placement, layoff, recall and evaluation policies, among other things. Public Act 102 of the same year prohibits using only seniority to make personnel decisions.
When Ferndale extended its contract in February 2014, the district made sure to remove a contract provision that violated Michigan's new right-to-work law for teachers (although it didn't do the same for adult education teachers). But district officials have also "somehow missed" large volumes of the district contract that are in violation of these earlier state laws.
Under Ferndale's contract:
- When teachers need to be moved involuntarily to other positions, teachers with the most seniority will be given preference.
- When the district needs to make layoffs, teachers will be laid off based on seniority. Ties in seniority are broken based on the last four digits of a teacher's social security number.
- When the district recalls teachers from layoffs, teachers will be recalled on the basis of seniority.
- Teacher evaluation will be determined by a committee of administrators and teachers, and evaluation timelines are spelled out explicitly in the contract.
- The district provides the union with deduction of dues directly from teachers' paychecks. This violates a different law passed in 2012 that prohibits districts from deducting union dues from teacher paychecks.
The question for Ferndale is whether the district will fix all portions of its contract that violate state law, instead of simply addressing the provision that has captured media attention.
Clearly, those negotiating on behalf of Ferndale have failed to consider at least four different state laws, including Michigan's Civil Rights Act, which banned Ferndale's discriminatory language.
By keeping prohibited and unenforceable language, Ferndale, like several other districts, has a contract in place that is effectively a meaningless document. And though district officials sit down every couple of years to renegotiate, it took nearly four decades and a deluge of media attention to spur Ferndale to remove just one of those portions.
What, exactly, will it take to motivate Ferndale and other district officials to comply fully with these other Michigan laws?