The sixth and final habit of fiscally responsible public school districts is collective bargaining reform. Michigan’s compulsory union law, the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) requires collective bargaining where employees have unionized, but many of these collective bargaining agreements restrict school administrators’ ability to do their jobs, and therefore unnecessarily block fiscally responsible reforms.
This is not to say that individual employees should not be free to associate in any organization they choose. At the same time, school boards should not necessarily be forced to negotiate collective bargaining agreements and should be free to negotiate individually with teachers, if they so desire.
Every school day, the current widespread collective bargaining regime makes a financial difference in school’s operations, educational environment, and the ability of children to learn. School districts therefore have a fiduciary interest in assuring that collective bargaining is not so burdensome that it diverts precious resources from student learning.
From a 1998 analysis of more than 500 collective bargaining agreements, seven improvements (not already suggested in previous sections) are recommended to assure that these agreements allow effective school management. Many of these problems may be avoided by demanding well–worded contract language. Implementing the seven improvements will dramatically enhance the ability of public school districts to enact needed reforms.