I’ve seen some great “open letters” in the last few months from Iowans, whether it was from a UNI professor blowing up some alternative facts laid out there by Republicans, or teacher’s letter to Senator Grassley about why Betsy DeVos should not be nominated (did a lot of good I see!). So, after seeing the ad on our local TV about Jill, a teacher who supports “collective bargaining reform”, I’ve wanted to try this kind of writing out.  So, my open letter to Jill:

Dear Jill,

I’d just like to introduce myself to you. My name is Darin, and I’m an 8th grade reading/language arts teachers in Northeast Iowa.  I’ve been an educator since 1994 and it’s allowed me to visit some amazing places, teach some amazing kids, and work with world class teachers at all levels.

I’m writing you, Jill, because as an educator, I feel your pain. I am frustrated. I am irritated. Heck, I’m tired, just like you, but that’s where the similarities end. Your frustration comes from the fact that you perceive our state’s collective bargaining, Chapter 20, and holding you back. From what I can gather, and I could very well be misreading you, you feel like your district cannot keep great teachers, cannot “remove bad ones”, and you see this as a problem created Chapter 20. You feel as though if this was reformed, that you district could keep those great teachers and get rid of the ones who weren’t so good. I could be wrong here, but the only impression of you is what I see on TV, in an ad paid for by Prosperity for Iowa, an out of state PAC (or so I’ve read). Fair enough.

I disagree.

Jill, I’m not sure of the contract in your district, but being part of our district’s negotiations team for several years, I know that our district has a policy in place to first help those teachers who need it. It’s that the whole point of our profession, to help those out who are in need? Now, if that teacher is still not able to produce, then there’s a way for teachers to be removed from the classroom, and I’ve seen it in action. It’s never a good thing when a teacher is here one day, and gone the next, but to showed me beyond a shadow a doubt that the process does work.

Does your contract offer the same process?

I work in an amazing district, period. The people who work here go above and beyond time and time again for their students, their classrooms, and the people around them. You talk about how changing collective bargaining would allow districts to keep great teachers. Great districts keep great teachers. I’ve never been at a place where there are so many teachers, so well respected, who’ve worked in one place for 25 years or more. Heck, I’ve been here for 18 years now. They constantly reinvent themselves based on the educational winds that blow, and they do it with the needs of their students in mind.

Jill, would “collective bargaining reform” truly create an atmosphere where this could happen? In my humble opinion, no.

Each year, our board sits down with us, and we work on language issues in our contract that are unique to our district. It’s a long, sometimes, laborious process, but in the end, we have a contract that really suits the needs of our district. No, it’s not perfect by any means, but because we are a smaller district, we can move and change, and really feel like it belongs to us. Jill, you talk about how this will give local control back to the local districts, but won’t just the opposite take place?  Being able to bargain ONLY about salary, and if it ends up in arbitration, a 3% increase or a percent equal to the cost of living increase, whichever is LESS, why bother?

Someone posted this by Rick DuFour on Twitter:


Jill, the quality of the teaching pool won’t be increased by taking away collective bargaining, but will decrease because they won’t trust the working conditions. One of the reasons I love where I teach is because of the working conditions. I know I could get paid more elsewhere. I stay because I will not find another place to out there that where the administrators are flexible, the community is so supportive, and the teachers I work with are second to none.

My father taught for 30+ years in the Waterloo school district. In his first years, he talks about “sick outs” and contract issues. There are many times that the collective bargaining agreement helped him as a driver’s education teacher (along with the association) navigate the murky waters of having his department outsourced and his reassignment after that. Without that ability to negotiate on working conditions, I know his life as a teacher would have been more difficult.

So, while we are in the same profession, Jill, we see what we do so much differently. While you think collective bargaining will give local control back to districts, what is that local control when teachers leave to find more money in a neighboring district? What is that local control when the community of teachers is destroyed when one teacher is given a huge raise or signing bonus and others are not?

I encourage you to read this article about Act 10, the legislation from Wisconsin that went into effect five years ago. Everything you are hoping for happened in Wisconsin, along with teachers salary’s going down, working conditions worsening, and the morale going down.

Is that what you want for Iowa, Jill? Do you think Priorities for Iowa will help teachers out when things go south? Iowans for Prosperity? Think they’ll step when your district has 25% of teachers leaving, taking with them the community that’s been built?

I doubt it.