On Thursday, the Women’s Foundation of Colorado reported at its annual luncheon — not for the first time however — that 5,000 Colorado girls drop out of high school every year. This has far-reaching impact not just for the young women themselves, but for their children if they become mothers. These girls are more likely to tragically go on to see their own daughters drop out of school too, research of the National Women’s Law Center shows.
Proposition 104: Open School Board Meetings for Collective Bargaining Agreements
What does the alarming drop-out rate of girls have to do with Proposition 104 on this year’s November ballot? A lot. Accepted into Teach for America’s 2014 Colorado Corps, I taught Algebra as a volunteer in Tulsa, Oklahoma this summer to entering 8th graders, many of whom were girls. All of these students lived in low-income households. I can tell you that great, dedicated teachers are essential to keeping girls in school. In the past several months, I have become more attuned to the problems in our state’s public education system, even after years of valiant, well-intentioned reform efforts.
Teachers are superheros
How do we as a community more effectively attract and retain great, dedicated teachers to our schools? Well, one way is to increase the transparency and accountability of our school districts. This fall, I taught English Language Arts to 7th graders in Montbello, at a middle and high school where the teacher turnover rate amounted to 80% last school year. I am no longer teaching in Montbello but greater transparency in public schools now seems like a better idea than ever to me. Expanded transparency seems like a good idea to me not only because of my time spent in public school classrooms but when considering the futures of my two school-age children, including my teenage daughter.
Proponents of Proposition 104, according to the prestigious Bell Policy Center, while itself taking a neutral position on the proposed law, “say it will allow parents, teachers, students and taxpayers to keep an eye on negotiations; help parents discern how proposed policies may affect their children; and shed light on employee salaries and benefits.”
If it is approved this November, Proposition 104 would amend Colorado statutes to require school board meetings to be open to the public if collective bargaining agreements are being discussed. Under current law, such negotiations can be closed if the responsibility is delegated to administrative staff or a small number of board members. Currently, only a few Colorado school districts hold collective bargaining sessions in public, according to the Bell Policy Center.
Local newspapers weigh in
Among the proponents of Proposition 104 is the Editorial Board of the Denver Post. On October 4, 2014, the Denver Post Editorial Board wrote,
“…if meetings are open, the public is likely to know the truth.” The editorial continues, “Proposition 104 is a sound, modest improvement on the present open-meetings law, and voters should approve it.”
Other endorsements have rolled in from newspaper editorial boards across Colorado including, but not limited to, the Durango Herald, the Pueblo Chieftain, Steamboat Today and the Longmont Times.
On Oct. 21, the Fort Collins Coloradoan observed, “While PSD [Poudre School District] is among the approximately one-quarter of Colorado’s 178 public school districts that have collective bargaining agreements, it is also one of the few that allows the public to observe as the process unfolds, something that started in November 1992. Poudre Education Association President Greg Grote described district negotiations as an effective and ‘peaceful’ process.”
Voting is your right and privilege in our country. For your vote to be counted, you must return your completed ballot, by mail or in person, so that it reaches your county clerk’s office no later than 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 (Election Day). Take advantage of this opportunity to use your voice and fill out and turn in your ballots today. Too many girls are dropping out of high school in Colorado every year. If you don’t want to vote for your own sake, let’s do it for the girls who need teachers to stay in the classroom. Let’s do it for the teachers who work long hours for remarkably low pay. Let’s do it to make sure school board meetings are open to the public so teachers, parents and all community members can ask questions and hold our school districts accountable.