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posted: 4/23/2016 2:00 PM

Editorial: Why District 15 must release its teachers contract - now

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  • Palatine School District 15 has reached a 10-year contract with teachers but continues to withhold details of what it calls a "draft" agreement.

      Palatine School District 15 has reached a 10-year contract with teachers but continues to withhold details of what it calls a "draft" agreement.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Here's a question for board members and administrators at Palatine Township Elementary District 15: If the details of the district's TEN-YEAR contract with teachers are too incomplete to share with the public, how were they complete enough to be considered and formally approved by the board?

Where is the logic in that? Where is the transparency in that?

Where is the good governance in that?

"It would be irresponsible to share a document that is incomplete and not corrected," unnamed school officials said in a message on the district's website. If that's the case, then it was irresponsible for the school board to vote on it.

Despite the apparent reservations by school officials about releasing the "draft" contract in its current state, the Illinois Freedom of Information Act is quite clear. If the "draft" was the subject of a vote by the school board, it's a public document.

The public has a right to it, and there shouldn't be any government foot-dragging.

In other words, District 15: It's the law; fork it over.

It's possible this contract is good for the school system, the staff and the taxpayers, all involved.

Possible. We've got our reservations given the unusual length of the agreement, but even we concede that the agreement could end up being a good thing.

Yes, possible.

The problem is, as things stand now, no one is really in a position to judge.

Without the facts being made public -- without the contract itself and all the associated details -- the public is certainly in no position to assess it. From the sounds of it, if it's true that the draft is still being massaged, it may be that even the school board and teachers association aren't in a position to judge a contract they've all accepted. How crazy is that?

It's no way to handle a typical labor contract and certainly no way to handle one as groundbreaking as a decade-long deal with such long-term implications for the school district.

Defenders of the school district's we-know-best strategy say that our concern is really just a matter of semantics -- that the draft contract approved by teachers and the board are non-binding, that the contract can still be rejected. But we know of no plans to hold another vote on the matter.

The board and teachers have agreed in principle to a variety of issues that the taxpaying public ought to have an opportunity to evaluate. That taxpayers, if they're unhappy enough, can vote out the board members who adopt this long-term agreement may be small consolation if they have to live with an unsatisfactory agreement for a decade, the equivalent of two and half more school board terms. The public should have a chance to see the contract, and frankly, the public should have had a chance to see it before it came up for a vote.

In fact, the philosophy that the public should receive notice of the details -- well before the board votes on labor contracts and other large-dollar matters that rise in expense to the levels that often call for referendums -- should be incorporated into our laws, and, as we did in an editorial last Tuesday, we again call on area legislators to take up that challenge.

The public shouldn't just have a right to know. It should have a right to know in time to provide a response.

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