For all their talk about helping Iowa provide a "world class" and "globally competitive" education, Iowa Republicans are unwilling to provide the resources public schools need to keep up with rising costs.
And for all their talk about getting "better teachers in the classroom" and giving "hardworking teachers ... all the tools necessary to succeed," Iowa Republicans seem determined to discourage people from pursuing a teaching career in this state.
BIG CUTS TO STATE UNIVERSITIES AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES
After two weeks of negotiations among key Republican lawmakers and Governor Terry Branstad's staff, the Iowa House and Senate fast-tracked Senate File 130, the "deappropriations" measure to cut more than $88 million in spending during the last five months of the current fiscal year. Branstad signed the bill on February 1, soon after it cleared both chambers on party-line votes. This document, provided by Democratic legislative staff, shows how the spending cuts outlined in Senate File 130 will affect various agencies and departments, compared to Branstad's initial proposal:
While Branstad proposed cutting $25.5 million from the Board of Regents, which oversees the three state universities, and $8.7 million from the community college system, Senate File 130 appeared to soften the blow. Under that bill, community colleges will lose $3 million between now and June 30, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University $8 million each, and the University of Northern Iowa $2 million.
However, more higher education cuts are likely hiding in a line item from the second page of the document enclosed above: $11.5 million in unspecified "Department Operational Reductions." Division V of Senate File 130 calls for the Department of Management to make "miscellaneous reductions" to executive branch departments and report back to the legislature within 30 days of the law going into effect.
The Department of Management's leader, David Roederer, was a leading force behind the governor's budget blueprint, so I anticipate that the extra $11.5 million will be taken from agencies where Branstad had asked for deeper cuts. I'm seeking further details from the governor's staff on how the pain will be spread around and will update this post as needed.
University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld said on February 6 that he expects the axe to fall again during the current budget year, Jeff Charis-Carlson reported for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Many university costs (such as staff salaries) are fixed between now and June 30. So guess who will bear the brunt of the deappropriations?
Harreld said Monday that the cuts in state funding would come at the expense of financial aid packages being offered to undergraduate students.
"Clearly a lot of our state support goes for residents of the state and helping them get here, and our student financial aid is going to have to take a major portion of that," Harreld said. "When legislators decide to reduce money to us, by definition they are asking us to reconsider student financial aid."
UI officials clarified Tuesday that the current $8 million cut facing UI is still being "worked on in a collaborative process." Harreld's comments about financial aid, they said, referred to the "future cost-saving measures the university will have to undertake" given that the current cuts are likely to reduce the university's base funding in future years.
The cuts, however, could impact financial aid amounts that already have been offered to students, Harreld said.
Poor planning by lawmakers created the $110 million shortfall in the current-year budget. Iowa House and Senate Democrats proposed using the state's "rainy day fund," which contains more than $700 million, to cover this year's budget shortfall. Unfortunately, Republicans preferred big cuts in education and other government services.
THIRD-SMALLEST K-12 FUNDING INCREASE IN LAST FOUR DECADES
In his Condition of the State address last month, Branstad called on lawmakers to spare K-12 schools from any cuts during the current fiscal year. His official comment upon signing the deappropriations bill last week praised legislators for making "the tough decisions early in the session exempting K-12 education funding, Medicaid payments and property tax backfill for local governments from reduction, providing stability for Iowa schools, businesses, and families."
The next day, Iowa Republican senators approved on party lines Senate File 166, which would increase state support for K-12 schools by 1.11 percent in fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1. Statehouse Republicans have boasted about providing $40 million more to Iowa schools next year. But the fiscal note shows that a 1.11 percent increase works out to just $73 in additional state funding per pupil next year.
As this chart provided by Democratic legislative staff demonstrates, 1.11 percent represents the third-smallest increase in "allowable growth" since the state legislature adopted this approach to school funding during the early 1970s.
At a crowded public hearing the Iowa House scheduled for Monday morning (when most educators would be unable to attend), speaker after speaker warned that a 1.11 percent increase in state funding would be insufficient for public school districts to keep up with rising costs. Pat Rynard reported for Iowa Starting Line that more than 200 people signed up to speak against the GOP school funding proposal on Monday, while only four people wanted to speak in favor. The opponents came from small as well as large school districts, as reflected in O.Kay Henderson's story for Radio Iowa.
Cedar Rapids School Board member Gary Anhalt told legislators the spending plan will lead to larger class sizes and reduced course offerings.
“At $40 million, we will only be spending about 50 cents per day, per student — actually far less than a cup of coffee,” Anhalt said. “And you claim that education is your priority?” [...]
Bob Olson, superintendent of Clarion Goldfield Dows Schools, is chairman of Rural School Advocates of Iowa.
“An increase of 1.11 percent...is not sufficient to fund the demands of school districts without further cutting staff and programs for students,” Olson said.
From Iowa Starting Line's write-up of the February 6 public hearing:
“Across the state, class sizes are growing. When funding is cut, schools cannot afford additional staff and vacancies are left unfilled,” said Yvonne Hogan, a retired teacher of 38 years. “[There are] elementary classrooms with 35 students, like the 5th Grade class in Council Bluffs that combines two sections into one this year. Numbers like this are becoming the norm. Teachers’ ability to help students one-on-one can’t happen. Teachers just can’t get to every student with a class that large.” [...]
“At 1.1% Des Moines schools would be facing a $6 million staffing cut,” warned Louisa Dykstra, a Des Moines parent. [...]
“The proposed SSA [supplemental state aid] of 1.1% is disappointing,” commented Gregg Cruickshank, the superintendent of the Sidney school district of Southwest Iowa. “Sidney’s general fund new money will increase by $650,000 to $675,000 over two years, substantial for a small rural district. This is because Sidney certified enrollment increased by 107 students over the last two years. This is an anomaly as a result of financial stress of neighboring districts and the forced dissolution of one of those districts. The prior six years Sidney received a net negative $41,008 of new money.”
Despite the consensus among those who testified at the public hearing, House Republicans declined to support higher K-12 funding in the bill they brought to the floor Monday evening. Over four and a half hours of sometimes acrimonious House floor debate, GOP representatives voted down every Democratic amendment. Then they voted to substitute the text of the Senate's school funding bill for the one that had been moving in the Iowa House on a parallel track. (That legislative maneuver got the bill to the governor several days sooner.) House members then approved Senate File 166 on party lines.
To my knowledge, Branstad has not yet said whether he will sign the bill. He had requested a 2 percent funding increase for K-12 schools in his draft budget for fiscal year 2018. UPDATE: The governor signed the bill on February 8. I added his office's unconvincing spin at the end of this post.
Reporting for Cedar Rapids-based CBS-2 on February 7, Dora Miller quoted retired teacher and former Democratic State Senator Brian Schoenjahn as warning Republicans have created a "recipe for disaster."
We could start to see low retention rates and low interest in teaching, it's the snowball effect Schoenjahn is scared could happen.
He said working with very little resources could turn ugly.
"The only way you can do that is reduce staff, reduce course offerings, cut back on supplies, and at the end of the day there's a real crisis in rural education," Schoenjahn said.
The next big GOP legislative priority will exacerbate teacher recruitment problems for school districts of all sizes.
ASSAULT ON EDUCATORS' COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS
Since 1974, Iowa's collective bargaining system has remained largely untouched, regardless of which party controlled the state House and Senate. I enclose below a post by the Iowa Senate Democrats explaining how Chapter 20 works. Rynard published a good backgrounder last month.
Although Republicans didn't highly labor issues during last year's House and Senate campaigns, leaders made clear in November that revamping Chapter 20 would be a high priority. On February 7, they finally revealed their plans to destroy almost every meaningful element of collective bargaining for public workers. Teachers aren't the only Iowans who will be hurt by Senate File 213 and House Study Bill 84. But as the Iowa Policy Project showed in a brief published last week, teachers are the largest affected group (emphasis added):
Public employees are a significant share of the Iowa workforce and live and work in every Iowa county, from the most urban to the most rural. Of the nearly 1.6 million nonfarm payroll jobs in Iowa, about 1 in 7 jobs — 238,500 — are in state and local government. These workers are important to the state’s economy, as taxpayers supporting local schools and state and local services, and as consumers supporting local businesses and other private sector jobs.
About half of Iowa’s public-sector workers — over 119,000 employees — are in jobs covered by 1,203 different contracts negotiated under Iowa’s current collective bargaining law. These employees, all of whom would be directly affected by any changes to the law, include:
• 34,400 state employees
• 11,595 county employees
• 11,562 city employees
• 56,402 local school employees
• 2,948 area education agency employees
• 2,114 community college employees
Potential impact of changes in a law directly affecting the working conditions of such a large number of Iowans, who are engaged in every aspect of essential public service from the local to the state level, will be significant and widespread. From snowplow drivers to nurses, teachers to custodians, police, dispatchers, fire fighters, county clerks, librarians, social workers, corrections officers, paraeducators, and many other public employees in communities across Iowa could see changes in their pay, benefits and working conditions. Such changes would, in turn, have consequences for local economies, public services, and Iowa’s labor market as a whole.
Copying the "divide and conquer" strategy used by Wisconsin Republicans in 2011, House and Senate leaders agreed to exempt public safety workers, including law enforcement and firefighters, from the worst parts of the new collective bargaining legislation. But teachers will not be spared. Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, the largest public employee union, characterized the measure as “Wisconsin on steroids”:
Nearly every topic of bargaining that was mandatory is now illegal. The only thing left that has to be bargained is base pay. Grievances are off the table, there is no requirement for “just cause” for firing an employee, seniority is gone, all dues deductions are gone, and re-certification is required for every contract, plus the union has to eat the cost of that election. These are just a few of the points that take this bill from a “thoughtful review,” as [House Labor Committee Chair] Representative [Dave] Deyoe suggested, to a full-fledged vindictive attack.
Check out the Orwellian spin from the top Iowa Senate Republican:
“The dividend is better service to Iowans at lower cost, better teachers in the classroom and giving our local supervisors, our local school boards the decision-making ability to affect that kind of change,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock, told reporters late this morning.
Later the same day, Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds praised the GOP's collective bargaining proposal. Dix added at that press conference,
“The proposal before us is about local control...It gives school boards the opportunity to improve student achievement by keeping the best teachers in the classroom,” Dix said, arguing that getting rid of seniority will let school officials fire “the occasional...bad apple” in the teaching profession.
In reality, this bill is the opposite of "local control." It would prevent school boards and administrators from negotiating with the teachers' union over benefits or virtually any workplace issue aside from salary.
As many educators and school board members have observed, small school districts have used benefit packages to recruit teachers who could make more money working in wealthier areas like Waukee, Ankeny, or Johnston. Local leaders now have one less tool in the toolkit to persuade people to work in their communities.
Branstad spoke yesterday of Republicans' "responsibility to the people that [sic] elected us.” We don't have to guess how this will play out. The Iowa Policy Project's brief on collective bargaining noted,
Many Iowa school districts are already reporting difficulty in recruiting teachers, and a 16 percent decline in Iowa graduates obtaining degrees in education suggests more intense shortages loom on the horizon. 
Five years after the implementation of Act 10 in Wisconsin, surveys and interviews with school district administrators and employees alike document harmful effects on public education. Having lost the ability to negotiate over health insurance and other working conditions, 75 percent of Wisconsin school districts report losing teachers more often because they cannot offer competitive salary or benefits, with some districts experiencing 25 percent annual staff turnover rates. The elimination of stable bargaining relationships, combined with steep declines in school funding, have resulted in acute teacher shortages, especially in STEM areas and especially in rural districts. For example, 54 percent of Wisconsin districts reported an extreme shortage of math teachers in the 2015-16 school year. Related directly to collective bargaining changes enacted through Act 10, Wisconsin has seen the steepest declines in school employee benefits in the nation, contributing to teacher shortages that have in turn led districts to report unavoidable lowering of educational standards.
The collective bargaining changes will not only drive down wages and benefit packages for teachers at K-12 schools, but also hurt recruiting and retention for higher education in Iowa. This morning the University of Northern Iowa faculty union announced that 81.9% of UNI’s faculty responded in a recent survey that "they would consider leaving UNI, either by seeking employment elsewhere or retiring early if UNI’s faculty lose the right to bargain collectively with the Board of Regents." I enclose below the full news release, which includes many comments from UNI faculty. The University of Wisconsin system has lost many faculty in recent years because of Republican governance, including issues related to funding and tenure as well as collective bargaining rights.
UNI's faculty union filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board on February 3, saying the Board of Regents "has refused to bargain in good faith." Pat Kinney reported for the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier,
The complaint states, in part, that United Faculty presented its initial collective bargaining proposal to the regents on or about Nov. 18. The board of regents then presented its initial proposal. The parties met Dec. 15 and United Faculty presented a counter-proposal.
"At the close of bargaining, the only unresolved issues pertained to evaluation procedures and wages," the complaint states. "Subsequent to Dec. 15, the Board (of Regents) failed to make any counter-offer to the outstanding issues.
"Despite the efforts of United Faculty and a PERB mediator, the employer became unavailable for bargaining," the complaint continues. "The Board of Regents stated its position that it would not meet for bargaining or mediation until after a date by which the employer perceived the Legislature would have taken action to change the statutory provisions of Chapter 20," the state public employee collective bargaining law.
Speaking on behalf of the Regents, Josh Lehman told Kinney the board was negotiating with UNI faculty in good faith. Regarding GOP efforts to undermine collective bargaining, Lehman provided the following statement to Bleeding Heartland this morning:
We are monitoring the bill that has been introduced regarding Chapter 20. As it goes through the legislative process, we will continue to track the language.
The Regents have a long history of supporting their faculty, staff and graduate students. They enhance the quality of teaching, research and service at Iowa’s public universities.
Providing competitive pay and benefits is key to being able to recruit and retain quality employees and we will continue to do this going forward.
Talk is cheap. Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter has been one of the largest donors to Iowa Republican candidates, including Branstad and now Reynolds. Branstad has said he speaks to Rastetter at least once a week and values his advice. If the Regents president cares about keeping qualified educators at Iowa's state universities, he could apply some of his political capital to key Republicans now.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Democratic State Senator Joe Bolkcom's brief comments on the school funding bill, which he dubbed the "Forced Rural School Consolidation Act of 2017," is worth watching.
State Senator Matt McCoy highlighted the most damaging provisions of the collective bargaining bill. Excerpts (emphasis in original):
Public employees will only be able to negotiate for base wages. If the contract goes to arbitration, the public employee bargaining unit can receive a maximum of a 3 percent raise or a percentage equal to the increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) for a 12-month period, whichever is less. Since 2008 the CPI has averaged at 1.41 percent, meaning this would be the maximum you could receive. You would never be allowed to move higher than the inflationary index. [...]
Targets Iowa teachers.
Remember, teachers’ working environment is our children’s learning environment. This legislation will make it difficult to retain and attract quality teachers to the State of Iowa.
-Prohibits all discussions on evaluation procedures.
-The only way to contest your termination is to go to court.
-Allows a district to terminate probationary teacher following their two years without cause.
-Takes away our ability to negotiate extracurricular supplemental.
Henderson reported for Radio Iowa on February 8,
During the 1990s, Jody Butler of Ankeny served nearly five years as Governor Branstad’s education policy advisor. She testified against the bill Branstad and his fellow Republicans seek.
“You will be setting us back, demoralizing the profession of teaching, probably doing irreparable harm,” Butler told senators, “and that’s a great disappointment.”
Butler said it’s ironic she spent all that time “working for the governor” to improve schools, only to see that progress “stripped away.”
“My step-daughter, my son-in-law are teachers in Marengo, in Iowa Valley. They used to vote Republicans, but I know now, given this, that will never happen again,” Butler said. “The teachers union consists of Democrats, Republicans and ‘no parties’ just like the rest of the state of Iowa. Folks, this is really, really divisive.”
Kathie Obradovich's latest Des Moines Register column is a scorcher. Do click through to read the whole thing, but here are some excerpts:
The bill was crafted behind closed doors. Deyoe said in an interview last month that lawmakers consulted other stakeholders but deliberately left unions in the dark until the bill was released Tuesday.
Sen. Jason Schultz said Wednesday that lawmakers met with union leaders before the session but acknowledged that lawmakers didn’t disclose the scope of their intended changes. “Because we would have ended up running into opposition that wouldn’t have been accurate,” he said.
Sure, because there’s so much more opportunity for accuracy when people have less than 24 hours to study the bill before it’s barreling through the legislative process. A change as sweeping as this should involve months of public debate, not a week. There is vast opportunity here for unintended consequences, including a loss of qualified workforce and harm to Iowa's economy. Citizens should get to weigh in on it directly, preferably over an election cycle, before it is approved. [...]
This isn’t balance. The legislation unveiled Tuesday allows public workers to be fired without cause and removes worker evaluations and grievance procedures from collective bargaining. Health care, retirement and seniority-based benefits would be off the bargaining table. So would procedures for staff reduction, transfers and subcontracting of public services.
It’s not union busting in a literal sense, but it’s as close as lawmakers realistically can get.
SECOND UPDATE: Mackenzie Ryan reported for the Des Moines Register on February 11 about "sweeping changes" in public schools that could accompany the collective bargaining bill.
Educators and school leaders who have studied the legislation told the Register it could usher in a new era where districts compete for the best educators, with star teachers or principals earning higher pay or bonuses, and under-performers being rooted out. That could be particularly hard on rural schools, who could be out-bid by metro districts. [...]
Ramifications are hard to predict in Iowa. But multiple superintendents, union and association leaders, and college professors said the legislation could herald vast changes in how schools operate that could further the rural-metro divide.
Suburban or urban districts with financial flexibility may be in a position to recruit the best teachers with desirable pay or benefits packages, leaving rural or low-income schools with little ability to compete.
Districts that border metros could be particularly vulnerable, as the best staff could find better pay without the cost or complications of moving, said Lee Adler, a senior lecturer at Cornell University who's studied labor and unions.
"The teachers are going to leave those rural districts or the state altogether because they won't work for chicken feed," he said. "They're professionals."
Explainer on Chapter 20 and collective bargaining, posted by the Iowa Senate Democrats on February 8:
The Iowa Public Employment Relations Act (often called Chapter 20 or Iowa’s collective bargaining law) was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Republican Governor Bob Ray in 1974. The law lays out the rules by which public workers and state/local government employers sit down and solve problems.
KEY FACT: Iowa’s collective bargaining law also prevents public workers from striking, which is one of the reasons the law was passed.
The bargaining topics between employees and employer are divided into three areas:
Mandatory: listed in the law, including wages, insurance, overtime, health/safety
Permissive. Both sides have to agree to negotiate on the topic.
Management Rights and illegal topics to bargain, including retirement (IPERS)
There is a long list of public employer rights listed in the law, which includes hiring, promotion, demotion or transfer of employees; suspension or discharge of public employees for proper cause; and maintaining the efficiency of governmental operations.
In most cases, the two sides are able to sit down and negotiate on mutually agreed upon contract terms. In the rare instance (less than 3% last year) when the two sides cannot reach agreement, they can pursue mediation and/or arbitration.
KEY FACT: The vast majority of public sectors contracts are resolved voluntarily. During the last bargaining cycle (FY 2016), 97.9% of contracts were resolved voluntarily.
During mediation, an impartial neutral party helps facilitate dialogue between the employees and employer. This helps the two parties reach a resolution.
During arbitration, the two parties have reached an impasse and submit their differences to a third party arbitrator. When making a decision, the law lays out the factors the arbitrator must consider, including: past contracts; comparisons with other public workers doing the same work; interests and welfare of the public (taxpayers); power of the public employer to levy taxes and appropriate funds. The arbitrator then determines which offer is the most reasonable and the decision is final and binding. This process forces both sides to have reasonable offers, not the extreme.
KEY FACT: Just last year, the Governor’s Public Employment Relations Board, which facilities our collective bargaining contracts, said “Few cases go to arbitration and the results are evenly balanced.” (Governor’s budget hearings, November 22, 2016)
February 8 press release from the University of Northern Iowa faculty union:
UNI’s Faculty Union Strongly Opposes Bill to Change Collective Bargaining Law
Changes to Chapter 20 Will Severely Undermine Morale at UNI and Prompt Faculty to Leave
(CEDAR FALLS, Iowa) – Nearly 82% of the University of Northern Iowa’s faculty responded that they
would consider leaving UNI, either by seeking employment elsewhere or retiring early if UNI’s faculty
lose the right to bargain collectively with the Board of Regents.
The survey was conducted as the Iowa House moved to introduce HSB84, a bill that guts the worker rights of Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code, which governs collective bargaining by public employees. The right to collectively bargain under the current provisions of Iowa’s Chapter 20 is critical to faculty at UNI, the survey found:
• 97.1% of UNI’s faculty responded that collective bargaining is important to their morale as a
faculty member (84.1% highly important, 13% important)
• 81.9% of UNI’s faculty responded that they would consider leaving UNI, either by seeking
employment elsewhere or retiring early if UNI’s faculty lose the right to bargain collectively with
the Board of Regents.
"We've gone through the shuttering of Price Lab, large cuts in academic programs, continued budget cuts, the loss of President Rudd and now this. There is only so much that faculty and students can take before they lose confidence in UNI and the Board of Regents," said Joe Gorton, United Faculty president and Associate Professor of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology.
According to the 2015-2016 UNI Fact Book, there already has been a 5.3% decline in the number of tenure/tenure-track faculty since 2011, from 552 to 517 in 2015.
“One-on-one relationships with experienced professors is one of the main reasons students come to UNI. This bill will make those relationships far more difficult to achieve,” said Becky Hawbaker, United Faculty Vice President and Instructor of Teaching.
The language of HSB84 guts Chapter 20 and excludes nearly all topics currently subject to collective bargaining, giving the Board of Regents and the university administration complete discretion on the topics. The proposed prohibited topics include health Insurance, evaluation procedures, procedures for staff reduction, release time, grievance procedures, seniority, union dues payroll deduction, and supplemental pay. Wages are the only permitted topic of negotiations in HSB84, but it limits annual increases to the lesser of two amounts: three percent or the consumer price index, which would leave faculty in an untenable situation in periods of high inflation. Moreover, the bill adds red tape to the process by requiring union recertification elections every two years.
UNI faculty members spoke strongly against the changes to Chapter 20, and warned of the damage it would bring to UNI, faculty morale, and the future quality of UNI’s brand. A representative sampling of faculty survey comments:
• I will start looking for a new position the moment this becomes law.
• If this state does not support us, I will leave without hesitation.
• It's time the Board of Regents acted fairly on behalf of the hard-working teachers in Iowa!
• The loss of our right to have full and fair collective bargaining will ruin UNI.
• I am a Regents' Professor at UNI and am both stunned and distressed with the state government's apparent distaste for higher education. Students will suffer under current directions.
• It would be very damaging to the faculty's good relationship with the Board of Regents to undermine 42 years of successful collective bargaining.
• Collective bargaining is essential to us being able to prioritize student success. Without it, we will lose stability and faculty.
• When I came to Iowa almost 30 years ago, Iowa was recognized as a national leader in education. No more. Colleagues around the US widely belief that the state has ceded its leadership in education. Such moves as proposed the governor and legislature will seal the deal.
• If this state destroys its unions, then I will leave at the earliest opportunity. There is no reason for me to stay employed at a university that neither pays me a competitive wage or maintains a culture (through the union) of faculty support.
• The last time that partnership broke down, the University lost around 2000 students. We are still recovering from that loss. Taking away collective bargaining sends a clear message: The state legislature doesn't care about its employees, only corporate donors.
• Over the past several years, I have watched colleagues at universities in Wisconsin leave their positions (sometimes for less prestigious institutions, or in less desirable locations) due to the way that state has decimated their collective bargaining system.
• My family has recently decided to plant roots here and stay purple for life. But if we cannot count on UNI for stable and fair employment, we must look elsewhere. It is extremely disappointing that I must consider a new job search, but the legislature's signal is clear. I am not wanted here.
• I am a Wisconsinite, so start with Wisconsin as cautionary tale...it appears that Iowa wants to
follow its brother to the north in an ill-considered race to the bottom.
• My friends in the Wisconsin higher ed system report losing large numbers of teacher ed colleagues to the Minnesota system. Tenured faculty who would be less vulnerable also leave and take their grants with them because they will not have good junior colleagues and the best students will go where the good faculty have fled to. Domino effects of unintended consequences!
• Changes in collective bargaining in neighboring states--Wisconsin and Kansas--have really disrupted their public education systems, and in a negative way.
• How will the state stay competitive in recruiting quality faculty if the right to collective bargaining is eliminated?
• I hope that the legislators can learn from the example of Wisconsin that what they thought would remove sources of unneeded cost to the state actually kept costs down, compared to what universities need to do now to attract good faculty.
• We are already paid less comparing to other equivalent institutions. Having a union was one of the pluses for me to accept the offer from UNI.
• I am bewildered by this effort to deprive employees of the ability to collectively bargain. What is
• Collective bargaining was a major factor in my decision to make a career at UNI.
• We became the excellent institution that we are with decent bargaining rights and unions firmly in place. Why dismantle what has been shown to work really well? Without bargaining rights, we stand to attract fewer talented candidates for open positions.
• Weakening collective bargaining rights in Iowa will not be an effective solution for an unbalanced state budget, nor will it improve the quality of education, or public health and safety. What is needed is greater responsibility on the part of the legislature, senate and governor to control spending particularly on ineffective corporate tax breaks and incentive programs. Shifting the burden of that responsibility to the citizens by reducing collective bargaining rights is unfair and will diminish both the morale and productivity of the entire state of Iowa.
• I would leave UNI in a heartbeat if collective bargaining was eliminated and go to another university.
• We are currently in the process of attempting to fill a faculty position. How can we promise benefits in contract negotiations with this legislation looming? This legislative proposal is already
impacting the quality of UNI.
• Has anyone considered how many employees in the State of Iowa would be impacted by this measure? Decreases in wages will starve consuming buying power, and tax revenue. Good employees will leave the state. This measure will trigger a downward spiral.
• Without collective bargaining I would be in constant fear and would strongly consider other employment options. I love UNI and have the academic record to find an academic position elsewhere.
“For the sake of UNI's future, United Faculty calls upon the President Nook, Provost Wohlpart and the Iowa Board of Regents to unequivocally oppose these radical changes,” said Gorton. “We call upon them to place the well-being of faculty, our families and our students ahead of any other agenda that might distract them from doing the right thing.”
United Faculty conducted the survey of UNI faculty Feb. 7-8, 2017, with 315 total responses. Respondents were nearly evenly divided between male (50.7%) and female (49.4%). Respondents included faculty members at all academic ranks, and distributed across UNI’s four main academic colleges (Business; Education; Humanities, Arts & Sciences; and Social & Behavioral Sciences) and the Rod Library.
Chapter 20 was enacted in 1974 with bipartisan support, and signed by Republican Gov. Robert Ray. The law led to collaborative contracts and labor peace at Iowa’s public schools and universities for more than 40 years.
The preamble to Chapter 20 reads:
The general assembly declares that it is the public policy of the state to promote harmonious and
cooperative relationships between government and its employees by permitting public employees to organize and bargain collectively; to protect the citizens of this state by assuring effective and
orderly operations of government in providing for their health, safety, and welfare; to prohibit and
prevent all strikes by public employees; and to protect the rights of public employees to join or
refuse to join, and to participate in or refuse to participate in, employee organizations.
United Faculty, established in 1976, is the chief negotiating agent for the University of Northern Iowa’s faculty, and is affiliated with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
UPDATE: The governor's office announced on February 8 that Branstad signed the bill increasing K-12 school funding by only 1.11 percent in fiscal year 2018. Excerpt from the press release:
“In my Condition of the State address, I challenged the legislature to set school funding in the first 30 days of the legislative session. Today, with the help of House and Senate Republicans, we made that goal a reality," said Gov. Branstad. "With $40 million additional dollars, the total state commitment to schools next year will be $3.184 billion dollars. While Iowa is facing challenging budget times because of the downturn in our agricultural economy, I’m appreciative of the House and Senate Republicans working with us to exempt K-12 education funding cuts in fiscal year 2017 and increasing funding for next year. I remain hopeful that the legislature will be able to set funding for fiscal year 2019 after the March revenue estimate.”
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds added, “By setting funding levels early in the session, we are able to provide predictability and stability that administrators, school boards and teachers need. I want to thank the legislature for moving quickly on this important issue. This is a difficult budget, but this $40 million increase for K-12 education is on top of the $150 million provided through the Teacher Leadership System that rewards our great teachers. Teachers are the key to giving students a globally competitive education and helping us close the skills gap in Iowa.”
THIRD UPDATE: UNI Professor Chris Martin set the record straight on some Republican "alternative facts" about collective bargaining.
Republicans fast-tracked the collective bargaining bill and cut off debate before considering numerous Democratic amendments, allowing both the Iowa House and Senate to give final approval on February 16. Click here for more details on the legislative maneuverings and how the bill will affect Iowa teachers.
More than 140 school districts rushed to sign new contracts or contract extensions with unions before the legislature could act on collective bargaining, so for the next year or two, thousands of Iowa teachers will be spared from the worst aspects of this new law. Speaking at a press conference shortly after lawmakers approved the bill, Tammy Wawro of the Iowa State Education Association predicted that membership in the union will not decline as much as was the case in Wisconsin. However, as Bleeding Heartland discussed here, certain provisions will decrease the ISEA's revenues and increase its operating costs.