Collective Bargaining Bill Leading Many School Districts to Rush New Contract Negotiations

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  With Governor Terry Branstad's signing of a new collective bargaining reform bill into law on Friday, sweeping changes are on the way for how teachers' unions can negotiate with school districts.

But many in Iowa are rushing to re-negotiate contracts that will extend beyond the 2018-2019 school years, effectively keeping any effects of this new law out of the lives of teachers for at least the next few years.

"I think it was really in both of our interests to make something happen very quickly on things, for a variety of reasons," said Mark Tobben, President of the Johnston Board of Education. "The biggest thing is, we've got great teachers, and they're really the core of what we do as a school district. They're the ones that are the front-line for our students, and we've got great students, so kind of the combination makes us want to make sure we take care of them on things."

Both the Johnston and Des Moines Public School Districts did just that with their respective teacher's unions; many across the state did the same.

"I would say that the number I heard last was 140-180 school boards and school districts across the state rushed to settle, extend contracts, etc," said Andrew Rasmussen, President of the Des Moines Education Association. "Which I think, to me, puts a lie to some of supporters of the bill that said school boards and superintendents wanted it. If they wanted it so badly, I wouldn't have seen this rush, I think, of so many school districts trying to get these deals completed under the old system."

Rasmussen hopes the midterm elections in 2018 will allow an opportunity to oust many Republican lawmakers who supported this bill, making way for undoing the law before it affects teachers who just had contracts extended through the 2018-2019 school year.

"We feel like we have a pretty good chance, based on public support we saw this week, not only from teachers, not only from public employees, but from a lot of parents and community members, that we feel this is a pretty big overreach by the Republican Party in Iowa. And I think they're going to pay for it in 2018," he said. "I've heard from teachers that I represent, who have always voted Republican, who are changing their party, or they're not going to vote for the Republican legislator in the next election, because of this."