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Governor vetoes bills on ed policy, binding arbitration

Gov. Janet Mills vetoed two very harmful labor bills last night – L.D. 240 that would have taken away the School Board’s responsibility to determine educational policy on teacher preparation time and L.D. 1177 allowing outside arbitrators to determine salaries and benefits for teachers and other public employees.

Those vetoes were sustained meaning proponents of those bills did not have the necessary two-thirds vote to override the governor’s decision.

School Boards and superintendents have worked diligently this legislative session to defeat the bills to ensure that parents and taxpayers maintain a voice on how their local schools are run and what is raised in property taxes to support them. Both bills would have taken away that local voice, and L.D. 240 was seen as the first step in making all educational policy negotiable.

In her letter to the Legislature explaining her position, the governor wrote on L.D. 240:
I have been pleased to champion some important education initiatives this session that support our teachers, including significant funding for teacher salaries, GPA and educational bonds.  As the daughter of a long-time public school teacher, I hold all educators in high regard.  But this bill presents a different question.

L.D. 240 states that teacher “planning and preparation” are not issues of “educational policy” and therefore must be subjects of collective bargaining.  But the bill does not define “planning,” “preparation” or “educational policy.”  The bill was not referred to the Education Committee, but instead to the Labor Committee, though the express purpose of L.D. 240 is to declare what constitutes “educational policy” for our schools.

On L.D. 1177, the governor wrote:
This bill would impose a significant change to the public labor relations laws that govern state, judicial, county, municipal, university, community college and Maritime Academy employees.  Under current law, the dominant cost items of salaries, pensions and insurance for all these employees are subject to collective bargaining but not to binding arbitration.  L.D. 1177 would eliminate this dividing line and require binding arbitration of salaries, pensions and insurance. 

There are good reasons why our state has previously rejected this approach.  Salaries, pensions and insurance comprise the lion’s share of most operating budgets.  Together, they set the expenditure platform from which all other strategic objectives of the governmental entity are pursued.  To delegate to private binding arbitrators the authority to set those amounts is to forfeit a fundamental function and responsibility of our school boards, city councils, town select boards, boards of trustees and governmental branch leaders.

The Legislature has adjourned for this session. Updates on all legislation passed this session affecting public education will be sent out shortly.

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