- Associated Press - Saturday, September 23, 2017

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - While a four-day teachers’ strike has ended in Vermont’s largest city, the debate over whether to ban strikes will resurface in the Legislature.

Two Republican lawmakers plan to introduce legislation in the House and Senate that would prohibit public school teachers from striking and ban school boards from imposing contracts on teachers.

“Fairly or unfairly, it creates animosity in the community amongst many. It creates division. It disrupts families,” said Rep. Kurt Wright of Burlington as 400 teachers walked picket lines in Burlington after contract negotiations failed to reach an agreement. “And it leaves scars behind in the community in its aftermath.”

He said there has to be a better way than having teachers on strike “in an adversarial position with the school board.”

Wright and Sen. Joe Benning of Caledonia County say the “better way” is to force school boards and local union associations to negotiate until they have a breakthrough, Vermont Public Radio reported (https://bit.ly/2yvnAv3).

Wright introduced a similar bill in 2015 that failed by one vote in the House.

Darren Allen, a spokesman for Vermont-NEA, says lawmakers were right to reject it.

“We don’t think that the state’s involvement makes it easier for local school boards and local educators to make decisions,” he said.

But the head of the Vermont School Boards Association says Vermont’s bargaining statutes may be outdated.

“It’s questionable whether or not a process that was created in the 1960s using a real industrial era framework in terms of labor versus management, whether that’s a good fit for today’s educational context,” said Nicole Mace.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has said he supports the right of teachers to strike and boards to impose contracts. While he doesn’t support the bill, he said, if the proposal passes in the Legislature he would give it “fair consideration.”


Information from: WVPS-FM, https://www.vpr.net

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