- Some school districts are hoping to bolster their political power by working with unions to address political issues such as how to help students who may be impacted by recent changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, District Administration reports.
- This is an example of a new trend toward collective bargaining “for the common good” which addresses larger issues beyond wages and benefits in an effort to improve the lives of students.
- However, in some states, an adversarial relationship still exists between unions and school boards, which makes collaboration on larger issues difficult.
The DACA issue has proved to be a lightning rod that has attracted interests from groups that would normally be in opposition and has sparked new conversations about student welfare. This effect has been seen outside of the school community as well. Santa Clara County has joined with Service Employees International Union Local 521 in filing suit against the Trump administration over the cancellation of the DACA program. This marks the first joint lawsuit against the DACA elimination by a municipality and a labor union.
The relationship between school boards and teachers' unions has long been tenuous. Unions assert that they benefit schools by supporting teachers' rights and by improving teacher professionalism. They also argue that their agendas increase students' chances of success in the long run. Critics say the power of unions subverts the democratic process and put the interests of teachers ahead of the interests of students.
However, the DACA issue is an example of how teachers' unions and school boards can work together around common issues. In December, the California Teachers Association joined 14 other educational entities and organizations “to file an amicus brief on behalf of plaintiffs in lawsuits filed in federal court against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. The coalition includes NEA, the California School Boards Association, the California Faculty Association, numerous individual school districts, county offices of education, unions and other organizations.” Whether there is enough strength in numbers to affect the issue remains to be seen. There have also been examples of unions working with school district leaders on budget, instructional and teacher effectiveness issues. In October, the Teacher Union Reform Network issued a report highlighting this work in an effort to change the perception of unions.