"We felt it was important for local control purposes to make a clear statement," said John Carson, president of the Douglas County School Board.
The school board passed resolutions making it board policy to sever ties with the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees. The district will no longer engage in collective bargaining with the union. It will no longer collect union dues from employee paychecks and pay union officials with taxpayer dollars.
"Most importantly, we want to bring closure to this issue at this time," Carson said. "It's time for the district to move on. It's time for us to move on for our teachers and for our kids and continue with the education reforms that we are pursuing."
But, what does this mean to the union itself? Does this effectively kill the union?
Brenda Smith is the president of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees. She says the union will survive.
"We continue to represent our teachers who are in the classroom, the experts that are teaching our kids that directly impact kids every day," Smith said. "We'll continue to operate and function as we've always done in the past and continue to represent our employees."
When asked if Douglas County was trying to send an anti-union message to other school districts around Colorado and around the country, Carson says, this is part of the new ways schools should be run.
"Those reforms, there's going to be resistance," Carson said. "But, we want to move ahead and we're willing to work with people that want to work with us constructively on advancing those reforms."
Wednesday's decision leaves anti-union questions off the November ballot, a move the school board considered Wednesday night.
An attorney for the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees warned the district that the union would sue if any anti-union questions were placed on the November ballot.
"This is policy that our school board has the ability to do," Smith said. "So, I think tonight was a big victory for our teachers, our students, and our community. The board realized that they don't have the ability to move forward with these ballot initiatives and I think it is a good idea for them not waste taxpayers dollars doing that."
Hundreds of parents; teachers, both current and retired, and community members marched outside of the district headquarters earlier Wednesday. They held signs supporting the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees.
"We're trying to focus on what's right for our kids, our students," said Dan Gerken, vice president of the school board, before the vote.
Douglas County is currently in an ongoing lawsuit surrounding a pilot program of a school voucher system.
Gerken says the vote sends a message that the old system of school is being reformed.
"We're looking forward to a dialogue, as opposed to these constant arguments with the union," Gerken said. "They got used to some pretty nice perks over the years, a lot of cronyism. We're just not putting up with that anymore.
Robert Herrell, retired from 29 years of teaching, organized protests against the school board.
"We did what we were asked and now all of a sudden, we're the bad guys," Herrell said. "It's a ploy. They want to privatize schools, and that's what this all about."
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