For over a decade, employees of Bay City Public Schools in Michigan have worked under a labor contract that gave them lenient punishments for drug possession and intoxication on school grounds. Under school policy, students caught with alcohol and drugs were punished more severely than their teachers.
According to language incorporated into the contract in 1997, employees could be caught drinking on the job five times, under the influence of drugs three times and selling drugs to students twice, before they would be fired. Students, however, were bound to a code of conduct mandating multi-day suspensions on the first offense. The code also requires school officials to call the police if a student is caught under the influence of drugs, but the employee contract does not require the same thing for teachers.
Why did the union think its members needed such generous protections? That question remains unanswered, according to Manny Lopez, managing editor of Capitol Confidential.
“It’s the union contract, not the teachers themselves, that are the issue here,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s the union that says we need to protect at all costs in these specific instances.”
School officials did not know why the protections were written into the contract, said Lopez.
“None of the administrators we talked to could come up with a specific instance where this was needed,” he said. “But for whatever reason, the union added very specific language to the contract.”
Parents and taxpayers should expect stricter standards for teachers, said Lopez.
“That’s appalling to me that a teacher could sell drugs to a student twice before being fired,” he said.
Douglas Newcombe, superintendent of Bay City Public Schools, declined to comment.
The district is in the process of negotiating a new contract, but it is unknown whether the new deal will keep the protections for drinking and selling drugs on the job. And if Michigan voters approve Proposal 2 on Election Day, the state constitution will be amended to include public employee unions’ right to negotiate workplace conditions—in effect, protecting the policies in the current contract.
Proposal 2 would also overrule recent laws that make it more difficult for teachers’ unions to exert control over staffing, curriculum, and accountability determinations.
“It’s not yet known how widespread such abusive provisions may be, but this much is known: If Michigan voters approve Proposal 2 on Nov. 6, insane government union contract provisions like this would trump any laws the legislature may pass to limit them,” wrote Jarret Skorup, research associate at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in a column.
The political battle over teacher contract negotiations in Michigan mirrors similar events taking place elsewhere in the country. Government officials in states such as Illinois and Louisiana have demanded concessions from teachers’ unions, leading to strikes, protests, and recalls.
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