The Fairness in Negotiations Act, a new law that took effect this month, earned Maryland's Martin O'Malley NEA's "America's Greatest Education Governor" award. But the state's local boards of education are dubbing the bill the "Unfairness in Negotiations Act," with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education saying it is testament to how much "clout the unions have in an election year." (O'Malley is running for reelection against former Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich.) An editorial in the Washington Post sarcastically congratulated the governor for the price the state will pay for his award.
The law strips the State Board of Education (ironically, all current members, including NCTQ president Kate Walsh, were appointed by O'Malley) of the power to decide labor disputes and instead gives it to a newly created Public School Labor Relations Board. Its new five-member panel will be made up of two members chosen from a list provided by the state teachers unions, two members from a list provided by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education and the State Superintendents Association of Maryland and a fifth independent member with "experience in labor relations, to represent the public."
The new panel also has the authority to determine what can be negotiated in collective bargaining agreements between local school boards and unions. And all decisions made by this panel are binding. A number of other states, like Pennsylvania and California, have similar structures.