State seeks legal contractor to sift through JCPS bargaining con - WDRB 41 Louisville News

State seeks legal contractor to sift through JCPS bargaining contracts with unions

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As part of its "unprecedented" management audit of Jefferson County Public Schools, the Kentucky Department of Education is looking for a contractor to interpret the bargained contracts between the district and its unions.

According to a request for proposal (RFP) being advertised on the state's website, KDE is looking for the contractor in legal services to assist the state in its management review of the state's largest school district. The proposal states the contractor may be required to appear in Louisville or Frankfort as part of the process.

"The contractor, in consultation with the attorneys of KDE, will give an opinion as to the contents of the bargained agreements as well as the bargaining negotiations and the board policies resulting and whether those contribute to the critically ineffective or inefficient management of JCPS," the proposal, which was posted Monday, states. 

In addition, the contractor "will provide an opinion regarding the bargained contracts and the negotiations and policies’ compliance with the Kentucky Constitution’s restriction on the expenditure of school funds for 'educational purposes only' as well as other federal and Kentucky laws."

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt ordered the sweeping management audit of JCPS in February. It outlined 32 findings from a management review he ordered last July amid concerns about student safety, data integrity issues, questions about culture and poor communication in JCPS.

At the time, Pruitt said the state has never conducted an audit on the scale of the review its conducting in JCPS. He said it requires "all hands on deck" from his department and that he could seek the services of outside educators who may have expertise in issues encountered by large, urban districts. 

Under state law, a management audit includes an investigation of the district's compliance with state and federal laws, administrative regulations and local board policies and will ultimately help Pruitt decide what needs to happen next.

The proposals for the RFP are due by May 24 and the length of the contract is listed through June 30, 2018.

Brent McKim, president of the JCTA, said he is "sure KDE will find that we have a modern contract with a great deal of flexibility to allow individual schools to be innovative, while assuring that teachers have the support and resources they need to be successful with their students."

"Studies shown that students are more successful when teachers have a labor agreement that empowers them to advocate for their students, as Jefferson County teachers do," McKim said.

The district's bargaining contract between the Jefferson County Teachers Association has been scrutinized by state officials before.

A December 2010 report by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability that focused on the effect of collective-bargaining agreements between districts and teachers unions and their impact on teacher hiring and evaluations found Jefferson County’s agreement to be the most “comprehensive and cumbersome” in the state. 

In 2011, former Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday directly criticized the collective-bargaining agreement between the district and the JCTA, saying the contract at some points "seemingly promotes adult interests over that of student interests."

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

Copyright 2017 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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