The Austin ISD board of trustees may have a hundred million reasons to continue its exclusive consultation agreement with Education Austin after board trustee Annette LoVoi listed the district's savings from working with the union. Having already delayed the vote for three months, on Feb. 20 the board penciled in another extension on its discussion of which organization will represent staff (see "Austin Education vs. Education Austin," Feb. 17).
Superintendent Meria Carstarphen had presented four draft recommendations, generated from discussions among the administration, the board policy committee, Education Austin, and the Association of Texas Professional Educators: continuing the four-year, exclusive consultation agreement; a modified, two-year, exclusive deal; an "inclusive" model with more workers' groups at the table; and replacing the current policy with a new administrative regulation to cover consultation. Carstarphen said she was not making an administrative recommendation but that the inclusive model was preferred by the administration and ATPE. Backed by board President Mark Williams, Vice President Vince Torres, and trustee Cheryl Bradley, Carstarphen told the board that she just wants "more voices at the table." But trustee Tamala Barksdale was unconvinced by her presentation, saying, "I'm not sure what challenge we're meeting ... with the changes that are proposed now." LoVoi argued that the district can save money through "a strong, mature partnership in consultation," and that between shifting to self-insurance and the Reach incentive pay initiative – both spearheaded by Education Austin – the district is "approaching $100 million" in savings and additional state and federal grants.
The board was expected to vote on Carstarphen's recommendations at its Feb. 27 meeting, but LoVoi successfully proposed it push that back until there has been further consultation. Education Austin co-President Rae Nwosu said that she hoped the district and the labor groups can calmly negotiate a system that will ultimately represent all employees.
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