Greg Forristall

Greg Forristall

Republicans in the Iowa House have passed a bill that would change the collective bargaining process for teachers and other school employees.

Under current law when there’s a stalemate in negotiations, an arbitrator is called in and must choose the final offer from either labor or from management. The bill would allow an arbitrator to reject both sides and choose some middle ground. Representative Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, said giving an arbitrator more freedom makes sense.

“It simply means that the award can be within the scope of reality,” Forristall said to close the debate, “so if the employer is offering one percent and the union is demanding nine percent, the arbitrator can choose something that is real.”

Republicans argued the current system stacks the deck against taxpayers and there should be no expectation that teachers get a raise every year. Union groups are staunchly opposed to the bill and it is unlikely to even be considered in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate.

“This bill is a continuation of the Republican attack on our children and their education,” Smith said near the end of debate on the legislation. “It’s a smoke-screen for the real issue.”

That real issue, Smith and other Democrats said, is a reluctance among Republicans to forward more state support to Iowa’s public schools. Legislators are still squabbling over how much state aid will be spent in the school year that begins this fall, plus they have failed to resolve the dilemma over the actual date when school may start in August.

The debate in the House on teacher contract negotiations lasted more than nine hours and stretched over two days, concluding just after noon today.