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The Boston Globe

Opinion

Lawrence Harmon

Declaring peace in teacher contract talks

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS between teachers’ unions and school districts often resemble the Civil War naval battle between the ironclads Merrimac and Monitor: Each side exchanges broadsides, inflicts casualties, and teeters away claiming victory. There’s got to be a better way to improve schools while ensuring fairness for teachers.

It turns out there is a better method — something labor experts call interest-based bargaining. Basically, it’s the opposite of traditional collective bargaining. Instead of issuing tough demands and counter demands, the sides begin with a clear statement of their interests and objectives. Rather than pummel each other with data, the parties collect information jointly and analyze where each dollar is being spent contractually. And instead of breeding mutual contempt, the bargaining sessions are designed to create trust.

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